Back in a State...
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 Ignorance Might Just be Bliss...

Microdosing of psilocybin or LSD, if you haven't heard of it before now, is worth looking up when you have a moment. As you may have guessed, micro-dosing is something in which I am quite interested. In fact, I am so interested in it, that I have been micro-dosing for about three months, with small quantities of psychedelic mushrooms. Once every three days, I eat a very small amount of one of the many dried mushrooms in the little bag of Psilocybe Cubensis I was able to procure back in California. If you are wondering, I never feel “high”, and I never really notice that I have taken them.

So, what have I learned in the past 3 months? Well, I can safely report that I am just as dumb now as I was when I began eating these little bits of dried mushrooms. I don't feel any more or less creative. I don't feel any more or less driven or inspired. In all honesty, I feel pretty much the same as I've always felt; like a big dumb domesticated animal, wandering around without the instinct and intelligence afforded to most wild animals.

With that said, I decided to try something a little different on our first day back in the US, and on my first day in Alaska (my 49th state). I decided to remove one of the words in my protocol, and just go ahead with some regular old “dosing” of those dried mushrooms. To be sure, I didn't have many left, so the dose would be fairly small, but in no way would it be “micro”. 

I was left with probably about 1 dried ounce. That will not set you on the path of ego dissolution, but it will make your first day in a new place mighty interesting.

I've been thinking quite a bit about death, birth, and the time we spend in between the impulse and echo of those moments. In speaking with Joel Solomon, I asked him about his relationship with death, having won a temporary victory over death by receiving a kidney transplant given to him by a close friend. His take on death is one I have heard articulated before. However, hearing him share it was powerful to me for a number of reasons. I'll share his take on death in a moment, but first, I think I should explain why his telling of this hypothesis is so compelling to me.

Joel lives part of his week in the city of Vancouver, doing work which he finds uniquely fulfilling. As I've said previously, Vancouver is a fantastic place to be, particularly if you are not stressed out about money.  Joel clearly has a positive relationship to money.  He enjoys the food, culture and has access to folks in every area (politics, entertainment, etc...).  His life in the city, materially speaking, I would imagine is quite sumptuous.

Another portion of Joel's time is spent on the wild and beautiful island of Cortes. He lives in a beautiful home, in a loving relationship with his wife of many years, next door to an amazing retreat center called Hollyhock, and maintains a fantastic garden. Cortes is also occupied by other well-known figures, big thinkers, luminaries and kind and genuine folks of all stripes to whom Joel has direct access. To be sure, materially, spiritually, and culturally speaking, his life on the island also seems quite sumptuous.

In the lap of a life which, by my casual observations, is so replete with comfort, community, the pursuit of intrinsically enriching work, a healthy relationship, access to abundant natural beauty, and access to brilliant and interesting companions, having an outlook on death which does not include any sense of loss is something which I would imagine to be difficult if not impossible for a less evolved character. Joel's outlook on death, to sum it up rather crudely, is that his own ego will not survive his death intact, as his consciousness did not exactly “belong” to him in the first place. He welcomes death and is ready for its arrival. He does not worry about the loss of comfort. He does not wish to conflate his enjoyment of the deliciousness of life's pleasures or any of the things on this plane which he clearly holds dear with the loss of his own life. Instead, he sees his own consciousness returning to the greater field of Consciousness itself, where it will merge once again, likely to spring up again somewhere else entirely. In other words, he sees consciousness as an essential element in the universe, like carbon atoms, or like energy. As such, like atoms or energy, consciousness is not bound to any one form, and cannot be created or destroyed.  He also, rightly so, has put everything on the line, and lived a life one can be proud of; seeking to be a good ancestor.  

Having the opportunity to speak with a man like Joel about something as troubling to me as death, has prompted me to reconsider my attachment to my own ego and consciousness.

Why do I bring this up in a travel journal? Mostly because I can, but secondly to give some more texture and context as to why we are on this journey in the first place.

I'll come back to this in a bit. First, let me tell you about our last few days in Canada.

Whitehorse, Yukon...taken at 11PM.

We spent the weekend in a town called Whitehorse, Yukon. As it happens, the timing was perfect, and we were fortunate to have decided to stay in that town at that exact time. We met up with two other groups of folks from the road who also happened to arrive in town on the same day.

One couple is driving a VW van, and are on their way from Quebec to Alaska, to Argentina - their names are Catherine and David. Catherine is a nurse, and they left five days after we did. The similarities end there. David and Catherine are young, super adventurous, and incredibly industrious. Just check out their Instagram page @destinationadventure and you will see what I mean. The guy is a fantastic photographer, and has sponsorship deals with a variety of companies, including Fuji Film. Fuji gave him a small polaroid printer; he took our photo, and printed us a copy.

@destinationadventure - David & Catherine

The other group is a Brazilian couple with their two kids. Their story is incredible. They, Cristina, Marcos, Caetano and Teresa, have traveled from Brazil to Alaska in a cab-over truck camper over a four year period. The youngest, Teresa, was born on the road two years ago! You can follow along with their journey @onossoquintal

Cristina, Marcos, Caetano e Teresa!

We decided to all meet up outside of town at a free campsite near the incredibly named, Ear Lake. The campsite was the best. The parking spots were flat and sat on a rise above a lake. We were flanked on one side by a forrest, and had an open view of the lake below. There was a family of beaver living in the lake, several foxes, tons of birds and, amazingly, a small airport nearby. Normally, an airport that close would kill the buzz, but this one was different.

The airport is small, and only small planes and jets fly over. I forgot how cool it is to hear the sound of jet engines catching up several seconds after the plane itself has already passed.

We grilled food, played with the kids, and chatted. The kids loved Pelé, chasing him and tossing the ball for hours...he only growled a little bit. We had a fire, it rained on us as we cooked, and we still managed to have a great time. There is something magical about spending time with travelers, particularly when they have traveling children.

Cristina had a number of amazing stories to tell, so I invited her to be a guest on the show. She agreed, and we set a time for the following day.

The following day was Canada Day, and all Tiff and I really wanted three things; to see the parade in Whitehorse, eat some poutine, and record Cristina at some point. If the previous sentence has a few words of phrases you don't understand, that is O.K. Poutine is basically a basket of french fries with large cheese curds and brown gravy dumped on top. Canada Day is to Canada what the 4th of July is to the USA. 

We missed the parade, and the only place in town selling poutine was a fast food joint, so we passed. Fortunately, the recording of Cristina's episode did happen. We got a chance to share another meal with the Brazilian's. Cristina cooked an incredible stew for dinner and handmade whipped-cream with strawberries for dessert. We made a warm cabbage salad with goat cheese, garlic and red wine. Not too shabby for two couples living in vehicles.

The Brazilians decided to camp outside of a large grocery store in town so they could have wifi for the Brazil vs. Mexico game the next day (World Cup). So after dinner, Marcos agreed to watch the kids while Tiff, Cristina and I sat together in the van for a recorded conversation.

This will be Tiff's first solo podcast. I was there in my capacity as an audio engineer. I am looking forward to sharing this episode!

Teresa, at her best!

The following day, we left Whitehorse to go hiking. We took a beautiful hike outside of a town called Carcross. The trail, called the Sam McGee, was constructed on top of an old miner's foot path, and followed the remains of an abandoned tramway up the steep and varied terrain. The old steel cables, pulleys, several of the large wooden structures from which the tramway was suspended, and the little carts which must have dangled from it, are all still on the mountain. As the trail winds around, switching back, then driving straight uphill, you cross over and follow this seemingly ancient debris for a couple of miles until you reach the summit. It gives the trail a special feeling; like you are getting a manicured preview of life after the fall of man, when plants and trees will take back our cities and industry.

The hike up was difficult on my knee. The hike down just flat-out hurt. I'm still healing, evidently.

If you zoom in, you can see the van...or maybe not.  The view from the top of the Sam McGee hike.

When we got back to the van, we decided, after failing to find Poutine on Canada day (the one and only time either of us was keen to eat poutine), to drive up to Carcross and get some at a restaurant known only as, “The Bistro”.

Carcross, and “the Bistro” could really each be their own post. I don't even know where to begin. For one, my view of the place will forever be skewed, as we showed up the day after Canada Day (also a Monday) when most businesses were closed for the holiday. That made it hard to meet any locals who would be happy to see us, and it gave the place something of a ghost town vibe...but only if a hip neighborhood in Portland were condensed into little tiny-house vendor spaces, and then deserted...that type of ghost town vibe.

Carcross, like many of the towns in this area, had once been involved heavily in the trafficking of “precious” metals mined from the surrounding hills and mountains, and all of the other atrocious shit that comes along with doing so. Indigenous peoples, who had been there for quite some time before all of this, were pushed to the edges of their own territories as crazy whites came by the thousands to mine for gold, sell things to the miners, or to distribute diseases with their genitals. A wild time, to be sure.

For a time, the town had been a trading hub for fish, fur, and other goods. Once everyone took off for fortune elsewhere, the town languished under the weight of the crazy infrastructure built to handle the now elsewhere people of the past. Recently, a solution was proposed...tourism.

I don't blame the town at all. In fact, I would like to make clear that I really liked the town of Carcross, and the Bistro should definitely not be missed if you find yourself there. The owner of the Bistro is clearly a creative type who isn't afraid to make a pizza out of Naan bread or throw curry into anything on the menu, which includes burgers, fries, decadent desserts, and plenty of typically American or Canadian fair...and no, the owner is not Indian.

I suppose what I am trying to get across here, is that the place has, in-spite of the presence of loads of totem poles, beautifully painted figures of Raven, Wolf, Beaver, Bear, etc...on the buildings in town, the distinct influence of hipster sensibilities. The town center is comprised of an enormous wooden deck, which connects “The Bistro”, to almost a dozen small buildings and about half a dozen tiny-house storefronts. When I say tiny-house, I mean it. These little structures are built on trailers and are meant to be moved. Perhaps when the weather is terrible, or the mine dries up again, the little businesses can move down the trail to more hospitable climes?

At any rate, the place is incredibly clean, beautiful, and is working hard to make a sustainable future for itself; desperate to apply the mean lessons learned over centuries of crazy whites doing impulsive business on the shores of their lovely town. I sincerely hope it works. Perhaps you should visit, drop a little bit of your own currency into the pockets of the local vendors, and report back to me on your findings.

Carcross.

From Carcross, we headed south to camp below the mountain we climbed earlier. The spot we chose was perfect...in fact, it was the parking lot at the trail-head to the Sam McGee hike we had just done. We found a level patch of tightly packed gravel overlooking a stream which fed into the wild lake system which feeds the Yukon River. The lake at our feet is called, Windy Arm. The creek that was feeding this lake was as close to freezing as water can be without becoming ice. As has been our custom on our journey, we bathed in this water.

I'd like to say a word or two about freezing cold water. If you have never plunged yourself into water that is painfully cold, I suggest you do it as soon as you can. Like the moments before ingesting psychedelic drugs, there is a moment of fear and anticipation before jumping in the water. It can be bracing, unpleasant, and scary, but after it is done, and you are dry or sober, you never regret having jumped in (provided the environment was safe). We do our best to find secluded spots where we can strip naked, we only use soap with safe ingredients to wash ourselves, and only a small amount of that. Sometimes we just get in without soap, and just get good and cold. Sometimes we just dip Pelé in, to knock the dust off of his crazy hair and little body. Other times, we just get in for the sake of getting in. In every case, it has been worth it. We look forward to the next one.

After our cold plunge, we sat to watch the sunset behind the mountain we had summited earlier in the day. The sun dropped behind the mountain around 10 PM, and did not fully “set” until sometime closer to 11 PM. It never did get dark.

Pelé was in the mood to run and play, but Tiff and I were in the mood to smoke the last of a little joint we had been given in Whitehorse. We tossed sticks with him for a bit, then Tiffany tried to pick him up and cuddle him, just to get him to relax. He squirmed his way out of her grasp, and continued to run around, bringing us various things to throw for him. After letting him go, Tiffany got up to refill her water. As soon as she got up to walk over to the van, Pelé jumped into her empty chair, spun around three times (like he always does), and settled into her warm chair. He is like a little child; full of energy, obstinate, and on his own little schedule. I have to remind myself that he has only been in our lives, full-time, for about four months; we are still getting to know this little creature.

The van, complete with air dried undies and crazy dog...

When we woke up the next morning, we didn't even take the time to make coffee, instead we packed up and drove to the border; Alaska; the first stated destination of our journey. It only took two months to do it.

The border crossing was uneventful. We felt the customs agent must have either been Canadian or spent so much time around them that his friendliness was somehow amplified to Canadian levels of expression through osmosis by proximity. We also noticed a sharp increase in the number of poorly driven RV's, giant truck campers, giant truck campers, and tour buses and vans packed to the tits with people.

We have been asking ourselves as we have driven up the coast and around the two Canadian provinces we've been privileged to experience; “how much prettier could Alaska really be?”

On the drive from Carcross to Skagway, we got our answer. Holy shit, Alaska is pretty!

The terrain changes as you drive along the lake system and strange moss-covered rock formations begin to appear around you. They stretch out into the distance and resolve into enormous mountains; snow capped and rocky. Emerald water pools up around the bottoms of these mountains, and many are directly fed by dramatic waterfalls. To be fair, the weather was absolutely perfect on the drive.

The town of Skagway, however, was somewhat less cool than what I had in mind for Alaska. There is a real Disneyland vibe going on in Skagway, thanks largely to the arrival of 3 huge cruise ships full of people. They were everywhere when we reached the town.

The crowds seemed mostly American, and we couldn't help but notice that a rather large number of them were eating ice cream at 10 AM.

To be fair, it was almost 82 degrees when we arrived, so maybe the boat folks thought the ice cream would help. At any rate, the throngs of people were something of a turn-off, so Tiff, Pelé and I made our way to the Library to do some research on where to camp. There is no data service in the town of Skagway, and only three places have public wifi. This is not a complaint, I like it, but now that we have a show to manage and a journal to update, and we depend on an app to tell us where the good, free campgrounds are to be found, data and wifi are fairly important tools to us. I never thought I would use wifi more than an ax on an adventure, but sadly that is the case.

Fortunately, the Library came through, and we found an amazing spot to camp.

100 yards from our campsite in Dyea, AK (outside of Skagway)

Tidal Flats, Dyea, AK

It was here that I knew I wanted to experience an altered state in my first new state in over a decade. In my twenties, I managed to get to my 48th state, leaving only Alaska and Hawaii unvisited until now. 

 

With our campsite set up, the hammock delicately strung between two pines, firewood piled next to the fire ring, and an amazing amount of privacy, I decided to eat the rest of my dried mushrooms. We are also carrying several little mushroom chocolates we were given as a gift on our journey, so Tiff ate one of those.

We both had our own agendas for the better part of the day. Tiff's was to lay in the sun, topless. Mine was to lounge around in the hammock, reading, playing guitar, and tossing the tennis ball with Pelé. Pelé's interests intersected perfectly with mine. Somehow, he seems to like it when I play music, and he tends to completely relax when I do; making him an even more rare creature than I thought possible.

If you have never taken psychedelic mushrooms or any other psychedelic, it will be difficult to have a frame of reference for the feeling you get as the high starts to kick in. The buzz you get from alcohol as it sets in is vaguely similar but falls short in a few aspects.  A mushroom high is warm, with little rushes of energy and feelings of completely relaxed sleepiness mixed in.  You don't feel necessarily like doing or saying foolish things, and if you let your mind relax, it will float down streams and find eddies which an alcohol buzz could not even stay afloat.

If you eat lots and lots of mushrooms, unlike drinking lots and lots of alcohol, you are not at risk of ingesting a lethal dose.  The "High" at some point, gives way to something else entirely.  Whereas, with an alcohol buzz, the high gives way to drunkenness, unconsciousness, and potentially lifelessness.  This will not be a story of that sort of mushroom trip.  The amount we ate will take you to the shore of a sea of questions, but will not set you adrift alone.  Instead, this is a story about having one's hand held-gently on a long walk along that shoreline. 

Having my hand held gently...

Tiff and I both took just enough to not have any crazy visuals or highly charged freakouts, but we both felt incredibly high. The feeling was largely in our bodies, but as I sat in the hammock, looking over the scenery, glancing at my beautiful, topless wife bathing in the sun, my playful and sweet dog rolling around below me, I was overwhelmed with a sense of deep joy and gratitude for the having access to conscious experience.

I was also struck by a thought that accompanies many of my waking moments - “what am I here to learn?” Although it is something of an existential question, it is also a question surrounding, specifically, the selfish journey I currently find myself drifting through. It is also the type of question, when your mind is bathing in the muddy waters of a psychedelic experience, which can get particularly difficult to hold in place. Fortunately, not being able to hold onto a question gives you an opportunity to look at it from new angles as you struggle to maintain your grip.

We keep meeting all of these strange and beautiful people on this journey; essentially what I want to know from them is how they deal with life, in order to do a better job of being a person myself. But why? What is the point of being good at being human? I don't fear eternal punishment if I fail at being a person, and I don't have faith in an eternal reward if I do it well...so why get better at this?  Do you ever feel like you don't know how anything really works? I do, and it leaves me feeling not particularly “useful” in any meaningful way.  I seem to only learn that I don't really understand anything.

As I sat in that hammock, struggling with that question, I had an insight.  I decided that, instead of focusing on learning for the sake of greater wisdom or intelligence, my new goal would be to focus on increasing my ignorance, and not my understanding of the world. That may be the best an ape like me can hope for, but seeking ignorance is less mad than it sounds.

The more you learn, the more you realize there is to know, so no matter how much you learn, there will always be an increase in your ignorance, as every answered question gives birth to many more which will go unanswered. So, I have decided that I will just seek the ignorance directly. Each question I ask of a new person will be a direct approach, not to intelligence, but to the wisdom of ignorance. My search for new things to not completely understand began in that hammock and continues in front of this screen.  I am seeking to populate my mind with a truly diverse flora of ignorance.

The following day, we took a few small hikes, and on the 4th of July ended up having some really terrible fish and chips at a place in town called, without any sense of irony at all, Woadie's Fish and Chips. The upshot was that the terrible restaurant in-question had exclusively outdoor seating from which we could watch an unusual spectacle. 

Locals and tourists were lined up on the sidewalk along a temporary stretch of railroad (about 40 feet long), which had been set up in the road for the occasion. The wide city street was closed to vehicle traffic, so the whole scene was nothing but sugar-crazed children and adults sporting various degrees of American flag attire and drunkenness.

Tiff and I had no idea what was about to happen, but from our vantage point on the porch of the worst fish and chips in Alaska, we could see everything. A guy with a clipboard, a stopwatch, and a microphone was standing next to one end of the temporary railroad track. Next to him was another guy with several railroad spikes in one hand, and a large handled maul (big-ass hammer) in the other.

The guy with the spikes and the maul took his time setting the spikes. When each of them was set into the wood, the guy with the clipboard checked the depth, counted down to zero, and the guy with the hammer started swinging at the little spikes.

The crowd cheered as a guy with a big hammer drove big nails into a big piece of wood that was taking up a big space on a small road, which would all have to be disassembled when it was all said and done. They did this over and over again...roughly 25 people competed for the fastest time. To be fair, it is not easy work, and some were better than others. The fastest time was somewhere around 12 seconds to fully drive home all four spikes.

At one point we heard a guy at the other end of the street, who was on a stage, playing guitar and singing to less than three people. He called out to the spectators, “live music here folks, it might just be more interesting than driving a spike?” He might have been right. Tiff and I decided to leave that question unanswered and hiked back to the van.

Smuggler's Cove - Skagway, AK

The following day, we took our leave of Skagway via the ferry system. It was a far cry from the incredibly efficient and well maintained BC ferry system, but it was a short trip to Haines, and the scenery is second to none. 

Haines is completely different from Skagway...completely. It has a character, altogether more genuine and less desperately nostalgic than Skagway. No one is wearing old-timey clothing or giving street tours, and none of the buildings are set up to look like the old gold mining days. We drove into town, found a place on the street to parallel park the van right away, and saw mostly local foot and bicycle traffic on the streets around us.

The IGA grocery store was the most expensive we've seen, by far. We got some staple supplies, then wandered off. Oddly, we found a natural foods grocer around the corner with better variety and cheaper prices...I've never seen that before. We meandered, took a small hike with about 1,000 mosquitoes and visited the visitor center, to get some info on better hikes.

 

Before driving a little bit out of town to park for the night, we stopped by an RV park to fill our water tank. The camp host of this place was the coolest lady we've met in a while. Her name was Fiona, and she was hilarious. She let us give Pelé a much-needed bath, and made us feel completely welcome, even though it was clear we were too cheap to stay there. We ended up going back there every day during our time in Haines for showers and laundry. She invited us to a crab dinner on Sunday, but we politely declined, as we wanted to hit the road before then.

We ended up staying at three entirely different places over three nights in Haines. Once, near a trailhead for the hike to Battery Point. A beautiful spot on the water, looking at the town of Hines, and the surrounding mountains and large inlet. One night was spent in between the town and Chilkoot Lake. We found a pull-out on the road and parked with amazing views of mountains, the inlet, and a river. The third night, we stayed in the Chilkat State Park (not to be confused with Chilkoot Lake), and for the second time on this journey, we actually paid for a campsite - $15! The view from the campsite was nil, but the view we had at breakfast, a 2-minute drive down to the boat launch and picnic area was one of the best we have seen so far. I'll tell you about that one in a moment.

Looking into the town of Haines, AK.

Rainbow Glacier, Haines, AK.

My knee has recently begun doing this extremely inconvenient and highly uncomfortable thing when I walk on rocks; it has been hyperextending in the wrong direction. When it happens, it is incredibly painful and leaves my knee feeling weak and vulnerable for a day or two. Of course, this happened to me on the first 12 steps of a planned hike in Skagway, so our hiking in Haines was a bit limited. We made it to Battery Point, which is a lovely hike through a rainforest along a rocky coastline. We took the coastline out, and the rainforest back. It was beautiful, but not really much of a workout.

The town of Haines has an event in the summers called, First Friday, in which local businesses open their doors with free wine and snacks, and create a bit of a town-party vibe for locals and tourists. There are tourists around, for sure, but much fewer than there were in Skagway. The town of Haines only has one or two cruise ships per week, and never on First Friday. We check out a few shops and found plenty of postcards for friends of the show, and family.

The following day, we visited the farmer's market. The market has a permanent outdoor structure wherein there are tables and booth space for locals to shop for fresh produce, a variety of cookies, pies, cakes, jams, jars full of pickled items and various crafts. One of them was manned by a young boy who was selling zipper pulls and jewelry made from fishing lures as well as lemonade and keychains. He was hilariously disinterested in whether or not you made a purchase, and was just enjoying the feeling one can only get from being a merchant of one's own work. He was my favorite character there.

We thoroughly enjoyed the town of Haines, but it was the area around the Chilkat State Park which won our hearts. From the shores of that side of town, you can see across the river inlet to several mountains, upon which are resting some impressive glaciers. You are surrounded by Eagles as well. The boat launch/picnic area I mentioned earlier has the best view of these glaciers. Flowing from them are massive waterfalls which cascade and crash from a great height. Sadly, you can see just how large the glaciers once were, and the finish line looks to be much too close...especially when you consider how much water is rushing out of the bottoms of these things. I'm glad we were able to get an eye full of them.

Rainbow Glacier, Haines, AK

Before leaving Haines, we stopped at a fish cannery, got a few food items (smoked salmon, and canned salmon), refilled water, got more groceries and did some finishing touches on the next episode of the podcast, then hit the road. The next destination is Valdez, Alaska. In order to get there, we have to go back North through Canada (BC and Yukon), then through parts of the interior and then south again. As the crow flies, Valdez is not far from Haines. However, getting there by road is about 700 miles.

 On the way to Tok, AK.

On the way to Tok, AK.

Fortunately, the scenery between the two destinations is our true destination. Our first night of camping on that leg of the journey was along a creek, after a freezing cold bath in Lake Kathleen. We count ourselves fortunate to be on the road. Blessed are those who seek ignorance, for they shall not be disappointed.

Not dissapointed...

Andrew CouchComment
Canada Day, Eh?

Vancouver Island is no small place. There are cities, towns and villages from top to bottom and side to side. Surrounding the island to the east and north are a variety of smaller islands, almost all accessible by ferry. We visited a few of the islands: Salt Spring and Cortes Islands most notably. Each of these islands and towns have their own flavor and character.

Take the village of Cumberland, for example. Tiff, Pelé and I stopped in Cumberland after leaving Cortes, and were fortunate enough to be able to make a visit to my pal Sally's daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter, Chelsea, Nigel and Freya. These delightful people (who fed us breakfast and let us take showers) took us on a quick hike around the edge of town.

Tiff, Chelsea, and Freya

Cumberland self-identifies as a mountain biking town. The murals reflect this. The items on the menus of local restaurants, the names of the restaurants, the names of the trails around the town upon which one can fly crazily downhill on a mountain bike reflect this. Everything short of the names of the streets themselves has some sort of connection to hiking, mountain biking, or some sort of outdoor, healthy pursuit.

The town immediately next door, Courtenay, wore an entirely different set of loafers. Courtenay is situated on a river and has a lovely airport for small craft, a couple of charming bridges, a waterfront bike/pedestrian path, and a quaint downtown. We spent a few hours at a bike shop/cafe in Courtenay, working on the podcast, and continued to marvel at the politeness and gentile attitude of Canadians in general.

So, two towns who are divided by nothing more than an imaginary line, both on an island, could not be more different from one another. Cumberland, the tough, hale and hardy outdoorsy town of fit Canadians; Courtenay, carrying a mix between a retirement community and hip shopping mall.

We took advantage of the fairly accessible nature of Courtenay and did laundry, got groceries and took a nice bike ride along the river while we had the van serviced one last time before heading out for either more expensive destinations or more rugged terrain. We liked both towns, but as much as we would have preferred to hang out in Cumberland, necessity drew us away and placed us squarely in a town that, aside from the number of eagles flying around and the beauty of the mountains in the background, could have been located somewhere in the mid-west.

From Courtenay, we caught the ferry to the Sunshine Coast. The Sunshine Coast, true to its name, was sunny and warm. We camped for three days and two nights outside of a town called Lund, at a place called Dinner Rock. It was one of those amazing, free campgrounds. This one is managed by First Nations folks and was spectacular. We camped just above a beautiful beach and had a lovely view.

Dinner Rock Campground, Sunshine Coast, BC.

We spent two days hiking around the beach, climbing rocks, having coitus al fresco, and playing around. In the evenings, we built a fire with wood brought over by an incredibly generous and kind local who just wanted to share. We gave him some of the sloppy handful of pot given to us by a hitchhiker on Cortes as a thank you.

From there, we decided to make our way to Vancouver, where we had an interview lined-up with the singer/musician, Frazey (pronounced like crazy) Ford. On the way down the coast, we were stopped in an improbable traffic jam. On these small coastal towns, there is often only one road connecting the little towns between them. On this one, on Father's day, there was a terrible accident, involving two motorcycles, and an SUV. This is the second potentially deadly motorcycle crash we have witnessed on our journey so far. The first one we saw on the first day of the trip. This one was awful.

The SUV was completely totaled, with an enormous crater in the front, shaped just like a motorcycle. The two bikes were completely ripped apart. We were certain that there had been fatalities, given the condition of the vehicles. When we would later check the news papers, we discovered that, mercifully, there were no fatal injuries. One of the cyclists was air-lifted to a hospital in Vancouver, but was expected to survive. The other two involved had no major injuries.

Seeing something that horrible puts me in a somber mood, and my mind was lost in a sea of thoughts about death.

I tend to think about death quite a bit anyway. I wonder about those last moments, what the sensations are like, the quality of light, the intensity of pain, etc... I also think about what happens to consciousness. Does it really just switch off, like it does in anesthesia? Is there an afterlife, with some sort of cooky heaven or hell scenario? Does your individual consciousness toss the ego driver out the window like a motorcyclist thrown over the handlebars, and merge once again with general consciousness? Is reincarnation something I should think about? Do you wake up at your babysitter’s house only to be told you were just having a bad dream? Clearly, I don't know what happens, but I can't help but be a little envious of the dead when I think of them. Sort of the same way I get a little envious of people who are so much more intelligent than I am. I feel like I've missed out on some crucial bits of knowledge, and I don't know how I'll ever catch up.

Between impulse and echo; living through the task of thinking about death.

In any case, I did my best to steer my thoughts in a more up-beat direction, and thought instead about the one aspect of our journey which typically does not make me think about death; FOOD!

We were heading to Vancouver, which is an excellent place to get great food. Being on a fairly restricted budget, we are not visiting great restaurants. We do, however, get the opportunity to go bananas when we are near grocery stores, and I knew Vancouver would have good ones...particularly, Asian markets, wherein we could find exotic ingredients, cheap produce, dried mushrooms and a variety of spices.

We landed on a gem, the T&T market! T&T is an incredible experience for a guy like me. I am almost always a little hungry. When you walk into the T&T market, you are immediately walking into a fairly large buffet. There was seafood, roasted duck, pork, chicken, a wide variety of steamed veggies, and a whole deep hotel pan, full of Singapore style noodles. I was in heaven. We loaded up on groceries and ate our fill.

Before this delightful encounter, we had other things to do though. First, we had to conduct an interview with Frazey Ford. Frazey is a well known Canadian musician, mostly from founding a band called, “The Be Good Tanyas”. Frazey has been doing solo work for many years now and was kind enough to sit with us in our van, outside of a small park in her neighborhood. She was super sweet, patient, and generous with her time. Her episode will be released on July, 17th. 

From there, Tiffany had an appointment for a haircut, and man did she make the most of it. Tiffany had about 4” cut off of her hair, and looks great!

Told ya...

 

After walking around with Pelé in the city, getting Tiff's hair done, and getting food at the T&T, we worked our way over to Stanley Park to watch the sunset. We decided that we would stay another few days in Vancouver, and would spend the following day, riding our bikes around Stanley Park.

We were fortunate to be able to park in a spot, where we definitely should not have been parked overnight, for three nights in a row without incident. The spot was perfect. It was in a small park, on the water, with clean bathrooms, picnic tables, a place to do pullups, a lovely path for Tiff to take a run, plenty of grass to toss the ball with Pelé, and only 5 minutes from a community center where we were able to take free showers.

I'd like to say a thing or two about the community centers in Canada. So far, we have visited several, and they all have been quite nice. I don't know what the community center in your town is like, but I have had limited experience with them before this trip. So far, my time in community centers has been taking odd-ball classes in low ceilinged rooms, adjacent to either a gymnasium or some drab commons area. If that is what you are picturing when I say community center, forget it.

Take the West Vancouver Community Center, as an example. You will not find one square foot of linoleum, none of the ceilings are low, and there is nothing drab or florescent anywhere on the grounds. Picture instead, high ceilings, natural light wherever possible, exposed wooden beams, slate floors, and public art. Instead of a drab gymnasium, several well-appointed work-out facilities, an acrobatic center, an aquatic center, classrooms for yoga, pilates, art, and dance are at your disposal. The foyer of the building is faced with a long, glass wall that completely opens up, accordion-style, to let in the outside air. There are commissioned works of local art hanging on walls and from the ceilings, and the seating is well distributed, comfortable and inviting. At every turn, you will see happy children, energetic elderly folks, relieved parents, or fit young people. The building does its job and brings together the full range of the community.

Amazingly, this is the only photo of the West Vancouver Community Center.  This piece of art is made entirely of drift-wood.

We can not say enough good things about the community center programs we have encountered in Canada. The U.S.A. Could learn something from these places.

On the last evening of our stay in Vancouver, we knew it was too good to be true. Before we went to sleep, there were 5 vehicles in the parking lot. When we woke up in the morning, there were 8. Too many people were parked in the small lot. To make matters worse, our gigantic red van, and a huge cab-over truck (which had been driven from Brazil, and had the stickers and Brazilian occupants to prove it) were two of the eight vehicles present. A neighbor, justifiably, complained and the authorities showed up in the morning to, with deference and congenial politeness, ask us to fuck off and never come back. I really do love Canadians.

We did manage to spend a whole day on the bikes, riding laps around Stanley Park, stopping to sit on the beach, toss the stick with Pelé, and eat lunch. We stayed at the park all day and watched our last Vancouver sunset from the shores of that beautiful park.

That evening, we drove away, and landed just north of a town called Squamish. We camped in an area which had been technically closed due to high grizzly activity. To be honest, it feels wrong to not capitalize the word grizzly, so Grizzly it will be from here on out.

The next morning, we met some new camp neighbors who were coming in as we were finishing up our breakfast. It was clearly a father and son team who were taking off for a long weekend in their camper-truck to go play around with their crazy 4wheel drive off-road vehicle which they had towed behind them. The pair approached us shortly after parking their vehicle.

The father, Darrel, and his son, Brandon approached us with one confident and friendly grin, and one incredibly shy, but kind smile. Darrel introduced himself and was keen to chat. He introduced us to his son. The boy was about 14 or 15, tallish, lanky, with curly blonde hair and bony knees. Darrel was about fifty, hearty and fit. There was something about Brandon which caught my attention, he had extreme difficulty making eye contact, and was wearing hearing aids. You could tell, in spite of his shyness, that he was incredibly kind and sweet. I can't quite explain why I noticed this, but on the rare occasion when his eyes did manage to meet mine, I could see it. I'm not sure what troubled young Brandon, but some sort of developmental issue was present.

At one point, when Darrel and I were discussing the motorcycle accident I witnessed on the road along the Sunshine Coast (where Darrel and Brandon were from), Darrel very sweetly reached out and took hold of Brandon's wrist. He lifted his arm and held Brandon's hand, gently pressing his thumb into the palm. He then politely changed the subject. I hadn't noticed at first, but the discussion of the violence of the car crash was upsetting the young man, and his father picked up on it without a word, and comforted the boy right away.

I was touched, and felt a sort of sweet sorrow. Like that feeling you get when you see a stray dog, or an orphaned wild animal. I couldn't shake the idea that one day, like my father, Darrel would be gone, and Brandon would have to sort out the world for himself. For me, I didn't ever really feel protected by or close to my father, so losing him was more abstract and did not leave me feeling bereft of a protector. When Darrel passes, it seemed to me from the briefest of interactions, Brandon would be without a man who knew him so well, that he knew when to take his hand and change the subject. It was a powerful moment for me to witness.

I remember having feelings of being something of an odd-man-out when I watched my class mates or friends interact with their fathers. I would watch them kid around, riff on an inside joke, or casually hug while laughing. To be sure, I knew my father. He was a nice enough man. I could see him any time I wanted, and he was obligated to see me every other weekend, but never did I feel like he was the kind of guy with whom I could joke around, or casually hug. He and I only ever had one actual conversation, and I was 21 or 22 at the time. We were not close, and we did not interact easily, ever.

When I watched the tenderness and care that Darrel had for his fairly vulnerable son, I felt the loss of my own father again. Not the loss of his passing, 15 years ago, but rather, I felt the loss of him as a man in my life who made me feel loved or looked after. I felt that same sensation I had as a boy, watching my friends and their dads act like pals. I felt the odd-man-out. I'm certain my father loved me, but I'm also certain he never knew how to let me know that. If you are reading this, and have a son or a father near by, feel free to reach out to that person and make sure they know how you feel about them...don't wait.

We spent that day, climbing the steep hills and stairs of “The Chief” in Squamish. We only made it to the 1st peak, as my knee is STILL not completely healed. The views were stunning, and the hike was not exactly easy. We hiked down the mountain, and made our way to a Mexican restaurant which advertised fried chicken...it was ok, but not great. 

On a rock, on "The Chief" -  Squamish, BC 

From Squamish, we made our way to a small town called Pemberton. We did a small hike to Narin Falls, did laundry, got supplies, showered, and prepared ourselves for a bit of a drive through some winding and twisting mountain roads on our way to a town called Lillooet.

There is a free campground outside of Lillooet, which is managed by the BC Hydro company. I'm not exactly sure what sort of sins the BC Hydro company is trying to atone for, but it must be something horrendous, as they are doing a bang-up job of it with their parks. We decided to stay at this campground for three days.

On our first night, we stood near a roaring creek and watched the tumult of the water as it rushed crazily by. It was hard not to be just a little bit afraid of it when standing so close. A man approached, also named Darell, as it turns out, and struck up a very friendly, if slightly inebriated conversation with us. He told us stories of Grizzly bear encounters, and local sights to see. In particular, he told us about a hike we absolutely had to do in the morning. We agreed and meandered back to our campsite.

On our way back, we met two gentlemen who were walking from their campsite to go throw away a few empty beer cans; Bernie and Mike. At first, I thought Bernie was Mike's son, but that turned out to be far from the case. Bernie was in his late fifties, and Mike looks to be in his late sixties or possibly early seventies. As it happens, Mike is actually 79 years old, and spry as hell.

We didn't get to spend much time talking with Bernie, as he seemed to have other things on his mind, but Mike was quite keen to chat. We told him what we were up to (the trip aspect of it, not the podcast), and he wanted to see our van. Mike and Bernie came over, and Mike was immediately taken with our little home.

“The Honeymoon Suite!” He would call it. “You could sell this for $100K (Canadian), and buy another one, or rent it out for $1,000 (Canadian) per week. You should get three of them and go into business!”

Mike is the kind of guy that I immediately want to be friends with. If I look back on the folks with whom I have made friends over the years, they have had a few things in common. For one, they are generally at least 20 years older than I am. Secondly, they typically have either a ton of enthusiasm for life or a hilariously cynical view on the whole enterprise of being. Thirdly, they are typically a bit eccentric.

Mike is all of those, wrapped up in one guy. He is almost 80, has an abundance of enthusiasm for life (in-spite of about a million reasons to be cynically twisted against everything), and he is fantastically eccentric. He is German/Canadian and has been in Canada since 1958. He is the first draft dodger I've met, and his story is dramatic, to say the least.

The first evening we met, we talked about his career, past, and present. Mike is a retired cabinet maker, but his most recent project came to me as a bit of a surprise; he is developing an app for travelers called Smart Stops smartstops.ca. His app was being developed by a team in India, they have recently been fired for, “incompetence”.  I hope he gets the app done soon, his website is helpful in Canada, for sure!

He and his pal Bernie were as tired as Tiffany and I were, so they left us, but Mike and I talked about hanging out the following day.

That next morning, Tiff, Pelé and I took the recommended hike and saw an incredible site. We hiked along the banks of the raging creek we had watched the night before. We made our way through Douglas Fir, and a variety of trees, one of which was fruiting with these little berries we were told are called Saskatoons (before leaving the park we picked about half a gallon, and ate about half a gallon – that is about 4 liters, Canadian friends). The hike had a hard terminus, we were told. A dam from which the entirety of the crazy spring was rushing forth. As we approached the dam, Tiffany spotted two wild mountain goats just above us. As they tired of our presence, they took off up the mountain, causing a small rock slide which made us more than just a little nervous about continuing down the trail. The views were too great not to continue, and the promise of being able to watch as this crazy volume of water rushed through a crack not much bigger than the two of us side by side, was quite tempting.

We made our way past the rock slide area and climbed up some craggy rocks to a moss-covered outcropping. From there we could see the spillway, and the wild crashing creek fell about 30 feet into a smooth stone cauldron of whirlpools and eddies. There were some red paintings on the other side of the creek, covered from the elements by stone. They were too far away to determine if they were painted by native peoples in the distant past or a more recent addition. Either way, they looked real to us.

The view from the top of the outcropping was amazing...the attached picture will fail completely to convey just how powerful the scene truly was.

Pix Falls

That evening, as I was lounging in the hammock, and Tiff and Pelé were drinking wine and chewing on sticks, our new pal Mike ambled by. He was wearing shorts, old white sneakers, a short-sleeved button-down shirt, and orange-tinted sunglasses. He was also carrying a boiled egg. He approached casually as if he were right on time for a meeting we had planned months in advance. We invited him to stay for wine and a campfire. He sat down and we started chatting.

Mike, of smartstops.ca

Another neighbor came by and asked if we had been to see the lake. When we said we had not, she invited us to join her and her husband for a sunset walk. Mike agreed and came with us.

The path leading up to the lake is quite steep, and not an easy stroll for anyone, much less, as you might expect, a man in his very late seventies. The neighbor who invited us was trying to casually dissuade Mike from attempting the climb. I could tell he knew what she was doing, and his response was perfect, “Oh, I climbed Everest last year, I think I'll be OK.”

He most certainly did not climb Everest at any point in his life, but I can tell you this, he had absolutely zero problems climbing that hill to watch the sunset. The only thing which slowed him down was his tenancy to stop moving his feet when he was talking...and we did a lot of talking.

Tiffany and our other neighbors left us behind, and Mike and I got to have a full-blown conversation. We talked about history, his life, his travels, Elvis, Richard Reese (Reese's Pieces), geography, art, music, shoe stores, Canada, and unrepentantly tragic events. I was eager to ask him if he would be a guest on the podcast and share some of his tale with our audience.

Once an appropriate point in our conversation was reached, I brought it up. He wasn't interested. That was that. One of the most interesting guys I had met so far, just flat out not interested in being on the show. I get it, and can't say that I would do things much differently if I were him. I'm mostly just bummed out because I know our audience would really appreciate him.

We spent the evening chatting with Mike, and didn't get to bed until 1 AM! That is incredibly late for camping.

The next day we spent by the lake we had walked to for the sunset. There was yet another neighbor across from us who was traveling with her husband and her brother; Tyla (pronounced Tie-Luh), Darwin and Dale. They are Canadians from Saskatchewan and were some of the most friendly people we've ever met. They had been camping there about as long as Mike had been (over a month) and quite liked Mike.

Tyla asked if I would be willing to do massage on her husband, Darwin. I was feeling lazy and would have rather lounged in my hammock, but I need to keep up the practice, and Darwin really needed the work, so I agreed. I'm very glad I did. While I worked on him, Tiffany and Tyla collected berries, and Dale and Mike chatted and threw a stick to Pelé. I honestly felt like I was with people I had known for years, not hours. Such is the magic of travel.

As I write this, I am sitting in our van, which is parked in deep woods, underneath a glacier, surrounded by at least 5 different waterfalls. We are outside of a small town called Smithers, BC. We've only got another two or three days left in Canada. I must say, although I have little interest in ever spending much time here in the winter, this fantastic country is exactly the sort of place where I would like to spend my summers.

Outside of Smithers, BC

I'm now putting the finishing touches on this journal entry, and am doing so on the banks of the Yukon River. The sun is setting at 10:30 PM, and there is a guy fly fishing outside our window. The river has a slow rhythm, and the fly reel makes a bit of a high pitch hum, although not as high as the crazy whine of the 10 zillion mosquitoes who are outside, baying for blood.

Our drive up to Yukon was a bit of a marathon. Tiff and I are eager to get to Alaska and decided to put some miles behind us. Fortunately, you can not go more than 100 KPH (about 60MPH), so wildlife viewing is no problem. We saw bears, a fox, a couple of moose, badgers, and a variety of birds. I'm sad to report the first animal tragedy of the trip, though. I was unable to keep from driving over at least two small ducklings who were standing in the road, crossing behind their mother.

I often try to imagine how animals perceive the world around them. I wonder if spiders can sense what type of creature a frightened grandmother is, or whether or not a squirrel is ever “glad” when she makes it back to her home, having survived another day. This time, however, I did not want to picture what sort of horrible anguish was in the mind of the surviving ducklings, or their mother. I can not even begin to get my head around the horror of our terrible red machine, carelessly destroying the innocent and unfortunate little creatures who were so near the end of their own day.

I will do my best to take this moment of having dealt out an unintentional tragedy as a lesson; a prayer, perhaps is appropriate here.

Oh great goon in my mind

Wondrous creator of innocence and evil

Let me not stray into a violent path,

nor the violent path of another stray onto me

Let me not carelessly step upon the vulnerable,

and protect me, as I am vulnerable

Let me not mindlessly drive over the cute and cuddly,

and protect my ugliness so that I may not be a target

and most importantly,

let my prayers to fictional deities

not be offensive to any that happen to actually exist

Dog's Speed to my friends in Canada!

Andrew Couch
Into Canada
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An inordinate number of microscopic creatures are located just under my front left paw. When I lift it up, be prepared to greet them with all the charm you can muster. I suggest something profound, yet conciliatory.

  Olympic Peninsula, WA

Olympic Peninsula, WA

  Sol Duc Falls - Olympic Peninsula, WA

Sol Duc Falls - Olympic Peninsula, WA

Our View from the top of the bottom of the heap. Port Angeles, WA

My dear, we could go on all day arguing about what should be done to address the human problem. I suggest we put that aside for now and focus on us. How does it feel when I move it like this?

Fox Glove Farms – Salt Spring Island, BC

Michael Ableman & some jerk.  Fox Glove Farms – Salt Spring Island, BC

Gary & a sentient cricket – Salt Spring Island, BC

Joel Solomon, Cortes Island, BC - Sometimes the camera will capture a look that doesn't quite reflect the true feelings of the subject in focus. Other times, the camera conveys precisely what the subject has in mind. What face would you make if you were being harangued with strangely worded questions by some weirdo?

Cortes Island, BC

I'm on a journey through time and space. Like most, I track my progress with the benchmarks of joy, suffering, pleasure, pain. I welcome you now to witness the feeling one gets after finding the fortitude to leap into the depths of the universe on a quest to recover the truly sacred and to wholly appreciate the simply material.  

Cortes Island, BC

Cortes Island, BC

“What have you come to ask of me?” When I did not immediately answer, she continued - “I will answer one question at a time. Word them carefully.”

When I remembered the language I was meant to use, my questions would slip away. When I remembered the questions, only the lumbering language of men was available to me. Finally, I closed my eyes, let my focus melt away from the man in my head, and spoke in the language of the carbon atom. I asked my simple questions of this ancient being.

“What can I do to stop the evil of men?” I asked.

“That foolish question says much about you.” Her voice was nowhere and everywhere. I could not hear anything, but her words came into my memory like a sculpture done in relief. She continued, “Define evil for yourself and cease doing it at once. Only then you will have done your part, and that is all you can hope to do. For the likes of you, that alone is a life's work.”

“Is there hope for our kind?”

“Hope? Your Kind? What would you hope for? And just what 'kind' are you? Are you and I of a different 'kind'? I should think there is always hope, so long as there are beings to dream up words like hope. As far as whether or not your 'kind' have any hope, my dear child, when your 'kind' decided to define itself as something 'other', is when the real trouble began. The rest of us have hope, and it is that your 'kind' realize the truth before there are none of you left to play these delightful games.”

“What is the “truth” you speak of?”

“That your last question should be the only good one you asked does not surprise me at all.” Her tone, although inaudible, gave the distinct impression of being delivered through a uniquely cheeky grin. She continued in this way. “You and the others like you who live by spoken words and are seeking to transcend the flesh and blood of this world, are not in control of anything, let alone yourselves! You and your kind who strive to project your collective minds into the future and onto other worlds inside of machines are not doing so because you thought it was a good idea! You are being led by the hand into this future, little one. And that hand is not holding yours as gently as you might wish. Should you wish to know more, and I expect you do, you need to ask Raven. But, I don't expect he will want to tell you either...at least, not right away. Good luck!”

With that, her voice was gone and she moved along, as slowly as she had been moving since before the apes began to drift apart into tribes and cities.

Cortes Island, BC

Tofino, BC - The tale of “The Weeping Cedar Woman” is unknown to me. There was a brief telling of the significance of some of the elements in this sculpture, but no origin story or supporting narrative. However, any tale that includes a lady with snakes for tits, lightning bolt fingertips and an infinity fountain of tears is one I am eager to read.

Tofino, BC

Occasionally, what they really want is to just pick you up and carry you around. I find it best to let the big dumb animals have their way most of the time.

A Whole in the Wall, Port Alberni, BC

Port Alberni, BC

If your desire is for a particular moment or object to carry great significance, the only necessary ingredient is your belief that it is so. The moment you begin to believe in the sacredness of time or space, you are an alchemist of tremendous power. The hard part is true believing. Welcome to the human race.

 

Andrew CouchComment
North For Freedumb
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North For Freedumb...

On his Journey across the states in search of the Northwest Passage, a man named York was hard at work, without pay, every day of the week. There were no days off for York, and it is possible the concept of a vacation had never occurred to him. He had no savings, no monetary debts, and there was no hero's welcome waiting for him if he survived the wild and dangerous journey there and back. His companions in the Corps of Discovery have streets, parks, towns, currencies and a host of other monuments left in their honor. York has very little in that regard and died a poor, not particularly happy man - mostly, he has been casually tossed into the bin of history as a good-natured, athletic man who was basically excellent at every task he was forced to complete. 

Why am I writing to you about a slave who largely made possible one of the most famous road trips in American History? My aim is to give you a little perspective on the amazingly soft journey we are undertaking as we drive our luxurious bed-on-wheels at an average of 60 miles per hour in a zig-zag pattern, based on nothing more than our desire to see pretty things and meet fun and/or interesting people.

Along this journey, I have had the audacity to gripe about having to replace my alternator or having to pull over and drain a bit of oil from the pan, after it was overfilled by an inept mechanic. I've also found myself complaining that my little knee still hurts from the miracle of surgery to repair a torn meniscus every time I have the privilege of walking down a steep hill.

Of course, I understand that all suffering is relative, and most of it is born in the brain as I travel through time worrying about the future, or fretting over the past. However, it is good to remember just how easy we have it here in our big red machine as we leisurely frolic about the Pacific Northwest.

With that out of the way, let me tell you about our trip.

We have been a few places since I last wrote in this journal.

We visited a legal cannabis farm in Oregon called, Old Apple Farm. Our hosts were amazingly hospitable, and ended up being guests on our show and ultimately our pals. Having the opportunity to meet the guys and gals there was an inspiring and beautiful experience for us. We are tremendously grateful to Trevor for reaching out to us and inviting us to their home and farm. We are also quite grateful to Dr. Chris Ryan for having me on as a guest on his show; that encounter has opened so many doors for us, most notably the visit to Old Apple!

We visited Old Apple Farm twice. The first visit was only for an evening and part of the next day. The second time was after a visit to our dear friends, Jesse and Paul in Astoria, OR. 

Beforemaking the trip to Astoria, Tiff and I stopped to share a meal and a drink with my friend Jesse's daughter, Olivia. I have known Olivia since she was about 4 years old. Olivia is now 24, and is a smart, funny and beautiful young woman, making her own way through the world with style and charm. Spending time with her was very special to us, and we are forever grateful to have her in our lives.

Our pals Jesse and Paul are kind, intelligent and passionate people. Their home in Astoria is situated on top of a beautiful hill, overlooking the Young and Lewis and Clark rivers. Jesse and Paul, among their many talents, play music together, mostly Bossa Nova.

Jesse & Paul at home in Astoria.

We had the privilege of sitting in their living room while they played tunes for us. They were kind enough to let us record them. We will be using those tunes in the show as we produce more episodes!

We took a hike with Jesse, spent some time on the Columbia River, played with Pelé on the beach in Washington, and visited Jesse's hometown of Vernonia for a bike ride on a beautiful trail. We purchased a bike trailer for Pelé in Astoria, and this ride was our first opportunity to test it out.

Unfortunately, my knee was unhappy with me for taking the mildest of bike rides, and after less than 10 miles I had to head back. Pelé was being hauled by Tiff (to save my knee), and he was not happy to be with only one of us.

Pelé has this strange habit of stressing out completely when he is on a trail or a bike ride with just one of us. He spends half of the time looking back for the missing partner. When he realized that I wasn't with the group anymore, he started whining and crying like we have never heard. Tiff had to let him out of the trailer and risked life and limb by holding his leash as he ran beside her for about 3 miles.

That crazy little dog, an amazing, good-natured athletic little man who does all of his work for free, got back to the restaurant where Paul and I were waiting for everyone, drank about a liter of water, then sat in the shade and panted until he fell asleep.

Our time with Jesse and Paul was a fantastic four-day retreat and visit with old friends. It had a bit of everything, adventure, leisure, mild debauchery, a little argument, and mostly lots of love and companionship.

From Astoria, we headed East again to Portland, stopping for an afternoon to play around on a beach on the Columbia River. It was there, Jones Beach, we discovered Pelé will swim! I think it may have been the first time he swam. All it took was throwing a stick far enough to force him to paddle for it. I turns out, he loves it! Now when we visit a lake, stream or the ocean, he wants in, so long as there is a stick which one of us has thrown for him.

In Portland, we had to see a mechanic to change out the aging pulleys and belt tensioner on our van. The mechanic said he would have it done in about an hour. As you can probably imagine, it took him much longer. Fortunately, we got back in time to help him get the belt back on the vehicle and likely prevented something bad from happening. When I walked up to see how the job was going, the mechanic had a pry bar up against the side of a new pulley and the edge of the new belt and was trying to force the belt over a pulley that was clearly not having it. A quick consultation with Google and the sprinter forum showed me that the belt routing he was swearing to be correct was, in fact, not correct at all. Once we changed the path of the belt, it slipped on like a glove.

When we started up the van, I heard a noise I could not hear before over the chirping of the aging pulleys...the alternator was making an audible chirp. It doesn't matter if you don't know what an alternator is, or what it is doing in your car. What matters here is that you know that it is not meant to chirp when it does whatever you think it is doing in your engine.

I ordered the parts and had them shipped to Old Apple Farm, where we had an open invitation to return, and planned on installing the new alternator later in the week. We spent the rest of the week in the Columbia River Gorge.

If you have never been to a town called Cascade Locks, we highly encourage a visit at your earliest convenience. What a beautiful place that is! We camped illegally at the park for two days without incident.

The river was rushing, and locals were catching spring chinook salmon with nets, and selling them by the river. We played, we read, we lounged, we ate and we played some more.

From Cascade Locks, we headed back to Portland to buy books and get some supplies. Two books for Tiff and I (The Natural Mind; Dr. Andrew Weil - Spontaneous Happiness; Dr. Andrew Weil), and two books for our new pals at Old Apple Farm (The Ginger Man; J.P. Donleavy and Even Cowgirls Get the Blues; Tom Robbins).  If you haven't read any J.P. Donleavy, I highly reccomend it!  

Back at Old Apple, I got the new alternator installed in less than two hours and had no parts left over! We spent four nights and three days with the guys at the Farm. We had such a great time hiking around during the day and cooking out by the campfire at night. Those fellas have a great life, marked by simplicity, hard work, plenty of exercise and a passion for the task at hand. Dave took me to a Costco on a Saturday afternoon, Trevor and I talked books and craziness, Gregg and I talked science and podcasts and we all played frisbee golf on their beautiful property. Mike was injured from a rock climbing fall (two broken feet), so we didn't get to spend much time with him. In all, the visit was a blast.

From Old Apple, it was time to head East and North to Washington, through the Columbia River Gorge, through The Dalles. Eastern Oregon is so drastically different from the rest of the state. I'm glad we took a slow route through the state.

Our goal was to reach some lake that people had been hyping us on for the past few weeks. It was quite a drive through the cascades into the Wenatchee River valley. When we reached the last turn on our map, we saw a familiar old sign barring us from entering a beautiful and empty roadway - “Road Closed”. No worries, there was an alternate route. We drove around to the south side of the mountain where the lake was situated. About twenty miles later we encountered what was probably a road, located somewhere beneath about two feet of snow. Amazingly, there was no sign announcing the closure of the road; just the plain and obvious facts.

We decided to change course and headed to a nearby lake, and we are so glad we did. Lake Wenatchee is a pristine and deep blue lake nestled in by mountains and pine groves. About ten minutes after parking, an older gentleman and his wife approached the van.

“That's a nice rig you got there!” The man said.

The man, Russ Yuly, we came to know quite well throughout the day was my exact height and weight. He is also 85 years old. We chatted about vehicles and travel.

Russ Yuly & Spiff!

“Well, you picked the right time of your life to do something like this. I always thought I would hike all of these trails and climb all of these peaks when I retired. Now that I've got the time to do the hiking, my body is too old and worn out to do any of it.”

This resonated deeply with me. I told him about our project, explained to him what a podcast is, and asked him if he would be interested in telling us any stories. His wife didn't miss a beat - “You should tell 'em about the worst day of your life!”

Russ told us he would think about it. “If you're gonna be here for a while, I might come back.” He said.

I told him we weren't going anywhere because it was warm and sunny the whole beach was full of sticks Pelé couldn't wait to rescue from the lake. Between Pelé leaping into the water and Tiff trying to roast herself to a golden flake, we would be in the area for many hours to come.

About four hours later, I glanced at the parking lot and saw him getting out of his vehicle. I put together the podcast gear, invited him into the van and just hit record. His episode is #14, and is worth a listen.

We stayed at the lake for two days, camping in the snowmobile bit of a nearby forest. We didn't hear a single vehicle all night and parked our van right in the middle of the woods.

While at the lake, another couple approached the van. This time, it was a couple on motorcycles. The two of them were decked out in denim and riding a Triumph and a super cool classic Yamaha. They were both tall, good looking and about our age.

They were really interested in van living, asked me a bunch of questions, and let me give an overly caffeinated tour of the van. The couple, Stevie and Carlenn were the first people to ever ask me if I had an Instagram profile. Thanks to the show, I do. We chatted a bit, they met Tiff and then talked a bit about meeting up again in Seattle.

We left Lake Wenatchee and spent the night in a little town we heard about through a free car camping app that claimed a nice spot was to be found in the town of Index, WA. The app said it was a favorite spot for rock climbers. The app wasn't lying. We pulled up after crossing the Skykomish River, in awe at the mountains and cliffs around us, and encountered a parking lot filled to the brim with white sprinter vans and one box truck.

Tiff and I, in spite of being fairly gregarious and easygoing, are a bit shy. We debated the idea of just walking around for a bit, then getting in our van and going to sleep, or trying to talk to some of the other campers, who were all hanging out around their vehicles, eating, drinking and talking.

Thankfully, we resisted our urge to hide in the van and approached a huge group of campers. I walked up, right in the middle of a conversation of course, and when the awkwardness of some big goon and his pretty wife standing suddenly at the outskirts of the circle was near the peak, I asked “Is there somewhere I should park if my Sprinter van isn't white, or do we just need to fuck-off right away?”

Fortunately, my dad joke got enough of a laugh to ease the awkward tension. There were about ten or more people in a rough circle in between two vans. In the circle, one of the characters stood out. He was older, a bit more colorful and had some other quality about him I immediately recognized as some sort of strange kin. His name is Will.

We didn't stick around the circle for very long, but we did manage to bring a pre-rolled joint over to the group as a token of goodwill. The guy I mentioned, Will, was parked next to our van. He was driving the box truck.

He invited us over to take a tour. His setup was fantastic. Rustic wood, copper countertop, bathroom, and spacious separate bedroom. The whole thing was well done, and it all opened up in the back with one of those old-time split doors.

He told us very briefly that he had been a bullfighter (also known as a rodeo clown, but don't call them that). Something about his character and his whole demeanor made up my mind right then and there that I would ask him in the morning if he would mind being on the show.

In the morning, we sat quietly by the raging river, drank coffee and waited for everyone else to wake up. We ended up sitting with Will and his friends Ryan and Guillermo. About halfway through breakfast, I asked Will if he would be willing to be on our podcast. I am so glad he agreed to do it.

He will be Episode 15. I won't say too much about it now. Suffice it to say that his story is incredibly powerful and was one of the highlights of the trip so far.

Left to right -Ryan, Guillermo and Will.

We connected with Guillermo and Ryan as well and talked about meeting up sometime down the road.

In Seattle, we had more necessary repairs to do to the van, so we headed into town to meet up with a friend from Memphis who is living temporarily in Seattle. We stopped at a music store to get some gear for the show and met a guy who recognized me from having been a guest of Tangentially Speaking. That was a pretty funny experience for me...it did not net any discount.

Our friend from Memphis, Jeff, was a great host. He took us out for Vietnamese food (my favorite food of all time) and ice cream. He let us park at his place, and use his shower. That is an incredible luxury when traveling in this way. Most of our baths have been in rivers, streams, lakes and occasionally behind the van. Using a real shower is something you should think about the beauty of next time you take one.

I didn't know Jeff particularly well before this meeting, but I came away with a true appreciation for what a sweet guy he is. He is clearly an excellent and loving father, an incredibly hard worker and an all around honest and fun guy. I'm glad we got to spend time with him.

From there, we spent a day dealing with suspension issues with the van in a part of town that exists in every major American city. You know the one...lots of used car lots, automotive shops, vacuum cleaner repair, restaurants that advertise sirloin, and lots and lots of crappy parking lots all over the place. We were glad to have that chore behind us.

From there, we connected with Carlenn (the lady we met at Lake Wenatchee), and she offered to let us borrow her visitor's pass to park in her neighborhood in Seattle – Capitol Hill. This turned out to be an enormously fortuitous move.

We parked before she was done with work, and while waiting for her to come down and see us, Pelé was hanging around the van with us. A young lady with a dog that looked like Benji approached and was audibly enthusiastic about seeing Pelé. Pelé was remarkably interested in her dog, B.

B's owner, Audra, is an incredibly sweet and friendly lady who seems not to have a fear of stranger danger, was a blast to chat with. When I asked her what she did for a living, she told me she was the GM/event coordinator for a floating entertainment venue which was just opening. She told me about the owner, and I told her about our show and asked if she could set up an interview. She agreed.

We had dinner with Carlenn at the restaurant where Guillermo the climber worked, Chavez. Carlenn is a delight.

She offered us a place to shower and let us use her visitor parking pass so we could park in her neighborhood without being hassled by the parking authorities.

We spent our time in Seattle walking around, attempting to avoid going downhill, as my knee is still not 100%. Guillermo took us to his climbing gym for an incredible workout on the wall. I have no interest in ever climbing on a real rock face (fear), but I would like to be strong enough to do it. Next time we settle somewhere, I am joining a climbing gym.

From Seattle, we took a ferry to Bainbridge Island and began our journey on the Peninsula. The first night was spent in Port Townsend.

Port Townsend is a lovely, and charming fishing and boating village. There are old Victorian homes and buildings, and an incredible maritime education center with shipbuilders, and a school attached. We walked around, played with Pelé, and had a blast in Port Townsend.

Our first intentional destination on the peninsula, however, was Sol Duc hot springs. Sol Duc is located in the National Park and is surrounded by incredible hikes into rugged and lush forests. With my weak knee at the time, I was not able to do much hiking, but I was perfectly situated to take advantage of the hot spring.

The scent of spaghetti fart was constantly in the air, as the spring which feeds the pools is coming from deep below the surface and is heavy with sulfur. The first evening, in the spring, was fairly mellow. The following morning when Tiff and Pelé took a hike up a steep grade to go see a beautiful alpine lake, I made my way back to the spring for a quiet soak and a swim.

Before I even walked into the lobby of the pool facility, I could hear the bleating and caterwauling of about 10,000 children as they ran, dove and splashed about in the pools.

As it happens, that morning was the field trip day for a local tribal school. The wild and rambunctious children in the pools were the “good kids" who had sufficient school attendance and few enough behavioral infractions to be privileged with the opportunity to harass, splash and gently menace the people desperately seeking the healing serenity of the hot spring.

I was (foolishly) attempting to read in one of the pools. The children nearest to me were playing a game whereby they would pretend to “accidentally” splash my book. Having been a rambunctious child, I knew this game well. I would “accidentally” flick tiny droplets of water into the eyes of these kids when they would pass by.

One of the kids (the only white boy in the school, and by far the biggest pain in everyone's ass) walked right up to me and asked, “why are you reading a book in the pool? It's just gonna get wet.”

I replied in a sweet tone, “only if it gets splashed.” I then turned to pick up my beverage and promptly dropped my book directly in the water.

Of course, I blame that kid.

Several days later, I would see that kid, his sister and his mom (all of whom had been at the pool that day) in a grocery store parking lot in Port Angeles. The mother was struggling with her keys and a uniquely cumbersome box of groceries. I approached and asked if I could help. Without making eye contact, she tersely said, “no”.

I wished her good luck, and walked away a little butt-hurt at first, but then remembered everything was the fault of that terrible child and decided not to take it personally. His mother's misery is just another one of the products distributed by that rancid little bastard.

It should be noted that I am joking.

The upshot of having to dry my book in the sun, feeling like a moron for having brought the book into the pool where, clearly, it was just going to get wet; was that I was free to be harassed in earnest. This harassment led to the bus driver's intervention, wherein we struck up a conversation.

An unnaturally even-tempered man by the name of Arnold approached me in something of a conciliatory tone and started asking gentle questions. As it turns out, Arnold is an elder of the Quillayute Indian tribe and had driven a portion of the children to the pool that morning from a town called, amazingly without any irony at all, La Push.

We talked about travel, marriage, children (he has 4, we have none, his cousin has 24!), the struggles of indigenous people, and the fact that his uncle is five years younger than he is. After about 20 minutes, he told me about a happening that evening in La Push to which we were welcome to attend.

The Quillayute hold, every Wednesday, something of a pot-luck/ceremonial celebration of their culture in the gymnasium of the tribal school. All he asked of us was that we “Bring something to share if you want.”

We decided to go. The event was fantastic.

There was drumming, singing, dancing, chanting and a tiny bit of storytelling in a small gymnasium. A large portion of the small reservation was there for the event, and less than 10 white people (including us) were awkwardly sitting around in plastic chairs, eating chips and pizza.

We did not take any pictures or video, but I am still kicking myself for not asking if I could bring a little recording equipment. The tone of the drums and the singing as they reverberated through the large wooden beams of the gymnasium was spectacular.

From La Push, we made our way into the Hoh rain forest in the national park, and then to the beach where Pelé seems to have more fun than anywhere else. In fact, I would say that of the three of us, Pelé is having the most fun.

We actually paid to camp for the first time outside of the rain forest, alongside the Hoh river. We had a fantastic time there and were able to relax completely, not wondering if we would be ticketed, towed, or asked to leave in the middle of the night. If you have not yet been to the peninsula, make plans to go!

From the Hoh, we made our way to Port Angeles to take the ferry to Canada!

It should be noted, we have about 28 gallons of fresh water storage, 5 gallons of grey water storage, a 3 gallon toilet tank (piss only so far), and six gallons of straight drinking water. We also have enough refrigeration to store cold food for about 4 days, and enough dry storage for about 2 weeks. Laundry needs to be done once a week (possibly less), and showers (when a cold stream or river is not handy) are a daily search. Why am I telling you this? Before leaving our country, we wanted to empty some tanks, fill others, replenish our food cache, and float confidently-washed into the land of our polite, courteous, sorry-on-a-hair trigger, Canadian cousins to the north. We managed to do just that.

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Andrew CouchComment
Photos From the Road - May, 1 - May, 24
 Looking down my nose at me? 

Looking down my nose at me? 

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Yuba River, CA

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No sticks on this bit of the Yuba River!

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Jesus...is my co-pilot ok?

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Old Apple Farm (left to right) Dave, Gregg, Mike and Trevor.

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A little cold for a Wombat, Moonrat.

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Cannon Beach, OR

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Our pals Jesse and Paul in Astoria, OR.  Bossa Nova session, as recorded by an old man/cricket.

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Pelé was given a choice by a wise and ancient beetle in the grass.  She spoke to him in a tongue only the uncomplicated animals can hear.  "Sir", she whispered, "would you care to dance with the devil, drink with the gods, or piss on a golden obelisk?"

Without hesitation, Pelé closed his eyes and raised his leg in gratitude to the creature, sending a message to all gentle and curious travelers to come.

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What advice would you give yourself if you met a younger you?  

Buy a mask, and get mean! 

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Astoria to Washington over the Columbia River. 

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"Yes, I'll have the swordfish, not overcooked this time, thank you, and the lady, when she wakes, will take another Chablis."

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Lake Wenatchee, WA

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Patreon.com/monkeytooth to help prevent this from being permanent.

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Ross Yuly, 85 years old, totally relaxed, our new pal.  

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More podcast recording in Index, WA.

The (Not So) Innocents Abroad...
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To be sure, travel writing is an old game. Writing down one's thoughts with the intent of entertaining others, or shifting the burden of memory from the brain to paper (or screen in this case) has been a pursuit of the traveling man, I would suspect since we began drawing figures in caves. As you might expect these journals are not an improvement on the genre. 

Our departure from home was one for the books, though. In the morning, the last we would spend on our small, rented piece of land, began with our sweet neighbor, Kristen and roughly 3 children (they are hard to count, as they never stop moving, and all look basically the same to me) were diligently picking flowers from a rose bush in front of where we parked the van for the last time. 

Kristen told us we absolutely had to give at least five minutes notice before leaving, as they were planning a rose petal parade for our departure. The flowers they were picking were being shuttled to another cache of children in the school itself...

I should mention, our neighbors and landlords operate a small school out of their home. It is called the Wigwam School, and it is usually teaming with happy little runny-nosed monsters. I tend to use typically uncharitable adjectives to describe the kids, but I do love them and wish them all of the best. I just hope they experience the fullness of that love and enjoy the best life has to offer at a distance which germs and shitty attitudes cannot cover. 

So now you know, somewhat out of linear order, there is a school next door to where we parked. Did you also know we have lived on that piece of land for the past year and a half in an RV? Not to be confused with our van, we lived in a 33' RV for the past three and a half years, at various locations around Sonoma County, CA. We ended up selling that to a couple of other neighbors, and have since been living in our van...about a week now, as I write this.

The last week of our time in Sonoma County was something of a quest to defeat our fears of failure and our own potentially crushing expectations. I (Andrew), had knee surgery, our van was in the shop for three days, and I was out of town for about 56 hours immediately before my surgery. Feel free to read the previous journal entry if you are curious about that.

My good friend Erik, a fun and interesting guy in his own right (who incidentally refused in his own suborn way, to be a guest on our show), was kind enough to let us stay at his home through the most difficult bits of my recovery...the part where I was walking with a cane. Before that, our friend Sally (Also fun and interesting, but unable to sit with us for a recording of one of her many tales) let us stay with her the evening before my procedure. She also picked me up from the mechanic's shop when I dropped off the van, as Tiffany was under strict obligation to adhere to a previously scheduled ritual sacrifice she had written in the book of death with her own blood and threats of eternal damnation, should she miss that appointment...I may have the details there a bit confused, but I'm pretty sure it must have been incredibly important to leave her ceaselessly loving husband alone to sort out the problems with the van in which we are both meant to be living in for the next two years. It couldn't have been a reservation at a restaurant, I'm certain of that.

At any rate, we owe a debt to our friends...all of them.

The task of reading one's self for a journey is a fairly typical experience, one needs a way to store food, water, clothing, and shelter. The method of transportation must be in sound condition, and the traveler must be in a physical and mental state, suitable for travel. In the case of a two-year expedition wherein man, wife and dog are planning on leaving little or nothing behind, the aspects of travel preparation which are a-typical, are joined by the daunting task of deciding what to do with all of the shit you have collected over the years.

Tiffany was busy sorting through our remaining items (mostly making piles of things to give away, and a much smaller pile of things to mail back to the house I rent to my family members in Memphis, TN), and I was on the task of hobbling around our van, cleaning, organizing, making last minute adjustments and repairs, and basically futzing. 

When we finally decided it was time to go...after about a 30-minute nap for me to rest, elevate and ice my knee (Mom), we told sweet Kristen we would be leaving soon. 

The students, ages 2-4 years old, gathered at the edge of the semi-circle driveway, with their shirts filled with flower petals, ready to throw. Tiffany stayed behind to film the procession, as she was also driving our car, which was filled with items to donate. 

Incidentally, we also donated the car to our good friend, and the first host on our journey, May Dwyer. You will hear more about her in a bit.

As the van pulled up the hill, the adorable teachers and students rained petals in crazy little arcs down from a little hill, some reaching the inside of the van, some landing just in front of the tires, and one getting caught in the snapping teeth of Pele'. The kids were shouting, “Goodbye, Happy Birthday, Be safe!”

It was a beautiful send-off. The video Tiffany took of it is something quite special and can be seen on Instagram, or Facebook.

From there, it was all business...mailing shit, picking up the last package from the mailbox, buttoning things up, and eating one last greasy meal in town before sitting in traffic for the next two hours on our way to Nevada City, to see our friends, May, Allison, Kevin and their son Rowan (2 years old & some change). 

The drive was largely uneventful and represented one of the very few times I have driven in the van over the last few months without Pele sitting next to me. The dog rode in the car with Tiff, and evidently tried to wedge his tiny face into holes in the steering wheel. 

On the way from Nevada City to our host's property (which is in the hills, just outside of town in an area called, “The Ridge”), we saw what looked like a terrible motorcycle accident. Once again, I timed the ingestion of pot-laced confections quite poorly; this time in the form of 5mg THC espresso beans. I thought our friends lived closer to town, and I ate the little beans when we were what I thought was about two hours out..it turned out we had another 30 minutes to go. I ended up feeling a rush of sadness and intense paranoia as we slowly drove by the officers and first responders tending to a man, supine in what looked like a full body brace. His rather large and severely damaged motorcycle was on the opposite side of the road, somewhat pinned under a big black SUV.

That is the last time I try to “time” the eating of edible pot while on a drive. Fool me once, shame on me. If I fool myself again, I've been fooled by a fool, and that is a little hard to take. Also, the road to our friend's house was gravel, and at one point, we had to drive across a creek-bed and climbed over some seriously beat-up roads for the last mile and a half. 

Our time with May and her friends was a blast. She was also waiting on some other friends from New Orleans to return from the river, Kenzie, and Matt. Matt and Kenzie are fantastic people on a similar journey to ours.

I actually knew Kenzie from New Orleans, and am super glad to have met Matt. He is a skilled builder, wood-worker, metal worker and all-around cool person. I almost forgot how much I liked people from New Orleans. Kenzie is a kind and beautiful young woman who is smart, funny, and fun to be around. Their vehicle is painted in a beautiful fashion by a New Orleans artist...both sides are covered with a lovely rendering of a heron.

We had time to chat in the morning with everyone, then played in the Yuba river for several hours before leaving for the night to interview a great friend of Charris Ford by the name of Ross Evans.

Ross is the founder and owner of Xtracycle, an electric assisted cargo bicycle company. We sat with Ross at his home, just outside the downtown area of Nevada City and had an incredible conversation with him. Ross, as I hope you will hear in the podcast, is a high IQ, quick-witted, ad sweet guy who truly believes what he is doing is for the better good of humanity. We believe him. His wife came home shortly after the podcast interview, with his two beautiful boys, one of whom climbed up a large door, and onto the second-floor balcony with several comic books in his mouth in order to read them from a choice spot. I liked him immediately. 

Shannan, Ross's wife had a Sprinter van full of groceries, which Tiff and I were happy to help haul up the stairs to their home. We had just enough time before the kids had to go to bed to chat for a bit with them and to play with the youngest boy, Ike. 

Ike is one of those super healthy little babies who are about 20 pounds heavier than they look like they would be; a solid little man, to be sure, robust and happy. He and I got along right away, and we read a few stories together, and he dropped a uniquely heavy little steel bottle directly on my knee-cap. He is only about a year and a half old, so the odds that he did it on purpose are fairly slim...you never know though. 

The older son, Kale, was deep into his books and was not particularly interested in talking to us. He was totally sweet about it but fairly firm on getting to the last pages as soon as possible. We enjoyed listening to his impassioned plea to be able to bring the books to bed, in-spite of his father's edict that they would not be passing the threshold of the kitchen. 

Ross and Shannan said we could sleep where we parked, and invited us to share smoothies in the morning before the caravan of cycling the children to school began. We did not want to miss that.

In the morning, Pele and I tossed the ball for a while before Ross showed up with three of the thickest and most nutritious and dense “smoothies” I have ever seen. They were incredibly high in fat, low in sugar and carbohydrates and tasted great. I was full until lunch. 

The neighbor's son and Ross's oldest came down with the rest of the family, and the neighbor offered to let me ride his Xtracycle, as my knee was hurting too bad to ride my own bicycle through the hills of Nevada City. Tiff rode her bike, and we barreled down the hill to get the kids to school, just shy of on-time. 

The bikes are fantastic. An Xtracycle is a long bike, with cargo space for additional riders, luggage, supplies, groceries, or basically anything which will fit. They come with an electric motor that can go from “off”, to barely have to work at all, with the push of a button. I needed that feature and made liberal use of the highest setting. Never at any point did my knee hurt, and I was able to go about 20 miles per hour on the rare flat surfaces in town.

We spent the rest of the afternoon with Ross, his wife, and Ike, and had a delicious, home-cooked lunch! We are super grateful to have spent time with Ross and his family, and am excited to share the podcast we recorded with him soon! 

From there we got a crazy tea made from coca leaves...I was flying by the time our friend, May took us to the South Fork of The Yuba River. If you have never seen this river, it is absolutely worth the trip...you WILL see naked hippies, so brace-yo-self!

We spend another nite with May & company and had such a beautiful and relaxed time. Little Rowan is sweet, playful and smart. We feel so fortunate when we get to spend time with these little beasts, pet them, get them pumped up, and then leave them behind to be tended to by their parents.

We spent the evening in Marysville, CA with the goal of seeing the Bok Kai Temple there. Our friend, and former guest, Heather Young has been involved with the restoration and upkeep of this beautiful, sacred space. 

We arrived after the temple closed, so we ended up wandering around the downtown area for a few hours, before finding a (relatively) quiet place to park for the night. We noticed the town was fairly busy with cars, but almost no people were walking the streets other than homeless folks and ne'er-do-wells.like us.

In the AM, we drove over to a little lake in the center of town, found a picnic table to use for breakfast, and settled in to play around with the dog for a bit. It was peaceful, there were men fishing quietly on the banks of the man-made, brick and stone retaining wall. Geese, swan, and ducks swam lazily around with little chicks in-tow. 

Mercifully for us, just as we were finishing the task of packing up to leave, a crazy sound penetrated the air. Have you ever heard a crackhead, shrieking in tears? Well, if you haven't, you are missing out. I do not wish to make fun of this man's suffering (excessively, anyway), but the shrill howling and caterwauling of a toothless, wildly disheveled, and more than just a little crusty cracked out crazy person will make a guy want to rethink some shit. 

Another sound, much deeper and more menacing soon followed. We turned our heads as said crackhead threw a large piece of broken masonry, with great effort, at the windshield of a parked truck. He followed up immediately by scooping up the stonework and smashing it completely through the driver's side window of the same truck. 

We decided to leave, right away. As I started the van, Captain Cracktackular had smashed the windshield of the Jeep parked next to the truck he had been brutalizing, and he was attempting to break the driver's side window of that vehicle; this time, without success. 

We drove away and pointed our undamaged vehicle in the direction of a hallowed, Taoist Temple on the other side of town. 

The Bok Kai Temple is something to behold. It was built in the mid-1800's and houses a trove of artifacts from the first wave of Chinese immigrants to enter California. It is a part museum and part active temple for worship.

I was happy to lay aside my skepticism and just enjoy the experience of buying incense, and beseeching the various deities in the temple for the protection of our loved ones, the success of business interests, and for protection for the community of Marysville from the ravages of floodwaters. To be fair, I sent up an extra little petition for the well-being of the crackhead and the owners of the much-abused vehicles he was using in-lieu of brutalizing the vehicles owners.

All prayed-up and smelling like the delightful incense of the temple, we pointed the van north, and drove clean out of the state, stopping just once to water the good soil of the most beautiful and dynamic little country in the United States; California!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andrew Couch
Go On, Ya Big Dummy...

Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy!

Do you ever feel like anything can happen at any moment? Perhaps a wadded up twenty dollar bill will fall from your pocket, only to be picked up by the youngest child of a struggling single mother, who will then take that twenty and buy a winning lotto ticket? Or maybe just a big-ass hunk of shit will fall from the sky and break the branch in the tree where you had planned to hang a noose? 

As you may know, Tiffany and I are preparing to undertake a voyage of self-discovery and adventure with our newly adopted friend, Pelé the dog. In the midst of this undertaking, I have been writing emails to a man who I consider an intellectual hero of mine, Dr. Christopher Ryan (full disclosure, spell check had to help me out with the spelling of intellectual...twice). Over the past year, I have been sending him emails about random topics. Things like, 'I liked your interview with so-and-so'. Or, 'if you are passing through such-and-such town, you should check out blah, blah, blah'. 

Dr. Ryan was always generous with his time, and usually sent some type of response. When Tiffany and I decided to start a podcast based out of our 2006 red sprinter van, I felt compelled to explain this to Dr. Ryan and assure him, where we seemed to be copying him blatantly, it was completely by accident, and where the similarities were more subtle, we were doing it on purpose. Dr. Ryan was gracious and replied with good humor and wished us well.

About two weeks before our journey was to begin, I decided to shoot for the stars, and invite Dr. Ryan to be a guest on our show. To be sure, this is a busy man with a variety of tasks both personally and professionally, which demand quite a bit of his time. I honestly thought if I got a response at all, it would be a polite no. To my surprise, the good doctor said yes.

Now, I should also tell you that while attempting to prepare for our journey, I was told I needed to have an arthroscopic surgery on my knee, to prevent a potentially uninsured injury of greater severity in the future. This surgery was scheduled for the Wednesday before our departure. The time available for Dr. Ryan to meet with me was that Monday, at 2 PM, in Topanga, Ca.

Getting to Topanga from Sebastapol is no big chore. An easy 7 hours without traffic. I was happy to do it, as it meant I could stop and see some friends and my niece on the way down. My niece and I had Hawaiian BBQ, and I gave her some books. My friend Alex saw the van and gave me a hug. My friends Gnome and Vickie have a hot tub in which I was delighted to soak before Pelé and I crawled back in the van for a good night's rest. On Monday morning, I had breakfast with Gene and Vickie, got some much-needed exercise for Pelé, then drove down the coast in Malibu to connect with the road to Topanga. 

When I arrived in Topanga, I immediately felt welcome. It reminds me of the town we've been living in, Sebastapol. Both are small, and filled with a clash of farmers and hippies. There are intellectuals in the hills and cafes, and the local economy seems somehow snack-based.

Dr. Ryan is in the final stages of his most recent work “Civilized to Death”. That alone makes a man busier than most. In addition to that, his father was in the hospital, and his wife was due to arrive home the following day from several weeks abroad. That Dr. Ryan would have set aside an hour in the middle of his day to chat with a complete stranger, was a sign of a guy who takes a relaxed view of scheduling and obligations. It also suggests to me a confidence that the number of hours in a day is always exactly the right amount of time.

We had a fun and wide-ranging conversation in my van. We talked about van living, travel, bullshit, the ancient cave paintings in Lascaux, his friend and mentor Stanley Krippner, disaster psychology, and poop. Just getting the opportunity to casually and leisurely chat with him was a blast for me.

After we wrapped up the interview, Chris invited me to his home to take a look at his van so I could experience the same sensations he had experienced when sitting in our van. We drive the exact same vans, and both have similar floor plans. His van feels much more open and spacious. When sitting in our van for the first time, he said, “it's like meeting your girlfriend's better looking twin sister”.

Dr. Ryan lives about half way up a rather steep hill. His driveway flows past his landlord's home, a 92 year old retiree from NASA named Ginger. I didn't get a chance to meet her; luckily she was once a podcast guest of his, so I have the opportunity to hear her tale. 

Chris offered me a coffee, and I accepted, thinking he was being gracious and getting me caffeinated for the drive home. The coffee was a double espresso...if you know me, you know that caffeine has an intensely powerful effect on my mood and aspects of my personality. This double espresso got to work immediately. I started telling stories as Dr. Ryan and I walked around his place. After about 10 minutes, he asked if I wanted to hang around for dinner. The overly polite weirdo in me wanted to decline, to give them man some space. The southerner in me who hates to turn down hospitality and home cooked meals thankfully spoke up first and accepted the offer. I was also having fun, and felt like hanging out, so I didn't end up sabotaging a good time with the urge to be polite.

As my mouth continued to run and the stories got, I would imagine, progressively stranger, Chris asked, “would you like to sit down and record another podcast?” At this point, my mind was swirling down the drain of a caffeine toilet, and any hopes of being polite or demure were gone. I accepted.

It was an enormous privilege for me to actually watch the host and producer of a show that I listen to every week, sit down to do his craft. It was like being a guest and a student at the same time. I felt incredibly comfortable and had a distinct feeling that I was making a new friend. 

I honestly can't remember most of what we talked about. I know we talked about my parents, my jobs, masturbating and me, me, me. I already talk too much, as it is. I am now keenly aware of just how much I talk about myself. At this moment, I am writing about myself, talking about myself. I will soon reread these sentences about myself, to myself. 

Mercifully, my time with Chris Ryan was not all me yammering...we had a fantastic meal, and we talked over dinner about books, writing, polyamory, sociology, psychology, and a host of other subjects about which I know basically nothing. The whole time, I felt at the very edge of my capacity to think clearly about complicated subjects. Never at any point did I feel like I was bothering him. I was also not worried that he was having a dull time talking to a thick-witted hippie-bro from the internet. It was a completely relaxed time, and I felt like I was hanging out with an old friend...exactly the way it feels when you meet people traveling and become fast friends by a campfire, or at a trail crossing. 

Time spent with a wiser and more seasoned traveler is time well spent. 

The evening drew to a close, I thanked and hugged my host, and Pelé and I walked back down the steep hill to our van, and we drove out of Topanga Canyon about as content as a man and a dog can be. I'm beyond grateful to Chris. I am learning to trust my impulses and intuition...making the split-second decision to drive to Topanga was worth every minute. It was also a great opportunity to shake down the van...

On the drive back home, about 120 miles from my front door, I heard one of those sounds you never want to hear while driving; a loud pop and bang, followed by a distinct whooshing sound coming from the turbocharger.

I immediately lost power, as I climbed the first of the many hills which would be torturing me and the van for the next several hours. 40 MPH was top speed on the incline of a hill. Black smoke would blast out of the exhaust, and the sound from the turbocharger was constant. 

We travel with an onboard diagnostic tool, which can read and clear engine codes. I pulled over, plugged it in, and immediately wished I hadn't. The panoply of fault codes filled the screen with horrible little letters and numbers and crammed my head and heart with the kind of dread you can only seem to get from car trouble. 

I searched through blogs and forums to try and diagnose the severity of the problem and came away with a slender confidence that I could drive it to a shop close to home...slowly, perhaps, but at least not in need of a tow truck. Three hours later, I was pulling into a shop.

I should also explain, almost ten minutes before this happened, I ate a pot chocolate. Those typically take about two hours to kick in for me, and I figured I would be home before things got weird, or clear thinking became difficult. Edible pot is excellent for creativity, lovemaking, and relaxation. It is a uniquely terrible substance if any amount of critical thinking is needed. Also, my exposure to paranoia is increased dramatically. 

Of course, like clockwork, the last hour of my tortured journey, and the bit where I had to deal with explaining to the mechanic just what in the fuck I thought was happening with my van, was stumbled through in a paranoid and moronic haze.

Over the next three days, and in the middle of dealing with my surgical procedure, the van would spend time in three different shops. Finally ending up at a Mercedes dealership, where they replaced an exhaust hose, cleared the fault codes in the computer, charged me $800 and sent me along my merry way.

What is the lesson here? We took from that experience the following insights; Do what you want, listen to your intuition, be prepared for your intuition to fuck you over occasionally, and remain calm the whole time. Anything you worry about will suck at least one more time than it should. 

We are grateful to have experienced all of this before the trip began in earnest, and that all of this happened at home, and not in the middle of nowhere. Let the journey begin!

 

 

 

Andrew Couch
A gift...
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On a hot summer afternoon, while walking the country lanes near our home, Tiffany and I encountered a wretched old man, dragging behind him a large stick. His clothes were tattered and threadbare. The long, spindly fingers of his dirty hands looked like an angry bowl of pasta had been shaped into old-man-hands by Picasso. In his eyes, we saw what looked like the last embers of a campfire, the morning after a party. In his wake, in contrast to his beleaguered and disheveled person, the grass was unexpectedly turning a bright and healthy green.

When we asked if he needed any assistance, he laughed. The sound was like that of a great tree limb, breaking in the distance, and falling on a herd of asthmatic goats. The man raised his great stick and pointed it directly at my beard.

“You would be cursed for speaking to me, but I have been cursed by one more powerful than I. My curses now bring joy to others, and that joy is my curse.  Behold!”

As he spoke, my face began to feel quite strange. I looked down, and my beard fell right off of my face and began to spin crazily on the ground in front of us.

The old man, who I can only describe now as a Wizard, continued to laugh as he turned his back and walked slowly away.

The ball of brownish and grey hair was spinning and spinning, and suddenly began barking! A cloud of dust and hair and moving madness was at our feet! Tiffany could barely continue drinking her wine!

When the dust settled, laying on his belly, with feet stretched out in front of him, looking deeply into our eyes with great anticipation, sat a perfectly content, tail wagging little dog. Just in front of him, lay a pinecone, which he clearly was waiting for one of us to throw.

In other words, we have a dog now, his name is Pelé, and he will be joining us on our journey.

MTP.DOG

This is the first entry...We will do our best to update this as often as we can.  Our journey will officially begin on May 1st, but before we leave, there is much to do.  Our goal is to record a few stories with friends and family to make sure we have at least some of the bugs worked out before we take off.  

We are building a gofundme page and a Patreon page.  As soon as those are live, we will be sending emails and notifications to everyone we know.  We will also be making a video of our van project, and will post that to youtube as soon as it is done.  We hope to attract the attention of the many people out there working on their own van projects, looking for inspiration.  We found that incredibly helpful in our project, so we would like to return the favor to a stranger.  

Although we want to spend most of our time exploring and wandering around without any particular goals in mind, we are both the type of person who needs shit to do...and it must be the sort of thing which is worth doing.  This podcast is most definitely something worth doing.

If you have any suggestions, know of someone you think we should meet on our travels, or would like to help support us in any way, feel free to contact us!

Looking forward to more entries - T&A

Andrew Couch