On the road again

30 05 2012

My time on the farm has sadly come to an end. I definitely have more to say about my experience there, which will come at a later date. For now, I am going to practice being “present” and update you on my new adventure…my motorcycle trip down the coast to northern California, then east, all the way back to home sweet home in Ontario. The first leg of the journey is down the coast, camping and couchsurfing along the way. Then, I’ll head east around Sacramento, where I plan to

take a day or two and visit a friend. After that, a few longer days across the dessert (Nevada and Utah), then by mid-next week, I’ll meet my dad and a Wiarton gang in Colorado and we’ll make the rest of the journey together. Until then though, I’m more or less on my own. That’s alright though. As much as I love community and think life without people would be meaningless, I’ve always been a bit of a lone wolf at heart. Also, I find that I meet more people when traveling on my own too.

Waiting to board the early morning ferry in Fulford Harbour

I’ve just finished my third day on the road, and I’m now landed just across the California state line in Crescent City. Monday morning I left the farm on Salt Spring, first taking the ferry from Fulford to Swartz Bay, then going to Victoria and jumping on another boat across to Port Angeles, Washington. After a moderate degree of interrogation from the border patrol, I was welcomed into the great U.S. of A.! My first brief stop was the Olympic National Park visitor center, right in Port Angeles, then down the highway. I drove as far as Olympia, with a beautiful side trip off the highway to Port Townsend. I also stopped at a cool nursery in Brinnon for the free wi-fi. A combination I never would have predicted. Despite there being more clearcuts than what would be ideal, it was a lovely drive through some majestic forest and a bit of coast. I landed in Olympia around 5 pm and met up with my first couchsurfing host of the trip, Teddy. Even though I didn’t go that far, my first day of riding kinda kicked my butt and I was pretty tired.

I headed out of Olympia around 8:30, after a quick stop at McDonald’s for free wi-fi (to load directions on my phone until I find myself a good road atlas) and some milk for my raw oats. On a mission to get my Canadian cash exchanged, I stopped at several banks in hopes of success. It proved a lot more difficult than expected, but eventually found one that would accept my paper funny money and give me some of the cotton/linen variety. I crossed several bridges, but the most remarkable of which was the one between Washington to Oregon into Astoria, which spanned a whole 14 miles!

The Astoria–Megler Bridge, spanning 14 miles across the Columbia River

I also stopped at a beautiful beach at Seaside and had a heavenly nap in the warm sand. Cannon Beach was another highlight and I wish I could have stayed their longer!

A perfect spot of a siesta in Seaside, Oregon

A perfect spot of a siesta in Seaside, Oregon

I finally landed in Newport close to 8 PM, once again pretty tired from a long day. I maybe diddle daddled a bit too much in Seaside which made for a more exhausting final stretch. However, in this final stretch I did fit in a stop at the cheese factory in Tillamook and sampled some cheese, toured the factory and treated myself to some German Chocolate Cake ice cream. When I arrived in Newport, it was like arriving to a little piece of heaven, just a block from the beach. The warm shower was divine, then I chatted with my host for an hour or so over some nice wine and some delicious fritters she had made. Then off to bed (not couch!) in a room of my own! It felt like I was staying in a quaint little B & B, but for free!

Hitting the jackpot with a luxury “couch” in Newport

This morning I got a bit of an earlier start, or at least felt more organized when I left. I continued south on the beautiful Hwy 101. My first stop was for coffee about 25 miles down the road at a place called the Green Salmon. It was really good and was just the kind of start I needed. They also had a cute little used book exchange. What a great idea! You could buy a book for $4 or exchange one for $2. I was tempted, but restrained myself, after all I already have a handful of books loaded in my saddlebags. Aside from gas, my next memorable stop was at the farmers’ market in Coos Bay where I had my first strawberries (other than the handful I had at Foxglove before I left) and had a nice chat with a man at the master gardeners booth where they offer free gardening advice – another great idea! A few more miles down the road (with plenty of singing, and even making up a few songs of my own!) and I stopped at McDonald’s for wi-fi to check in with my host and a Reese McFlurry. While I was sitting outside on my phone, a man drove up next to me and called me over. I went over and he handed me a wad of bills. He said, “I don’t know why, but I feel I should give you something. I hope this gets you a few more miles down the road.” After he left, I counted it and the bills totaled $51. Wow! That’s over two days worth of gas! And now, here I am in Crescent City, California! It feels great to be in California, but I must admit that the Oregon Coast is absolutely stunning and doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves! I can’t believe I had contemplated skipping the coast and going through Portland instead. My only problem is trying to look to the beautiful scenery while also watching the road!

Despite my best efforts at regular sunscreen re-application, I can feel the warmth of my sunkissed cheeks. I can also feel the slight ache in my lower back that is calling out for more yoga. But more on the pains and pleasures of motorcycling later. For now, I’m just living the dream. So, please don’t wake me up!


Back to the grind

5 02 2012

Just got back to beautiful British Columbia after an extended stay at home in Ontario. My mom had a minor stroke on Christmas Day, after which she was in rehab for a couple weeks and then she had to  transition to life back at home. So, I decided to stick around an extra month to support her in her recovery and encourage her along the way. Another life block! Although I struggled with the decision to stay or not to stay at the time, in retrospect, it seems obvious and I have no regrets. Fortunately, I go to a school that operates on the block program, and by taking one course at a time, I can jump right back in at the start of a new block. The way I see it, these difficult circumstances present an opportunity to learn to love, care and give of ourselves, and it only made sense to embrace this opportunity. It was also nice to spend some time with my family. Both my sisters now have their own places, so lots of changes on the home front.

Additionally, this past month, I had the chance to catch up on some other work. I was able to finish reading Cities on a Hill, one of my seminal works. Also, I was able to seek out some opportunities abroad. I applied for an exchange to either Zeppelin University or Amersterdam University College for next year. I also applied for Canada World Youth’s Youth Leaders in Action program, where participants work in teams of 18 youth (half Canadians, half from the partner country), volunteering in a Canadian community for three months, then in a community abroad for three months.

Plus, I spent some time thinking about my Question and where I might want to go with it or how I could focus it a bit more. Currently, it reads, “What is the role of collaboration in developing effective institutions?” Maybe I’m thinking about it too much, but it seems too obvious. I attended a screening of the film of The Economics of Happiness, hosted by our local Transitions group and rediscovered one of my passions that had somehow slipped off my radar – localization. Despite being problematic for my sometimes insomniac mind, it triggered lots of ideas. Here’s a snapshot from my spiral-ringed notebook of my post-film mind explosion…

Page of spiral notebook covered in chaotic writing

I missed going to Guelph Organic Conference and the Combining Two Cultures Conference on interdisciplinary education as I had contemplated, but I did have the opportunity of catching Wiarton Willie’s prediction for the first time and catch up with some friends from high school who I hadn’t seen in awhile. Despite the shortage of snow, I managed to get out for at least one snowshoe and one ski.

Next up, Identity and Perspective.

Back to our roots

19 11 2009

The other day, while riding back from town in the shuttle, some Questers were talking about the myriad of world problems, not an unusual occurrence. Among other issues, we discussed education and how important it is for individuals in the developing world to access education and solve their own problems, rather than trying to impose Western solutions. From this, we can safely conclude that someone is more likely to create change effectively in their native village because it is here that they are most familiar with the problems and the community dynamics. But why is this idea just imposed on developing countries? Why should youth there be so strongly encourage to go to school and stay in their communities, while in the West, youth wander across the globe as they please? We all know even the wealthiest countries are far from perfect, and I think if we stay in our communities we can be of more use to society. I think of the Lion’s Head Farmers’ Market as an example. I feel its success is due to the fact that I was reasonably familiar with the community and knew where to find support (thank you, BPEG!). And since the start of the market, I’ve been on a pretty steep learning curve which has helped me even better understand the community. Although the skills can be applied elsewhere, much of the knowledge is specific.

In the past few weeks, I picked up Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, and I have come across a similar sentiment in terms of farming. Now, many multi-generational farms are abandoned because parents want better for their children. It seems to be a measure of success to have moved away from your hometown, often to cities. We have the type of same mindset about moving away from manual labour, but I’ll save that one for another day.

Now, don’t forget that I have, in fact, moved almost as far away from home as possible without leaving the country. I see value in moving away from home to learn and gain independence. After all, only when we challenge ourselves by stepping into new or uncomfortable situations do we truly grow as individuals. However, our society has become so migratory. Families think nothing of relocating for the sake of a job or career. Without roots, community seems to take a backseat.

I am incredibly fortunate to feel closely connected with my community. And because of this, I really miss a lot of special people from home. Not only family, but market vendors and patrons, high school teachers, Golden Dawn residents, BPEG members…the list goes on. Even though life would be easier if my new community was the only one I had, the trace of home sickness I feel sometimes reminds me that I have a place I love and belong, and I would be honored to one day return.