this travelogue I promised to show updated photos of my RV to
illustrate the many upgrades and improvements I expected to make
after buying it. Alas, much of what I had planned to do remains
undone so far. I still haven't had the dinette cushions
re-upholstered to cover up that awful blue-green fabric. Nor
have I taken time to build in permanent storage lockers in the
forward overhead compartment. (I'm still using the cardboard
boxes I fitted to compartmentalize the area when I hurriedly
moved in back in February.) Sometimes I berate myself for this
lack of progress. More often I think, "So what? What I have
is functional and I'm traveling." In the end I have to keep
my priorities straight, don't I? Would I rather spend half the
season tricking out my camper just so, or spend that time
visiting new places? Gee, that's a tough one.
camper is functional, it is not maintenance-free. Far from it.
After all, it's 9 years and 50+ thousand miles old, and by boat
standards cheaply constructed to boot. Just before I left Mount
Shasta, my mechanic buddy, Yari, and I did a front brake job -
well, I assisted by handing him tools and stuff like that. While
we were in there, we replaced the calipers. Now I actually know
what those are! In the past week alone I have personally rebuilt
the collapsible TV antenna gear assembly (not that I ever use
it), fixed a sudden leak in the water pump that saturated the
cabin sole aft, wired in a new wall thermostat for the furnace,
fiddled with the generator, which doesn't start when it's warmed
up, and have done at least a half-dozen other odd jobs that
popped up in addition to regular maintenance chores. And I had
to order in parts for some of these things from vendors as far
away as Alabama. RV's are less work than cruising sailboats, but
they're not self-tending.
plus side, precisely because I have never possessed a natural
inclination towards things mechanical, I feel great
gratification whenever I do manage to fix something. Therefore,
this has been a most gratifying week.
western Cascade Mountains in north-central Washington are
striking for their steepness. Monolithic rock blocks soar almost
vertically from the lush temperate rain forests that blanket the
region. I spent a few days among those mountains, biking the
damp forest roads and trails despite the sporadic drizzle so
characteristic of the Pacific Northwest.
time I was in Washington, seven years ago, I met some guys on
the Olympic Peninsula about to bike down a mountain in the rain.
When I commented to them that it seemed like a dismal day for
the outing one of them replied, "Dude, if you don't go
biking in the rain around here, you don't go biking." I
kept that in mind in the Cascades and did just fine.
you wake up to Monday morning?
Sunday night parked in a Wal-Mart parking lot, something I
occasionally find convenient when I'm near a large town or just
making highway time. In this case, I was positioned to catch a
ferry in Anacortes, Washington, the next morning. Around 6 a.m.
I was sitting up in bed practicing meditation, something I do
every day, when I was interrupted by a loud banging on my door.
It turned out to be another RV-er who suggested I might want to
move my camper. When I asked him why, he directed my groggy
attention to a pickup truck close along the other side of my
camper. It was fully ablaze! I moved, quickly, and in a matter
of minutes the local fire department arrived.
With that Monday morning
excitement behind me, I headed for the ferry terminal in
Anacortes, Washington and a 10-day visit to the San Juan
The San Juan Islands
the car ferry from the mainland to the San Juan Islands
is not cheap. They charged just over $100 to carry me
and my 24' RV to Orcas Island where I was going to visit
an old sailing buddy of mine. To their credit the
Washington state ferries tend to be punctual, clean,
smooth-riding and well-run. But a hundred bucks?
offered a cruising view of the hilly green islands that make up
this picturesque group. The San Juan's lie just barely within
sight of the mainland coast - well, on clear day they do - yet
they exist, like most islands, in a world of their own. I was
about to discover a milder way of life on Orcas Island.
there to look up a friend I hadn't seen in more than 20 years.
Tom Averna and I go back to the mid-1970's, when we both lived
aboard sailboats in the free anchorage off Coconut Grove,
Florida. Like pretty much everyone else there in those days, we
were long-haired ocean vagabonds doing our best to keep our old
wood boats afloat on a near-zero budget. When I first met him,
Tom had just sailed his pretty gaff cutter, Silver Seal,
up from the Virgin Islands. Eventually he crewed with me on my
very first paid yacht delivery in 1978, helping me take a 37'
sloop from Florida to the BVI. Maybe I'll tell you some of our
wild stories some other time. Suffice it to say we had lots to
reminisce about, and even more to catch up on.
offered me a job skippering one of his whale watching boats for
the season, but I've got other fish to fry this summer. Alaskan
salmon, for example. He also offered me the use of his sloop,
but there was little wind for sailing while I was there.
Besides, there seemed to be an awful lot to do in the time I had
on lovely Orcas Island.
Orcas in the San Juan
a photo of Tom and his naturalist, James, aboard Pelagic,
the newest addition to the Deer Harbor Charters fleet. Pelagic
arrived by truck from Maine while I was visiting and the
three of us went over to the boatyard in Anacortes to
fetch her and drive her back to her new home on Orcas
skippers many trips himself. In fact, he was out chasing
Orcas with a tour group when I arrived in Deer Harbor
that first afternoon after ferrying across from the
mainland. Waiting for him to get back, I strolled the
docks checking out the local boats and chanced upon some
sailors gathered for a good old-fashioned cockpit gam
session aboard a funky converted life boat, now
invited me to join them and one thing led to another. By the
time Tom found me we were all about three sheets to the wind, as
sailors call it. It was a fine introduction to Deer Harbor.
People came and went, stories were told and embellished and
laughter erupted often. The skipper, Ian, read a new poem he had
written and it was damned good! I'm not a big poetry fan, but
his stuff was bawdy, ballsy and articulate and moved us all to
cheer when it was finished. Then an imagined challenge prompted
one fellow called Long John, who must be pushing 60, to prove he
could still shinny up a mast. This naturally required another
sailor to show that he could scramble aloft by way of the
shrouds rather than the spar. The rest of us passed the bottle
and shouted encouragement from the deck while the ship's dog
barked excitedly. Later, when I announced that I had to get
going to meet Tom, Ian jumped up and cried, "Ah, but not
before you've been scanned by the ship's anti-terrorist
detector." Moments later he emerged from the cabin wearing
a bright green jokers cap and waving some kind of clacker around
me, to the great amusement of everyone on deck. This was
definitely one crazy bunch of sailors. It all reminded me of my
Caribbean days and made me feel right at home.
Hiking and Trail Biking
on Orcas Island
I drove across the island
to the densely wooded eastern side. Finding no clever places to
park discretely for free overnight, I camped in a nearly empty
State Park campground for a few days and made forays, by foot,
bike and RV, through the forest and up the mountain.
After a fun
week-and-a-half on Orcas Island I said farewell to Tom and my
new friends there and ferried back to the mainland. Spring was
slowly advancing towards summer and the Canadian west beckoned.
Next Entry: 05/31/04