It's a rainy evening in this Northwest forest, a setting
conducive to introspection. I'm thinking about why some people
tend to do things they want to do and others don't. As I travel
around living my version of a fun life, people sometimes say to
me, "Man, I wish I could do that." It occurs to me
that when we say, "I wish I could do that," or
"I'd like to have this" or "I'd love to go
there," we're simply expressing what we want, or what we
think we want, or what we think we should want. But when
we say, "I am doing this" or "I am getting
that" or "I am going there," then we are stating
the desire as if it were already a fact, an action in progress.
The difference is enormous. One is merely wishful thinking,
which is about as productive as daydreaming. The other, the
"I am" statement, creates a goal and that is a much
more powerful thing to do. Wishes are rarely granted, but goals
have a tendency to be achieved.
I suspect most people who say "I wish I could do that"
really don't. Maybe they think they should; maybe they even
think they do, but the reality is that most of us are already
doing what we have set up for ourselves to do, already living
the reality we have created, however unconsciously. There is
much to be said for a cozy home, a steady paycheck and a
lifetime partner. I guess.
also occurs to me that I am nearly halfway through my
life. My time here no longer seems endless to me. I'm
aware that I only have so much of it to do the
things I'm going to do.
that in mind, here are several...
I am going to make in the next 20 years:
British Columbia and Alaska by camper van (OK, so I'm already
- go to New Zealand
- rent a bungalow on a beach or in the rain forest in SE Asia
and write a book
- skipper an Amazon riverboat
- cruise the South Pacific and other places in a sailboat,
6-months a year for about a decade
- check out the entrepreneurial opportunities in China
- spend a summer or two touring Europe in a VW-type camper van
- spend a summer or two touring the canals of Europe in small
- spend a summer or two cruising between Vancouver and Alaska in
- tour Africa
- visit Chile
- whatever else occurs to me along the way
with me in 2024 and see how I did.
there are other things I have in mind to do, but they're not
back on the road...
I'm parked near the City of Victoria on Vancouver Island in
British Columbia, Canada. Since leaving Orcas Island, not a
great deal has happened worth writing about here with the
exception of a visit to Mount Baker National Forest. That was
I spent a
few days there. The first day I drove up Mount Baker itself
as far as the road had been snowplowed, a little above 5,000
feet. The sky was heavily overcast; low clouds shrouded the
surrounding mountain peaks. I didn't see nearly as much of the
rugged terrain as I think was there. However, at that altitude
my cell phone got a clear signal, something it was not doing in
the lower elevations. So I sat in my camper surrounded by dark
forests and snow-clad slopes and called a few people back East
just because I could.
the rest of my Mount Baker visit in the woods, down in the
Nooksak River valley. To me it's an ongoing challenge, a kind of
one-man sport, to find the most beautiful places to park &
camp away from other people, without resorting to the paid
campgrounds, which is something I almost never do. I mean,
what's the point of "camping" in a manicured acre or
two crammed full of the least adventurous people in the forest,
with a Campground Host, for heaven's sake, which is some old
retired guy the rangers let stay there to make sure people keep
their dogs on a leash and pay the fee to use the place. How
boring is that?
down the roads less traveled, the rutted forest roads identified
on topographical maps with four-digit numbers if they're
identified at all. Some of them are just barely maintained. I'll
often follow one of these back roads for miles, slowly, avoiding
the potholes and low-hanging branches, in search of quieter,
more natural places. Sometimes a road will degenerate into a
track too rough or too narrow for my 8' wide camper to continue
and I have to back out until I reach a spot wide enough to turn
around. On some forest roads that can be a long way back, as
much as a mile or two on several occasions. I've gotten pretty
good at driving this truck in reverse, steering by the side
the designated campgrounds isn't just about saving money,
although on a 6-month driveabout and a modest budget,
that small daily expense could mount up. Actually, I sometimes
burn more dollars-worth of gasoline in search of solitude and
beauty than I save by not paying a campground fee. No, this is
about quality of life. After all, that's why I'm out here.
often amazed at the astonishingly beautiful, private
little hideouts I find and have all to myself. At
the same time, I wonder at the herd instinct that impels
all those other campers to crowd together in the
official campgrounds. Whatever it is that drives them, I
am grateful for it.
spent a night camped above this huge waterfall. The
insulated walls of my little cabin-on-wheels muted the
thunderous roar of the cascade so that it remained a
remote rumble that lulled me to sleep.
evening as I was parked in a forest meadow, a pair of
swallows roosted on my camper's doorsill, wonderfully
unafraid as I stood close and photographed them.
next afternoon I came upon a stretch of the Nooksak
River alongside a little-used dirt road. It was so
tranquil and inviting that I set a chair down by the
riverbank and read for a while. Still feeling attracted
to the spot, I spent the night just so I could awake to
this private view in the morning.
several days in Bellingham, Washington, where I had a few
favorite hangouts. One of them was a busy downtown street where
I found a "wi-fi hotspot," a place where an Internet
connection is available through radio waves rather than through
a hardwire cable hookup. As long as a computer is set up to
receive these wireless signals and is within their typically
limited broadcast range, it can log onto the Internet without
plugging in, often for free. My laptop came with a built-in
wi-fi card and antenna, and these free hotspots have become a
kind of holy grail for me, one of the first things I look for
when I role into a new town. (Click
here for a complete discussion of how I use a computer in my
Bellingham my wi-fi benefactor was a smoky luncheonette and bar
called The Horseshoe Diner. I ate a meal there once just to
repay them for providing this public service, but I preferred
doing my online computer work in the private comfort of my RV
parked outside, sitting at the dinette with a mug of tea on the
table and Mozart on the stereo. This privacy also allowed me to
experiment with my new Internet-based telephone system without
disturbing anyone else.
It was fun
having broadband Internet available "at home" for a
few days. I would drive into Bellingham early in the morning,
leaving my Wal-Mart campsite well before rush hour, and
grab one of the few strategically located parking spaces along
the broad avenue outside the diner. There I would sit, feeding
the parking meter two bits an hour, and work online. I
eventually figured out the Internet phone system to which I have
subscribed. Now, whenever I'm logged onto the Internet I can
make and receive phone calls through my laptop anywhere in the
Bellingham on a Saturday morning and crossed the border into
Canada at a small Customs checkpoint in Aldergrove, BC, opposite
Lynden, Washington. A truck driver back in Bellingham had
advised me to enter at this little-used crossing rather than on
the major highways to the west. Clearing through at Aldergrove
usually took a few minutes, he said, whereas the larger ports of
entry on the main routes could get backed up for hours. This
proved to be sound advice. Where I cleared in, the modest line
of cars moved through very quickly and I waited maybe 5 minutes.
I heard later from a couple that crossed via Interstate 5 that
same morning that they were delayed nearly 2 hours at the border
just waiting their turn.
other hand, it was at this Aldergrove checkpoint that I
encountered Canada's most ferocious customs agent.
I carry a
sawed-off, 12-gauge shotgun in my RV. I consider it a piece of
emergency safety equipment, kind of like a life raft on a
cruising sailboat. You never use the thing and sometimes wonder
why you bother with the expense and trouble of keeping it, but
if you ever did need it and didn't have it you'd surely regret
expecting to be searched by Canadian Customs simply because I
was entering with a firearm. Canada is much more paranoid about
people possessing guns than the United States. From their
perspective Americans are all gun-crazy cowboys. To alleviate
their concerns I not only had my shotgun unloaded and laid out
in the dinette for inspection when I arrived at the border, but
earlier in the week I had also downloaded the Canadian Customs
Non-Resident Firearm Declaration form (Déclaration
d'Armes a Feu Pour Non-Résident) from their web site on
the Internet, along with all of their requirements concerning
the importation of such terrible weapons of mass destruction. I
then dutifully measured the barrel and the overall length of my
gun as required and filled out their form in triplicate.
(Actually, being a technologically enhanced kind of guy, I did
this on my computer and so only had to fill it out once and
print 3 copies.)
was not my only threatening possession. Having been forewarned
by my truck driver acquaintance, I also counted in advance how
much alcohol I had aboard - 7 beers, 1½ bottles of red wine, 1
liter of good Barbados rum. I was even prepared for them to paw
through my groceries in search of forbidden fruits and
vegetables. I then adopted my dealing-with-foreign-bureaucrats
attitude of utmost respect with no smirking allowed, and got
into the line of cars at the border.
several cars ahead of me were quickly waved through after only a
brief questioning by the uniformed woman in the drive-up booth.
When I pulled up, I handed over my declaration form in
triplicate along with my passport. She asked me several routine
questions - where I lived, how long I planned to visit Canada -
then told me to wait while she carried my papers back into the
main office. She returned shortly and, as I'd expected,
instructed me to pull over and come inside.
sterile, brightly lit Canadian Customs office I approached the
counter and waited. And waited. Finally, a broad-shouldered bull
of a woman, in full uniform and wearing (I swear) a bulletproof
vest, confronted me clutching my papers. This woman was about my
height but easily had 30 pounds on me. She wore makeup nearly as
thick and as bulletproof as her vest and there was not an ounce
of friendliness in her entire demeanor. "Do you have a
firearm with you," she snapped?
I replied, "I left it in my RV outside. The other lady
didn't tell me to bring..."
YOU HAVE A FIREARM WITH YOU?" Clearly, she didn't like my
first answer and she just as clearly didn't like me... or, I
suspected, any other men.
Ma'am," I replied without embellishment.
proceeded to pour over my papers. At that moment I realized I
had neglected to sign each of the three copies of my firearm
declaration. She apparently noticed this as the same time I did
and glared her extreme disapproval. For a moment I thought I was
going to be summarily executed, but she merely shoved the papers
at me across the counter and ordered me to "sign
these." I complied without a word, pleased that my hand did
not shake noticeably. "Go sit down." I went and sat.
Had she ordered me to speak I would have barked - twice - just
to keep from growling.
people in uniforms have always made me a little nervous, much
more so when they're belligerent. These small individuals with
big badges have The Power, and they know it, and it really
pisses me off when they abuse it. It's just as well that I had
left the shotgun in the RV. I was beginning to understand why
this tyrannical bitch wore a bulletproof vest in the office.
about 10 minutes, during which time the agent went in and out of
a back room and generally occupied herself with important
official business that may or may not have related to me, she
finally returned to the counter and snarled, "You, go pay
the cashier." I sprung to attention and marched over to a
pretty young woman in the corner by the cash register. She
studiously avoided all eye contact with me. I was certain she
was professionally embarrassed by the way I had been treated.
For my part, I felt an urge to rescue her from this dismal place
and take her away with me in my RV. Then again, I feel that way
about most pretty young women I meet.
was paying the CAD$50 fee (equal to about US$36) that Canada
extorts from people who dare to invade their country carrying
lethal weapons, Agent Bull stomped around in her pen, snorting.
At one point I heard her mumble something about how "people
ought to just leave their guns at home." Even if they did,
I'll bet she would still wear the bulletproof vest.
escaped Canadian Gestapo Headquarters and drove into a new
country. It looked much like the one I had just left, but the
signs were different. Speed limits are in kilometers per hour
rather than in miles per hour. Happily, my speedometer has a
scale for both so I was not unduly confused.
into the city of Vancouver. It is huge, much bigger than I was
expecting. I am not a big-city fan, especially when driving a
cumbersome vehicle. Still, I thought I owed it to myself to have
a look around and since it was Saturday the traffic wasn't too
crazy. So I drove to the heart of downtown and looked. Nice
buildings. Clean. There was nothing there I wanted, so I decided
to get out. That was easier said than done. It took me an hour
with the inadequate map my Road Atlas provided to find my way
out of Vancouver and onto the road to the ferry to Vancouver
Island, which is a completely different place even though the
city and the island share the same name and are geographically
close to each other.
And so began my Canadian
adventure. It was bound to get better, and it did.
Next Entry: 06/13/04