Monday, 19 July 2010


[click images to get the bigger picture]

We're so close now: a tearful farewell to Denman was followed by a one night stopover back in Courtenay (for what I’m fairly sure will be the last time on this trip). A leaving party BBQ was planned by Bonnie and it was a strange realization how many people we knew stopping there. We got to see our friend Helen again – which was lovely - who has just started teaching yoga classes and as the evening drifted in we were most pleasantly surprised when Linda & Simon from the Quadra episode made a re-appearance! We didn’t think they were coming and it was so nice to be able to say goodbye to them. Simon (from Germany) had been on Quadra since before we got there and was not far from sailing off in to the Sunset (well, to Vancouver) with another friend, Darrell in his yellow boat… good luck fellas! Simon had been working in a fish processing factory during his time on Quadra and he proudly showed me his salmon filleting skills on his video camera. They were a marked improvement over the first time I saw him hacking away at a poor fish in our kitchen!

We awoke the following morning pretty much packed and ready to go. Tim was treated to breakfast cooked by Bonnie - eggs and coffee… mmm! Finally time for goodbyes; Linda & Simon had to head back to Quadra and Bonnie was having a garage sale, so we said goodbye to everyone and started the trek down to our border crossing point. We’d originally presumed that we would cross into the states at via the main land below Vancouver, but hey things change and we ended up back in Victoria at the bottom of Vancouver Island, where we’d had the hideous stay in the awful hostel months before, its truly amazing how a place can look 100 times better in the sunshine rather than the torrential rain. So we got to the ‘Coho Blackball’ Ferry, paid for our one way ticket and got in line with plenty of time to spare, the customs chaps came round checked our tickets and passport asked us where we going etc. all fine there. It wasn’t until the third such inspection that we were told that we needed to get our forms approved… by this stage the boat was in, and people were about to start boarding. The rather large official pointed out that we should shift our butts get inline and go and get our finger prints taken, and forms stamped or we were going nowhere. To cut a horrid 30mins short, while we waited and the cars filtered past (presumably with some annoyance at the big red van in the way), we we’re finger printed, photographed, questioned and allowed to board the boat. As we left the office, it was such a sad sight - poor Jeremy was the only vehicle left in the (big) parking lot and he was quite a way back. We legged it and managed to get on with no time to spare before they shut the doors…oh the relief! Now all we had to do was get into the States with Jeremy hopefully without too many, “what are you going to do with your Canadian car when you leave the USA?” questions. So glad to be onboard, Tim celebrated with a milkshake that you couldn’t suck through a straw and I had a chicken wrap, which lacked chicken, but we were using up our last Canadian dollars so all good. The boat trip was rather non-eventful thankfully we just sat up on deck sunning ourselves and watching Canada drift away ready to start our new adventure in our second country.

Time to enter the U S of A, look smart, don’t be cocky or sarcastic, (very hard for us both!) and answer all the questions honestly but don’t give anything away, especially about Jeremy’s fate. Thankfully we had a lady who was official but nice and she let us in after just a few brief questions, thank you Lady!

We had booked a motel in Port Angeles to have somewhere to stay for our first night, the Allview Motel was literally only minutes away from the port, we parked up Jeremy moved in and then went out to find something to eat, not easy when you have a fussy Katy on your hands (apparently). Now what we didn’t realize is that we had landed in Twilight country, as neither of us had ever seen the films or read the books it became very apparent that we needed to have info. on this place. So picking up the local free paper, we sat with our pizza (Katy – veg, Tim-meat) and read up. That night on a whim we decided not to head straight to Seattle, which was our original plan but to explore the Olympic Peninsular. Let’s go the long way round to Seattle…

Up early the following morning, I went for a run - I was on a mission to get to the end of the “spit” I had seen, which turned out to be nearly 11 miles loop. Then we packed up Jeremy, Tim got his free coffee and off we went, to our next stop: Forks. Now for all you Twilight lovers out there, it’s where they film all the movies (and yes, it really is a proper town), we had been told the visitor centre was a really good and we should have a look… we did and it was. I’ve never seen so many people in Twilight t-shirts and paraphernalia, Tim & I did stand out somewhat as we didn’t ask all the questions that the fans were asking we just wanted info on where to go from here really, which campsite was nicest and cheapest. But we dutifully filled in the guest book Tim put a pin in London (they have a map you see) and I had a few pictures taken with the cast!!!! I have to say, if it wasn’t for the fact that there was a major motion picture or three filmed there, you wouldn’t bother to stop – nothing bad about it, just nothing particularly good either!

So off we went to find our first campsite with Jeremy as our home for the first time… We ended up in a national park campsite of Kalaloch, just pass Lapush (another twilight place to be). We got our space, parked up Jeremy, realized that we were in the middle of nowhere and the only place that sold camp food, was hideously expensive and I wasn’t eating any of it. With the realization too that we were lacking in cooking utensils and wood for a fire we decided to eat out at the only hotel within a 40 mile radius. Luckily it was a very nice place overlooking the sea, we ate fresh halibut & chips, the cheapest item on the menu and then headed off to our new home. We had managed to inflate our bed, put up the awning had a very chilly walk on the beach and as there was nothing else to do we were in bed by 9:30pm, when we awoke the following morning it was wet, we could hear the rain bouncing off Jeremy’s roof. It was loud, so we packed up our camp and headed off on our long drive to Seattle fearing that we had brought our rain curse with us.

The weather was gloomy and wet when we hit our first traffic jam for months, but it was so exciting to see the sky-line, well sort of see it through the clouds. We made it to the centre of the city and after we had tried four places that all said, no sorry, no room we we’re a tad panicky, but we found a motel a bit out of town and parked up Jeremy, and then as usual we went to find food – a good Mexican in a nice looking part of the city’s University district (I think there students have more spare cash than ours judging by the shops). The following morning after I’d been for a run, we had a surreal breakfast in a really small room, full of Japanese tourists, but it was free and needs must... After breakfast we had to find somewhere to stay, so off we went into town on a mission with an address. There is a standing joke that the people who live in Portland, (our next stop) only do so because that’s the closest they can park to Seattle, and it’s true Seattle is not the place to be with a vehicle, luckily we managed to find the place we were looking for: The City Hostel, a really lovely place, and there was a parking lot behind, at the time we thought the parking was really expensive, at $12 for 10 hours but actually that was quite good when we looked round. So with a new home and Jeremy all parked up, it was time to explore the city. And what a city - we loved it.
With so much to see and do and the weather had become sunny and warm, we did what every good tourist who gets to Seattle does and went up the Space Needle to have a look at the view, it is an amazing building, very cool indeed. We then went on a wander down the pier pass the SAM (Seattle Art Museum) to Pike’s Place Market, which is fantastic - brilliant people watching and the home to the first Starbucks, which was heaving. Our room at the hostel was very quirky; each room is painted by different artists, ours was very cool, apart from the birds on the ceiling, thankfully they were only painted shapes not real………our second day after I had a lovely long run along the harbor and through the outdoor SAM, we headed to the music hall of fame and the sci fi museum, which was great, a real laugh, all you sci-fi geeks would love it. They had the original Startrek chair from the bridge (replete with wooden arm-rests), Captain James T Kirk actually a sat in it! Next we saw ET, a Mutant Ninja Turtle and Terminators robotic head and hand… very cool! Sci-fi flowed into the music exhibition and Tim & I hung out in the recording rooms, trying to master the keyboards, then I hit the drums – literally (Mike? Russ? You'd have been so proud!) and Tim played the opening cords to Wild Thing. We finished off with a quick spin on the record-decks, we truly are gifted….not! For our final night in the city we went to a bar where we actually got ID’d, which was nice, had a drink then headed back for our last supper. So, a bit of a whirlwind stop but we know it’s a good place to return to if we ever have money again!

Distance: 815km... Next stop Portland.

[beam me up!]

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Counting the Cost of Canada

So, most people know that I (Tim) enjoy a good spreadsheet... i've been keeping track as closely as possible of our expenditure during the trip and here is the breakdown (just in case anyone else feels like doing the same thing!).

The total came to just over 8,000GBP (with a bit of adjustment for a very fluctuation dollar to pound). It seems like a lot (and it is!) but would have been alot more if the snow had actually been any good. WWOOFing and HelpX were also very useful in saving pennies, but they were more than that - they gave us the opportunity to meet and be with people in a completely different way than we had ever expected. Right then, America here we come!

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Denman Island - 18 May - 17 June 2010

[click the photos for a bigger version]

So, we had to bid a tearful farewell to Quadra Island. But not before our lovely little WWOOFer family had put together a surprise leaving picnic (such a surprise that we were late for it and only had very little time before dashing for the ferry to take us back to Vancouver island). I remember being particularly disgruntled at just having time to take one gulp of the rather delicious wine that Simon had bought (thank you – I know you need all the pennies you have for the rest of your travels).
So, back to Courtenay to say our final goodbyes and to make preparations to hit the USA. It was great to be back there too; meeting up with Bonnie, Helen and the many dogs. After spending a day sorting out the van etc we hit the library to plan our entry to the states in a couple of days time.

We’d recently found out about a website ( created for people like us who are travelling with time on their side. The idea (similar to wwoofing) is to register your profile as a helpx volunteer so that potential hosts can see what you are looking to do and where you are headed. Conversely, the hosts also post profiles of themselves to describe what they do and what they are looking for. After creating a brief profile, we moved on to travel planning.

Not long in, we realized the slight miscalculation in our plan… the US Visa Waiver Program would only allow us 90 days in the states with no option to extend; effectively we would be entering a month too early and thus would have required a complete rewrite of our (meager) travel plans… bugger. After exploring many options, we decided the best thing to do was to go back and have a beer and barbeque and think about it again tomorrow.

Rather serendipitously then, our email the following morning included a helpx message from someone on a place called Denman Island (which we’d only vaguely heard of - there are many islands around here). They’d looked at our post the previous day and the timing was perfect. We took a look at their profile (7368): lovely house, horses and a man sitting in a chair with more dogs on his lap than you could reliably count. A positive response was returned immediately; thereafter a number ‘arrangement’ emails were made during which we found out that they were only 30 minutes drive from our current location (not bad considering it could have been anywhere in British Columbia!) and would take us as soon as we could get there. The final email was one telling us to look out for a grey haired lady, and asking if we had space in the van for a dog…

So, goodbye – again – to Courtenay. Travelled south along the coastal highway and once out of the sprawl of suburban Courtenay we were once again surrounded by water, trees and the occasional eagle. Arrived at Buckley petrol station and found a grey haired lady with a dog; however the grey-haired lady was not old and frail and the ‘dog’ could do a fair impression of a black bear. The lady was Jackie – our new helpx host and the bear-cub was Crash, a lovely Newfoundland. My first words upon seeing them were “Kate, you going to have to move your seat forward”. Introductions were made all around then we proceeded to wedge Jackie and Crash into the van. Then down to the queue / line-up for the short ferry crossing to Denman Island.

At the ferry landing, Jackie & Crash transferred to her car. At this point there was a hitchhiker thumbing hopefully but fruitlessly at the cars leaving the ferry. Jackie beckoned her over and offered her a lift (apparently two new faces were not enough?!). We followed. Most properties appeared to have long woodland driveways adding to the feeling that the place is virtually deserted. Very quiet. No pub. What have we done?! The ferry crossing takes around 15 minutes and the journey from there to Jackies place a further 15, ending up on a road that had been graded but not paved. Oh well, if it all goes wrong, we are only 30 minutes from civilization!
We pulled into the driveway and started to smile. First the large vegetable garden, then the stables with three lovely looking horses, then a lovely looking and - for us at least – huge house. This might just work! We were greeted by most of their six dogs: Angel the lab, Yeti the gorgeous Newfoundland/Retreiver cross and one of the least deaf spaniels Repo (they have three).

Jackie, us and the hiker went inside for a cup of tea. The hiker was Paula – a 20-something woman from Canada - who was also here to WWOOF on a sheep farm on Hornby Island which is accessed via Denman. So after her cup of tea Jackie took her to the Hornby Ferry. In the meantime we met the man of the house: Doug. There must be something in the water around here; Jackie was tall but Doug was taller. We sat and chatted whilst Jackie dropped off Paula; Doug is in his mid-70s and has a very placid manner and made us feel very much at home. He explained that Denman was mainly populated by hippies back in the 70s; they are still here in reducing numbers as the price of real estate increases. He also pointed out that as there was no real economy to speak of on the island, you kind of had to have made all your money before you arrived!

We were shown our room (our very own room was such a welcome change after so much moving around from place to place) so we spent a while moving ourselves in. On Jackie’s return she gave us a tour of the house and their land (which was not insignificant). During this, she explained why they needed someone like us and what our role was to be: essentially they want to develop some of their land into a riding ring for the horses and construct a woodshed. Much of their land still had a lot of trees which unfortunately had to be cleared (hence the need for the woodshed). To do this they need someone to take care of some of the day to day activities to free up their time to do what they want.

So unlike Quadra which had millions of small(-ish!) jobs, here there were fewer but more regular and time consuming jobs. For a start, with six dogs and working outside every day, floor sweeping in the house was a necessity and the amount of floor space meant that even this simple task took some time – particularly as Crash and Yeti would always want to be on the stairs with you… and they are BIG dogs! Whilst I was doing this, Katy was becoming quite adept at being a pooh-picker-upper (both equine and canine). Simple things such as cutting the grass also took all day (particularly when I broke the sit-on mower – oops!).

It didn’t take too long to realize that Jackie is passionate about the equestrian life. Their horses are lovely and well looked after. I won’t go into the politics of Denman Island here (this blog has already taken far too long to complete), suffice to say that she is a one-woman equine-promotion machine! Both Doug and Jackie never ceased to amaze us with their energy and enthusiasm (though I think their particularly good coffee might have had something to do with that).

Katy was lucky enough to get out horse riding on a couple of occasions (well, its not all work you know!). I was offered but declined; Doug was already aware of my poor DIY abilities, I didn't want to make Jackie aware of my levels of equestrian abilities too! Instead I got stuck in on a different kind of horsepower and - more by luck than skill - managed to fix an overflowing carburettor on the quad bike.

Doug was a very interesting guy. In his previous life he was a helicopter pilot and owned a business ferrying people and equipment around by helicopter (for example to mining operations in various parts of the world). We were moving things around one day when he mentioned that his back was sore; mine was too but he had the excuse that he’d injured his when his helicopter crashed landed and the impact squeezed all the soft bits out of part of his spine which subsequently sort of fused together… I kept quiet about my aches and pains after that!

Prior to Denman, Doug & Jackie owned a farm on Vancouver Island and consequently he is a man of many gadgets: JCB type thing (a ‘back-hoe’ over here), quad bike, Ford F350 Super Duty truck (with just a ‘small’ 5 litre engine!) with huge trailer and a huge shed of tools (if only he could find the particular thing he was looking for on any given occasion)! Personally, I became very familiar with log splitting, but this was achieved with use of a motorized hydraulic wedge. At first I thought this was cheating but as the trees kept coming, hulking them around seemed to get harder and harder, so I started to appreciate the helping hand provided by 25 tonnes of log-splitting pressure (or something like that)!

Pretty much every day, we would finish up with a well earned drink on the balcony. With no pub, there is a lot of home brewing on the island and I became quite partial to the homemade cider (Val, how’s yours coming along?). Here there was also hummingbird feeder… very popular in this part of the world but obviously new to us Brits. As with everything, you become accustomed to them but it was always amazing the watch them flying and drinking from the feeder and also defending it and attacking other birds and surprisingly being attacked by wasps.

Life on Denman can be very social, we we’re invited out to dinner at the home of another Brit, Simon. He had a – frankly – gorgeous house right on the water. A delicious meal and a very warm welcome (and a lovely spaniel called Julie). Unfortunately we did not get to meet his wife, Gladys as she was working in San Francisco (Gladys Perint Palmer, apparently a highly regarded fashion illustrator). Also we got to meet Jackie’s horsey friends at a pulled-pork eating evening – good people and good food, all very lovely indeed.

Denman also has the delight that is the “free-store” something we’d already encountered on Quadra and Cortes Islands. It’s like a kind of jumble sale where you don’t have to pay! We got ourselves decked in a fine array of clothing for our new working-outside life ready for building, chopping, sweeping and cleaning and of course pooh patrol.

It was so nice to be part of a “family” for a while, the dogs are a big part of the Ward family as are the horses, so much so that Katy got herself adopted by one of the deaf spaniels-Keeper, she’s very lovely and would hang around in the evening to get up on to our bed with us, unfortunately I had to put a stop to this as Katy & Keeper were sleeping really well but I was being squished out of bed….I’m doing manual labour and I need my sleep! My personal favourite was Crash, just such a lovely mannered gentle but huge dog.

One of our first jobs was to shift some wooden planks around to create space in which to develop the riding ring and woodshed… I’ve seen less lumbar in a timber yard! At least it all contributed to my fitness plan!

Talking of which; this travelling lark is supposed to be a relaxing kind of an adventure so imagine my surprise when one evening my heart went a tad strange - missing beats, then coming in with a thump! I was lying in bed counting as it slowly got less and less, I then woke Katy up so she could feel what was going on….by the following morning I was a wreck, you see although this Island life is great it doesn’t have a hospital, and the ferries don’t run all night, so on bank holiday Monday we lined up with a hell of a lot of other holidaying people waiting for the ferry to take us back onto the main land and get me to see a doctor ASAP.

We found the hospital and before we even got a seat we were charged $750 just to be there (this wasn’t helping the heart!) but you pay your money and you get whizzed away to a cubicle much quicker than the locals! I was given a fetching blue gown and told to put it on; consider that this was my first time in hospital (excluding birth), I giggled to myself as my first two attempts failed. Third time lucky just as the nurse popped her head round the curtain, told me to lay down and plugged into an ECG machine, where I’d be analyzed by another very nice nurse who would come and check me out as it were every now and again and look and say “ there’s one, oh and another…” what was reassuring was that this was not life threatening.

I was plugged in for a couple of hours a doctor came chatted to me about what may have been the cause, apparently coffee, fast food, fizzy drinks can all trigger it off. Out of that lot coffee was my only vice (Katy’s keeping an eye on me) but the coffee tastes so good, anyway I vowed to keep off the stuff and see how that goes. So after I had an armful of blood taken away to the lab, and the results came back squeaky clean I was released, unbeknown to us we would be getting another receipt for a further bill of $130 for the ECG & bloods, but hey I’m worth it! (claim is with insurance as we type…) so that was a fun day the worst thing was that Jackie had organized an evening for us to meet the neighbours, we arrived just in time to sit down for dinner, although I was wiped-out and headed to bed early. Katy held the fought for us Brits. Of course, the real pain came when it was time to take off the incredibly sticky plasters... OUCH!

So back to our working day, Katy had created with Jackie some great stepping stones for the garden, which had been imprinted with Rhubarb leaves, very nice indeed and she also created a gate for Jackie’s vast vegetable garden. She also got to ride one of Jackie’s horse, there are 3- Stetson a BIG black one, Shiloh who’s brown & white and Starbuck, who Katy says has the same colourings as Pepsi (so that’s grey to you and me) Apparently Jackie was informed that she’s actually Champagne!! So anyway Katy got to ride Weston stylie and was in her element, Doug and I stayed behind building and cutting stuff - man’s work.

One of my jobs was to mow the lawn and to have the pleasure of a sit on mower was a true delight until I broke it. And spent the rest of the day pushing around the petrol-mower… this place has a lot of grass (both sorts!). Katy has once more been on dandelion picking duty, but with a gadget, of course. I have also taken to baking bread which always goes down well, although we do have monitor Doug’s bread intake as if he happily chomp through a whole loaf if we didn’t stop him.

Whilst we were on Denman our friend from Courtenay – Maurice - was about to leave and embark on his bike ride round Europe, so we gave ourselves a day off and popped over to see him off (not bad for someone else in his mid-70s). Always nice to see Bonnie and the dogs again. We also had to sort out Jeremy’s insurance for taking him into the USofA. I also managed to get a new drive belt for the the sit-on mower so a good day all round (apart from the terrible weather that we seem to take with us wherever we go), torrential rain in shorts and flip-flops as Denman was so very sunny… apparently when we left Courtenay the sun came out. Sods law!

Back “home” to Denman and we were greeted by 6 very happy dogs and a happy Jackie, we had to promise to come back, but you never know :)

>Our mission was to build the wood shed and we spent a very hot sunny day pouring concrete into wooden forms that I had made (of dubious quality, but I blame the materials… loved the nail-gun though!), the girls were tapping and filling, I was on concrete production and Doug was manning the mixer a very long, industrious day. Time for a beer and a sit down with dogs on the balcony and look at our work. There is something really nice about doing this Helpx stuff the fact that at the end of the day you have created something that wasn’t there this morning, nice!

This whole travelling / helpx thing for us is all about learning new things and experiences. Whilst I had instigated the Tim Marsh Bread Baking Academy in Quadra, Katy had to find something to do with a bowl full of crab meat bought over by a friend of Doug & Jackie’s… the solution was Crab Chowder! And it tasted delicious! Doug kept on talking about it afterward, so much so that Katy made another batch as a leaving gift!

And leave was what we had to do. Leaving Quadra was emotional; I didn’t expect leaving Denman to so emotional too, but it was. You don’t realize how integrated you become with other people. There are far too many details about our stay with Jackie & Doug and their many animals to include in this – already lengthy – blog (instance I won’t even begin with the debacle over the HDTV!); we know we had an amazing time there and we hope (and think) that Doug & Jackie enjoyed us being there. As it came time to leave, I realized that we had to do it quite quickly otherwise I’d be too tempted to just turn back around and stay for another month. But this time the United States of America really did beckon. This time we were not a month too early. This time we would finally get to the land of cheap petrol and beer!
Thank you Jackie, Doug, dogs and horses. We are already looking forward to seeing you again.