Saturday, August 27, 2005

Biking, Ferrying, Busing, Busing, Biking...or, Eight hours to get from Victoria to Vancouver

The journey on Wednesday, August 24

Yes, that's right. It took almost eight hours in travel time to get from Recyclistas in Victoria to the Dino-plex, where I'm staying at in Vancouver. How? It's about 30km from Recyclistas to the ferry terminal, about a 50km ferry crossing across the Strait of Georgia, then another 35km from the Tsawwassen ferry landing to the Dino-plex in Vancouver, about 115km overall. But things ain't so easy.

The first part was nice and straight-forward. Ride the Lochside Trail north. That took a little under two hours, and I arrived at the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal at a little after 5pm. Nothing to do but wait until the 6pm ferry departed.

The ferry ride takes about an hour and a half. The whole trip is great, and I spent most of it on the forward deck, viewing the Gulf Islands passing the ship left-and-right. There's a couple of narrow passages between isles the ship must make, and then it was out on the open water, with Vancouver looming in the distance. There were some great views of the mountains to the north, and of Mount Baker to the east in Washington State.

7:30pm found me disembarking at the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal on the mainland side. After riding across half the loading area, I found the bus and put my bike on the front. And here is where things start to get complicated.

The Victoria side of this journey was so easy. I had the option of taking one single bike path that led me from the front of Recyclistas to the ferry terminal itself. Or, I could have taken the bus from downtown that led straight to the terminal. No sweat. But the Vancouver side? The bus I got on, the only bus leading from the terminal goes only to Vancouver Airport, on the other side of the Fraser River from the city itself. There is no direct bus connection to downtown, which seems highly illogical. From the Airport transit station, I could catch another bus, none of which would take me that close to where I needed to go, which meant I would need to make yet another bus transfer. To complicate matters even further, I had a lot of shit with me, which happens when you do bike touring-camping. I had my shoulder bag, two panniers, a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, and pillow. On the bike, it's fine. Off it, it's a pain to maneuver.

Why not bike it? That is theoretically possible, but not practical. Between Tsawwassen and Vancouver proper is flat lands (good for bicycling), but filled with wide, multi-laned thoroughfares (not good), general suburbia (ditto), and the biggest obstacle of all, the Fraser River. The closest crossing of the Fraser is via BC Route 99, which uses the George Massey Tunnel to go under the river. Meaning: NO BIKES ALLOWED. You gotta bus it through the tunnel no matter what. If you don't want to do that, the next crossing is at BC Route 91, about 12 klicks northeast of there and NOT going in the direction I want to go. Plus, the sun was setting, and a 30km ride at night in this area was not a good idea.

The bus from the ferry dropped me off at the Airport Transit center and my plan was going to take a 98 B-Line bus that would bring me downtown. Unfortunately, that was the plan of everyone else. The first bus showed up, packed so full of people that it was standing room all the way to the front door. And there was 5 bicycles that wanted to get on the bus. Uh-oh. I waited another 15 mins for the next and saw the situation repeat itself. Problem. So I went over to another bus that was in the wings, uncrowded. The bus driver even put my bike on the bus! Sweet. "So, this bus goes along Marine Drive, right?" sez I. "Yeah, where do you need to go?" "Hastings and Victoria, sort of". "Well, I can drop you off at Marine and Victoria, the rest is up to you."

After passing by many a car dealership and strip mall, I arrived at Marine and Victoria, in the far southeast side of Vancouver. It was about 9:30pm. All I have to do is head due north on the Sunrise Bikeway, over many a hill, across the width of the city, and eventually I'll find my way to the Dino-Plex. Which I did. I sweated and gasped over the many hills I had to overtake, with god-knows how much weight on the back of my bike, but I got to the the Dino-Plex at about 10:45pm, where I found a surprised Lee. "I thought you were coming tomorrow?"
"Change of plans" I replied.

Friday, August 26, 2005

On the Isle of Paradise

Three days on Vancouver Island whizzed by pretty fast. (Funny how this happens a lot during traveling.) Since there was many things I wanted to do while there, I broke each day down into a separate area of concentration.

Monday was the Victoria Day. I got a lazy start on the day, and headed on the Galloping Goose Trail from Recyclistas (where I was staying) into the city. Okay, before I go on, I should clarify things to those who don't know what I'm talking about:
Recyclistas is this totally cool bike shop run by Ryan and Milenko. They're two ex-Winnipegers via Tucson. In fact while in Tucson they worked at Bicas, the really cool bike shop there (which I frequented regularly while in town in Feb). They based Recyclistas off of the Bicas model. They do the full line of repairs, sell used bikes, teach bike maintenance, and sponsor bicycle culture (like the video screening!)
The Galloping Goose is a rails-to-trails path that extends from the Sooke Potholes (in the west) to downtown Victoria (in the east). The total length of the trail is 55km. Recyclistas is at the intersection of the Goose and the Lochside, another rails-to-trails path extending northward to the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal 30km to the north. Recyclistas is at the 4km (2 1/2mi) milepost from downtown.

In Victoria I cruised around the pretty-but-small downtown. I stopped in Legends Comics, and had a conversation with owner and minicomix artist/record label owner Gareth. Gareth has put out a big collection of his daily comix over the past year, you should definitely check it out if you get a chance. Gareth was also optimistic about comix (and comix stores) in general, and it was nice hearing such positive words coming from a store owner. After that, I buzzed down to the Inner Harbour which was choked with tourists. I knew that I would run into this, being here at the height of high season, but it's still nauseating. I high-tailed it over to Beacon Hill Park, Victoria's crown jewel of a city park. Even though it's two blocks from the waterfront, there was nary a tourist there, which goes to show you the limited range most tourists have. (Don't want to stray too far from the tour bus, do ya!) From there I cruised down to the seaside. Victoria lies on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and directly across the water you can see the Olympic mountains in Washington State. Port Angeles is only 30 miles across the water! (Can't even get away from America being outside of it!) The rest of the day was spent bummin' around like that.

Tuesday was my Galloping Goose Adventure Day. After another lazy start, I headed west on the Goose around 11:30am, determined to get all the way to the end.

I really like the Goose. There are some issues with it, as there are with any multi-use trail. But unlike many others, this trail actually is useful in daily commuting, ensuring a quick 15 minute ride from Recyclistas to downtown sans auto traffic. Any other route into town would go over hills using busy streets. And we'll get to the beauty aspect soon.

The first 15km on the trail from Recyclistas is fairly typical of a multi-use path, passing through mostly suburban residential areas. There are parts that go through nice countryside, and there's a great view of the Portage Inlet after two klicks from Recyclistas. But there's still ugly subdivisions and strip malls to be seen. As the 20km post closes in, there is less and less civilization. And once you get to 20km, it becomes total countryside. There's few other trail users to be seen, and the path passes by active farms and woods.

By 30km woodlands take over, and you barely hear any auto traffic. There was a great spot around this point that had a rocky overlook where you can see the sea (about a mile away), but this time when I stopped, I was confronted with a backhoe. Damn. Can't I have my special spot in nature without "progress and civilization" ruining it? Do dreamhouses have to take precedence over wilderness?

After fuming over that shit, I headed on. Luckily in a few klicks I came upon Matheson Lake Park, where I took a skinny-dip last year. I decided I should try the lake again, but this time with a swimsuit. The water was great, and I spent a half-hour refreshing myself. Unlike the last time I was out here (in Aug 04, when the weather was a lot cooler and greyer), there was people around, so I didn't have the lake in solitude.

Onward westward. Another klick down the Goose afforded some great views of the lake, and then (Dave) Roche Cove Park, the first visible inlet of the Sooke Basin. Shortly after going over a couple steep embankments, the Basin came into full view, seawater shimmering under the clear blue sky. A few kilometres more the path crossed over Sooke Road and headed inland, aiming northward for the Sooke River Valley. There was houses along the trail, the first seen in 20-some kilometres. At the 44km post I stopped for a bit. Onward was the last 11kms of the trail, dead-ending in wilderness. A few more klicks down the way was the Sooke Potholes, an area i wanted to visit. The landscape changed now to a dense Doug Fir forest lining the sides of the valley, and I really felt out in the sticks (despite being only a few miles from a town). This is what it must have looked like before the white man fucked it all up, I thought. Here the trail went over two rebuilt high trestles that must have been almost 100 feet off the ground!

At 48km I reached the Potholes and was eager to see what all the hub-bub was about, bub. The Potholes are a series of waterfalls falling into deep pools, all surrounded by the steep walls of the valley. It was beautiful. It reminded me of places like Eagle Creek in the Columbia Gorge, if Eagle Creek was a succession of falls-pools. And the Potholes was a hot spot for swimming, something I was wanting to do here. I quickly decided the actual "potholes" were not going to be for me, too deep with swift currents and steep rocky walls. I went to find a more appropriate hole. After a couple false starts of swimming spots filled with either families skipping rocks into the water, or dudes with mullets skipping rocks, I finally found a good one and spent a half-hour in its cleansing icy-cool waters.

By that time it was about 6:15pm, and I was left with two options: ride the last 7km to the end of the Galloping Goose or turn around. It would be cool to "complete" the trail, but the trail ends literally in the wilderness. There used to be a town (named Leechtown) at the end of the line, but nothing remains except a grassy field. Ghost towns are cool, but the further I rode that way, the further I had to ride back. From the potholes it would be a 16km round trip to the end of the trail, plus another 6km to reach the town of Sooke where I could catch a bus back to Victoria.

But I had to satisfy my curiosity somehow and so I started towards "the end of the line". The scenery was beautiful, seemingly unspoiled forests with mountains on the other side of the valley. But at the 51km post I realized that it was going to be more of the same, so I turned around and headed to Sooke.

Sooke is a small town, situated between the urbanity of Victoria and the wilderness that encompasses the rest of Vancouver Island. Tuesday night found the kids out in full force, hanging out in the coffee shop and the strip malls. Nothing to do, I figured. Don't these kids realize what spectacular nature they are surrounded in, of the type that other folks would kill for? Of course not, I thought. Hell, I was sixteen once, and remembered how bad I wanted to get away from Southbury, Connecticut. It's got to be the same here. I mulled it over while obtaining food and beverage from corporate fast-food outlets, and waited for the bus to whiz me back to Victoria.

The bus whizzed me back to town in little under an hour, zipping through the scenery that I biked casually through hours earlier. Back at Recyclistas I found the dudes busily working on bicycles. I chatted with them for a bit, and then called it a day. And a good day it was.

Wednesday was supposed to be the Salt Spring Island Day. Salt Spring is an island in the Gulf Island Archipelago, which is located in the Strait of Georgia on the eastside of Vancouver Island (between island and mainland). The Gulf Islands become the San Juan Islands on the Washington side of the line. Salt Spring is supposed to be this beautiful place filled with forests and artists (a bit hippie, though), and has a great campsite overlooking the water. But I got yet another lazy start on the day (funny how that goes when you're on "vacation") and I needed to do a couple things in Victoria before I left the island. And I got talking with Ryan about Salt Spring, and he told me how the isle gets choked with touristos over the summer (the population triples), crowding the island roads with traffic. It didn't sound like that good of an idea after all, at least for the summer. As the day wore, I decided that I would just head to Vancouver that night instead of Thursday morning.

I packed up my stuff and gave the Recyclistas dudes a gift: a flyer for the shop that I had drawn in the days that I had been on-island. When I get to a scanner, I will upload it for y'all to see. And at 3:15pm I headed north on the Lochside Trail to the ferries.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Biking, Camping, Biking, Boating, Biking...

From the public library in Victoria, B.C.

It's been two days since I've left town, and despite a few glitches this trip has been off to a good start. I took the northbound Amtrak Cascades from Portland-Union Station at 12.30pm on Saturday, which brought me to Seattle. I layed over there for an hour and took another Cascades train north until I hit Mt. Vernon, Washington at a little after 7pm. There wasn't appropriate lodging in town (unless I wanted to spend $$$ on a hotel) nor at Anacortes the ferry terminal (the only hostel shut down), so I had to ride westward to one of two campsites: Bay View State Park (11 miles from the station) and Deception Pass State Park (18mi). Deception would be the nicer one to go to, but I would have to go over a couple hills to get to it while Bay View would go over none. Plus, there was little over an hour of good daylight left, and I wanted to avoid night riding as much as possible.

The ride west out of Mt Vernon took me through pancake-flat farmland surrounded by vistas of mountains. The highways were quite busy though, and when I reached the junction of Route 20 it turned into a four lane divided highway with trucks whizzing by at 70. Ugh. I reached the turn-off for Bay View right at sunset, which cemented the decision to head there. The four miles to the campground was nice. There was even a separated bike path that followed the shores of Padilla Bay for a bit--sweet! Halfway on the path, there was a nice flat grassy spot that would have been perfect for a tent. I thought about doing it for a moment, but opted to head to the campground, partially because I wanted to take a shower in the morn (the place I'll be staying at in Victoria has none!) and partially because I was worried that I would set camp in a spot that teenage boys in big trucks would drink at in the middle of the night (of course, they would have to walk two miles from those trucks to do so, but this was the thought that crossed my mind.)

I reached Bay View at about 8:30pm. Bay View basically consisted of RVs and campers, ugh. I asked the Ranger where the primitive (bike and hike) campgrounds were and he said there was none. "What?" I shrieked? "The person at the Parks Dept. said there would be three!" He said there was, but they built cabins there instead. He would set me up though, and for $10 I got a spot away from the RVs. It was real close to the road but had a great view of the bay. I set up camp quickly and then walked down to the beach.

The view from the beach made me wonder how long the park was here. On the other side of the water was a refinery, all aglow in lights, and a flame continuously shooting from a smokestack. Even though I hate them, I had always found them fascinating to look at. But I would have preferred the setting to be a bit more "rustic". Instead of looking at the refinery, I laid on a picnic bench and looked at the stars instead. I saw a lot more than I could ever see from Portland. I headed back to camp and turned in for the night (figured I should get some sleep since I had only 4 hours last night!)

At about 3am, I awoke, needing to pee. When I got outside, there was a glorious full moon, illuminating everything. I decided to walk down to the beach again and look at the water sparkling with moonlight. Catching my shadow I was reminded of an anecdote I read about Cat Stevens. Back in the 70's some people suspected that his song "Moonshadow" meant that he was linked with the Moonies. He said it was simply about seeing his shadow in the moonlight (dur!), and the first time he had ever noticed it was walking on a beach at night.

Sunday morning I showered, took down camp, and headed to Anacortes. The ride there took a little over an hour, going over one high bridge, a couple hills, the refinery, an Indian Casino, and some nice scenery. In Anacortes I got lunch and gathered supplies. I don't care much for Anacortes, it seems like the town is full of rich people and shops that cater to them. The last couple of times I was there I got rude, overpriced service from the cafes. But this time wasn't bad. I biked out of town and rode the three miles to the Washington State Ferries terminal. I had to wait about a hour for the incoming ferry to unload and for its passengers to clear customs. At about 2.30pm the ferry left and it was a beautiful 3 hour ride across the Puget through the San Juan Islands to Sidney, B.C.

I really love the ferry rides across to Vancouver Islands. Even though in Portland we live on water, it's rivers. Being on the sea is so much different. I love this part of Cascadia, all the deep blue water and endless islands, backdropped with either the Cascades or the Olympics (depending on which direction you look). I can never get enough of it. I spent most of the time on one of the outside decks.

In Sidney customs clearance went smoothly and I was in Canada! I met two other bicyclists who needed directions to Victoria. I gave them and noticed one of them had a Danger Room Comics shirt (a shop in Olympia). I asked him about it, and he said he knows one of the employees and they are planning on opening a new shop in Seattle, but this one would be "done right". (If you are into alternative comix, you'll understand what I mean.) We talked for about 15 minutes, I gave him my observations on what makes a good comix shop and where there are examples of that (for some reason Chicago has a number of them). Afterwards I rounded up grub in somnabluant Sidney (as someone told me on my first visit: "Sidney is for the newly-wed or the nearly dead.") and then headed south to Victoria.

The fifteen mile (er, 25km) ride to Victoria is laughably easy. I say that because most of the time when you're presented with this situation, you'll either have to travel on busy roads or go over a lot of hills (as i did to get to Anacortes.) But Victoria is different. For most of the way, you get a dedicated bike path, one that follows an old rail alignment. That means the ride is flat, avoiding the hills you see in the distance. and it passes through some real nice countryside! There's farms aplenty, and I saw "self-serve" stands selling eggs, hens, cows, horses, and deer feeding in someone's yard (!)

I got to Recyclistas, the bike shop I'll be crashing at, at 8.15pm, and there was a gaggle of people waiting! Oh yeah, I'm supposed to show bike videos tonight! Well I did, and it went over well, though I wished the folks there would have kicked down the suggested donation to help keep my roadshow afloat (only one person did, but at least he threw in a $20). The feature of the night was Quicksilver, a "classic" 80's movie starring Kevin Bacon as a bike messenger. After that, I called it a night.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Itineraries-Leg 1-Cascadia

And now here's more detail on my trip. This is the itinerary for the first leg through Cascadia.

Today (Sat Aug 20) I take a northbound Amtrak Cascades train at 12.30pm from Portland. With a 90 minute layover in Seattle, I'll arrive in Mt. Vernon, Wash. around 7pm. From there I ride my bike westward to Anacortes. I'll camp around there, depending on how I feel and how much light I have, I'll either camp at Bay View State Park or Deception Pass State Park. Deception is definitely nicer, but Bay View is closer and I don't have to go up any hills to get there.

The next day (Sun Aug 21) I'll ride to the ferry terminal in Anacortes to get to Vancouver Island and ride from Swartz Bay ferry terminal to Victoria, a distance of approx. 15 miles. I'll spend the next few days in the West Coast's Most British City, enjoying the cute downtown and riding into nature on the Galloping Goose Trail.

Wednesday Aug 24 should find me taking the ferry to Salt Spring Island, the infamous hippie enclave of the Gulf Islands. If I don't get entranced by the patchouli and the beautiful scenery, I'll just spend a day there.

Thursday Aug 25 I'll take the ferry over to Vancouver, my most favorite city on the west coast right now. I'll be there for like five days. On the list is making another Breakfast on the Adanac happen (Fri 8/26), participating in their awesome Critical Mass (Fri), helping Pedal Play at a fair on Bowen Island (Sat 8/27), a comix jam (Sat), and the alt-comix fest (Sun 8/28). Intersperse that all with riding around, eating a lot of cheap pizza, samosas, and taking in the views.

Monday Aug 29th I'll take the train back down to Seattle, where I'll spend the night, and then hop the Empire Builder eastward on Tues Aug 30th, which will bring me to Leg 2 of this trip--my 400-mile bike adventure between Minneapolis and Chicago. More about that on a future post.

This'll probably be my last post before I leave town. Take care everyone!

Requests for Help

Besides asking for money (which I could use!) the thing that I'm looking for on this trip is places to stay in certain cities. I have hookups in a lot of places, but I am still looking for crash pads in Milwaukee, Boston, and Toronto. By crash pad I mean a free space to sleep on a couch for a couple nights. Please don't suggest a hostel. If anyone has any leads in those places, please contact me! Either email me at urbanadventureleague (no spam--at) Or post a comment to this message below.

Hours until I leave

I apologize for not posting more on this site. I want to make this as interesting as my other blog, but I've been too busy getting ready for this trip to do so. As it is, I'm typing this all bleary eyed at 3am, 9 hours before my departure. (what a trooper I am!)

And no matter how many times I take trips, whether they be the three day, two week, or two month variety, I'm always doing things at the last minute. The epic trips are the worst. Because I'm going to be gone for over two months, I have a lot more to do before I depart. There's always loose ends to tie up around town. Even though I always have most of the things I'll need for travel on hand, there will always be some things I need to get for each new trip. Then it turns into this frantic two-day search as I endlessly bike around town trying to find a specific item (and not pay too much.) And there is the inevitable wrapping up of projects and getting things ready so I can do stuff on the road.

One thing that isn't that difficult to figure out is what to bring. After doing this so much, I know what I need and how much of it. That still doesn't mean that sometimes I bring too much, or forget something that would be helpful. My bags are pretty hefty because I bring zines with me to sell/trade (which is the eternal curse of a zinester: you will never be able to pack super light since you'll always have zines to worry about). One of these days I'll try a trip sans zines, but for now it's too intertwined into my life to not bring them (especially since I'll be going to a few zine events along the way).

To tell the truth, despite a couple things I wish I could take care of before departing (and computer issues that made my night less easy) there's nothing that important that still needs to be done. But it doesn't mean that I don't stress out about all this. I still have to finish packing (it's too often that I'm faced with all the shit I need to cram into my bags splayed out across the room at three in the morning) and e-mail some folks before the morn, and there is the more existential shit that creeps up and then jumps out at you in the days leading up to the trip: Why am I doing this? Is this trip a big mistake? Am I going to go broke yet again because of my crazy travels? I try not to think about it too much, and concentrate on the positives, all the fun I'll have on this trip. It's going to be quite an adventure!

To wrap up this post, I will give you some words of wisdom from Steev:

"You wont be able to relax till you're on the moving train. Do you ever have this feeling: when you're traveling somewhere, enroute, on a bus or train or whatever, and you get close to the destination and you sort of don't want it to end? I often feel that way, I think because when you're on the bus/train/plane/whatever, you're safe, or at least safe in the sense that you don't have to make any decisions, you just sit there and relax. But once you get where you're going all the stress comes back, you have to exert your will again and figure out where you're going..."

Amen, brother!

Friday, August 12, 2005

Modes of Transportation (2)

Factoring out flying in planning my trip means I'll be using a land based mode of transportation. Driving would be the most obvious way to get around. But why go for the obvious? Why do things the easy way?

I'm not necessarily opposed to driving for long trips. I can see its necessity, and have taken my share of long driving roadtrips (and will be sure to do so in the future). But there are many reasons why I don't plan my trips around cars:

1) Environmental concerns. Single-occupancy vehicles are the biggest source of pollution in the world, and even if you put 2-5 people in the car, it's not going to be as efficient as something that can hold lots more people. Beyond this is the insidious destruction of the world caused by car culture--all the roads, parking lots, and communities built around such a vehicle. I'd like to be as separated from this as possible. Yes, you can lecture me on how those roads and vehicles provide the food on my table, the clothes on my back, etc etc. I know. I know I won't be able to live "pure" in this modern world, but I'm trying to do the best I can.

2) The Interstate Highway System. As Charles Kuralt once said, "Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything." In other words, the interstates are boring. Built to move large quantities of cars at the fastest speed possible, the Interstate foregoes scenery for straight-line efficiency. Sure, you'll get beautiful views on I-80 through the Sierras, I-84 in the Columbia Gorge, I-90 through the Cascades, etc, but in those places the scenery overpowers no matter what. Most of the time you'll see crappy big box stores and fast food outlets. Add to that the destructive nature of highway building in cities, destroying whole neighborhoods and permanently dividing others, and you've got quite a beast on your hands.

3) Dealing with your tripmates. Being confined in a small space for long periods of time with people you normally get along with is a sure recipe for disaster. The first car trip across the country I went on led to animosity amongst everyone by the time we got to Cali, and after the trip I didn't speak to a couple people for quite some time. And you'll never figure out where to eat.

4) I don't own a car.

There are pros to using cars for trips. You can stop whenever and wherever you want, and make as many side trips as you'd like. In certain circumstances long car trips can even be fun. But for now the car trips I'll take will be short ones.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Modes of Transportation (1)

How to get to and from your destination factors in heavily to trip planning. Should I drive? Hitch-hike? Walk? Fly? How we get there says a lot about how we view traveling. Is getting there something that is endured, or enjoyed?

Take for instance someone who generally flys on a trip. Often, the reason they fly can be boiled down to two reasons:
1) Time. If you are going to have a three day weekend to spend in Austin, and you live in Philadelphia, there's really no other way to do it other than flying.
2) Distance. Anything over 200 miles away means one will be spending several hours traveling on land. Some people can't bear being in a car or train for more than a couple hours, so flying is a way to avoid that issue.

Flying is definitely useful, but there are definite drawbacks. Besides the environmental implications of modern commercial aviation (pollution created by burning kerosene (jet fuel) and the large amounts of land needed for airports), the biggest drawback in my eyes is the lack of closure. With flying, you start from a hermetically sealed environment known as an airport. You then board an aircraft through a windowless tunnel. On the plane, if you are lucky to get a view, you'll see mostly clouds. Then the plane lands, you leave it through yet another tunnel into yet another airport, most likely resembling the one you started from. It doesn't matter if your flight traveled tens, hundreds, or thousands of miles--you saw nothing of the journey other than the seat in front of you and the SkyMall catalog (buy! buy! buy!) You're going further than most people traveled in their entire lifetimes pre-20th century in the span of hours, and what do you have to show for it? A bag of peanuts.

I'd rather stay on the ground and see where I'm going, even if that means I'll be traveling for days. I want to be able to experience each unique region I pass through. And that includes all the so-called boring areas that some folks will go out of their way to avoid.

It all comes down to one's personal philosophy of travel. I know many people just want to get the "in transit" part over with as quick as possible. I want it to be an integral part of my trip, something to look forward to. Some will fly because there's no time for any other mode of transport. I will make the time. Besides, how can you have an "epic" journey if you fly from place to place?

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

What's the deal with the current trip?

I can't make things easy on myself. When I plan a trip, I want it epic.

Ever since I took my first "epic" trip back in 1998 (a two-week coast-to-coast roadtrip), my thirst for bigger, longer, more ambitious adventures grows stronger and stronger. If I don't take at least a month long journey every year, I feel imbalanced.

Sometimes I like to think that there is a giant red "reset" button inside my head. From time to time I need to hit that reset button and reprioritize my life, uncomplicate the areas that have become too complicated. And nothing does a better job of hitting that reset button than traveling. During a trip I can look back at my Portland life with critical distance, and figure out what's good and what's bullshit. When I get back to town I'm refreshed and am ready to jump back into the mix.

So what does this current trip have in store for me?
I'll be starting around August 20th. I'll be heading north first, out to Vancouver Island to hang out in Victoria and do some bicycle riding. Then onto the BC mainland for Vancouver, one of my most favorite cities, and a comic show.

I swing back south state-side to Seattle then hop a train eastward to Minneapolis at the beginning of September. From there, I will be taking a 400 mile bike ride to Chicago, enjoying the beautiful scenery along the way and stopping in Madison and Milwaukee. If time is tight, I'll take the train to Chicago.

From Chicago, I'll make my way eastward, maybe making a stop in Champaign-Urbana. I'll check out DC, then New York City, and then spend some good amount of time in my hometown, New Haven, Connecticut.

It's October and now the trip heads north. Boston, Northampton, Mass. and a train ride west across New York State to Rochester, where I'll ferry across Lake Ontario to Toronto for Canzine.

I'll spend quite some time in Eastern Canada, from Toronto to Montreal to Halifax to Moncton, NB, and possibly Quebec City and Ottawa. Before the weather gets too bad, I'll either head westward through Canada, or maybe I'll head southward? I don't know yet. It's still a while away.

Not everything above is written in stone, expect some changes and alterations. Keep posted to this blog for changes. If you have any info and advice about any of the places listed above, please let me know.

Yes, it's a crazy trip! How will I do it all? I don't know. I'll just do it.

If you are wondering how I will be getting around, here's how: the train. Not train hopping (sorry all you hobos) but passenger rail. Stateside will be mostly provided by Amtrak, while Canadian rail adventures will be on Via Rail. There'll be other conveyances added in, like the ferries to get me back and forth from Vancouver Island. But the primary place to place travel mode will be the train. And I'm bringing my bike too! Forget driving or flying, I want my travels to be interesting.

And interesting they shall be.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

What is this blog about?

Hello there. I'm Shawn Granton. And I like to travel. A lot.

I have another blog out there, actually over here. That blog is about the Urban Adventure League, fun explorations of Portland, Oregon. This blog is more personal, concentrating on my own adventures in and away from the City of Roses.

In this blog you'll find travelogues, observations, and musings of the various trips I take. I'll be updating this thing generally when traveling, less so when I'm home. Since going away means sporadic email and internet access, don't expect posts to happen daily. And since going away also means actually getting out there and experiencing the world. don't think I'm going to want to be stuck behind a computer that often!

Why the name "Temporary Relocation Project"?
I look at travel differently than most. Rather than dealing with airlines, hotels, package deals, and the typical touristy destinations, I like to get beneath the surface of the places I visit, and experience things on a more visceral level. I don't want to be a tourist. I want to integrate myself with the places I find myself in.

In a conversation with a friend recently, he mentioned how most "travel culture", no matter how hip and cool it may be, is still parasitic. People travel from place to place, wanting the place to "entertain" them. Everything becomes a commodity, fun is purchased, and the visitor does nothing for the places he or she visits. I don't want to be like that. I want to have a positive experience with travel, and give back to the places that give to me.

I came up with the term "Temporary Relocation Project" to describe my last major trip. I spent two months traveling through the southwest this past winter, with one full month spent solely in Tucson, Arizona. I wasn't just traveling, I was actually relocating my life to a different locale, albeit for a short, fixed set of time. And that's how I view my travels: I'm living somewhere else, but temporary. My life doesn't stop because I'm away from home!

In the coming weeks you can read about my preparations for my upcoming trip, and then the trip itself. Check the next post for the trip description and itinerary.

And thanks for reading!