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Meet Ginger!

You might remember that a couple of years ago Patrick and I rented a Westfalia Vanagon camper for a long weekend and that we loved it. In fact, at the end of that post I said,

Would we rent a camper again? Yes! Might we buy one? Yes, yes, YES!

Well, what with one thing and another, and lots of debating the pros and cons, we finally started looking for a van in earnest about a month ago. Patrick scoured the ads on Craigslist and Used Victoria, and when he saw a likely candidate, we tootled off for a looksee.

We saw vans in Victoria, Saanich, Cobble Hill, Parksville, Fanny Bay, and even Coquitlam, but none of them were suitable – they were too rusty, too rough on the inside, the wrong colour (kidding!), registered in the wrong province (which meant importing it and having it inspected, and paying to fix anything that didn’t pass inspection), not registered at all (which meant we couldn’t take it for a test drive), an automatic when we wanted a standard, outside our budget, too rusty, too rusty, too rusty…

In the meantime, Patrick was supposed to be finishing his thesis for his M.S.

Finally we had to admit that buying a van was really what Steven Pressfield would call Resistance – ie. Patrick’s way of avoiding working on his thesis (nevermind what I was supposed to be doing – let’s not go there!) So Patrick decided on Thursday last week that we would stop looking for a van until after he’d submitted his thesis and I agreed that this was a most excellent plan.

Except that at lunch time Patrick had another look through the ads and he found a van that appeared to be just right – not too rusty, registered in BC, in our price range, and not a day’s drive away. So on Thursday evening we headed up island and we met a lovely couple who were selling their van because their family had outgrown it. Patrick did a thorough inspection and chatted with the guy about the work he’d done on her, and then we took her for a test drive and we knew she was the one.

Meet Ginger!


She’s originally from California, so her body has hardly any rust. For anyone who wants to know the technical details, she’s a 1984 camper with a 1.9l water-cooled engine with a 4-speed manual gearbox. She can sleep four, and has a 2-burner stove, fridge, sink with a water pump, and of course, a pop-top so we can stand up inside.

Like most Vanagons, she’s a work-in-progress. Patrick has already had the sliding door apart to add grease to the mechanism. But she promises many exciting adventures. And she doubles as my new writing space!


What do you think? Are we crazy? Or do you want one too?

Catching up

I realize it’s been rather quiet round these parts, so I thought it might be time for a quick catch up.

First up, we took a trip to New Zealand to visit family (fun!) and attend a wedding (on the beach!). It’s been 10 years since our last trip, so we had to learn the new lingo – everything is choice, sweet as, or lovely.


Since we were there last, they’ve made a huge effort to encourage the native birds back into the cities, which was lovely to see. This is a tui in my aunty’s backyard.


We went on a few walks in the bush.


And ate our way through my favorite Kiwi treats – meat pies, custard squares, hokey pokey ice cream, jelly tips, fruit cake and many others, like these delicious coconut haystacks (thank you Mum!).


And of course, fish and chips.


At the beach.


And then it was back home to my revisions for PROVE IT, JOSH (new colored pens required!).


Which I just sent to my editor on Sunday. Yay!

How about you? Did I miss anything while I was gone?

Long weekend

We went to Seattle this past weekend, and I’d been planning to post a few pictures for you of our walk along Alki Beach, but wouldn’t you know it, the white balance on the camera was set to something weird, and all the photos came out purple, which tells me two things: 1. I need to always leave the white balance set to Auto, and 2. I need to learn to fix these things  in Photoshop!

So I thought I’d share this art from textile artist Lesley Richmond of Vancouver instead. Since it was pouring with rain on Sunday, we decided to see the High Fiber Diet exhibition at the Bellevue Arts Museum. Lesley was one of the exhibiters. I don’t think this is the exact piece we saw at BAM, but it’s from the same series. On her website, Lesley says she takes photos of trees, prints the images on cloth, and then paints over them with metal patinas and pigments. They’re so delicate, but they glow.



This last weekend, Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, Patrick and I decided to rent a Westfalia Vanagon camper. We’ve been toying with the idea of buying one, but every time it comes up in conversation, we can’t justify having two cars (we don’t have a lot of parking space, and Patrick bikes to work, so it’s not like we really need two cars). But when we found out that there’s a rental company in Sidney, it seemed too good an opportunity to pass up. We could try it out, and see if it was just something fun to dream about, or something we’d really love.

We picked the camper van up on Friday evening, and were given a quick demonstration of how everything worked – folding down the bed, pulling out the table, lighting the stove, getting water in the sink, pushing open the pop-top, hooking it up to power, filling up the gas tank, and swiveling the front seats. There was so much to learn, I admit I was a bit intimidated. But we hit the road, headed for Saltspring Island.


The ferry trip was uneventful and then we joined the stream of cars heading up the main road to Ganges (note to self, next time just pull over and let everyone else go ahead!). In the dark, we pulled into our campsite, a secluded spot in the trees with a picnic table and an quick walk to the bathrooms. We’d forgotten there’s a light in the back of the van, so we used our headlamps to pull the bed out and get everything organized for sleeping. I can’t imagine what that looked like – two headlamps bobbing up and down as we puzzled out how to make it all work. But we were soon cozy in bed with our own feather duvet from home, propped up reading our books, and grinning at each other like mad things. This was exactly as we imagined it would be!

Next morning I woke up with the birds and Patrick muttered and grumbled at me to go back to sleep, which of course I couldn’t because we were on holiday. Eventually he allowed that it was time to get up. By now, the sun was shining through the trees and I was ready for coffee. Together we figured out how to get water out of the tap, I put it on to boil, and Patrick ground the beans, and then we waited for it to brew. Some days, three minutes seems like a long time. As I poured the coffee, I got my first hint of…something foul. I’m sure my nose twitched. That smell, it couldn’t be the coffee could it? I took a sip, and another. Ewww! Sure enough, it was the water from the tank (second note to self – don’t use the water in the tank for drinking!)

Following a quick breakfast of tuna and salad (yeah, I know we’re strange), we drove into Ganges village to check out the Saturday market and pick up some fresh vegetables. And a decent cup of coffee!


On Saturday afternoon, we drove north, took the ferry back to Crofton, drove north to Nanaimo, and then took the ferry to Gabriola, where we spent the rest of the weekend, following much the same pattern. Waking up early, making coffee (not using water from the tank), eating breakfast, cooking, eating, cooking, eating, making cups of tea and reading, reading, reading, with the odd stroll down to the marina to gaze at the boats.

Memorable moments included walking to the bathrooms in the dark with our headlamps on and seeing several sets of deer eyes peering back at us, picking apples and pears off the trees at the campground (delicious!), and cooking yam fries on the camp stove.


Would we rent a camper again? Yes! Might we buy one? Yes, yes, YES! So if you have one for sale, or know someone with one for sale, please contact me ASAP.

Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival

This weekend we went south of the border to Port Townsend for the Wooden Boat Festival.


This is the Lorraine, a folkboat, and one of my favorites.

Highlights included:

1. Research for a new writing project


This is Alison, teaching us how to attach sliders to the edge of the sail.


One of the many sewing machines in the sail loft.

2. Renewed enthusiasm for building the Navigator


This is Ellie, a Navigator designed by John Welsford of New Zealand. We have one of these on the back deck and we’re hoping it will look like this one day. While we were admiring her, we met another couple who are also building one.

3. Meeting John Welsford

Yes! Really!

4. Coffee from the lovely Heidi, aka Java Gypsy



When Patrick was at boat school, Heidi used to visit every day at morning tea time. She has an unbelievable memory for faces and names, and coffee orders, and her husband makes the best coffee in PT.

5. Thank goodness for ferry reservations


Back in Port Angeles, the ferries were completely chocka, so we were glad we had a reservation. There was just time for a short walk along the waterfront to admire these guys. Aren’t they cool!

Classic Boat Festival


It’s been a busy summer – a road trip to Jasper and back as volunteers for the Rocky Mountain 1200, friends and family to stay, and lots of work. This weekend we caught up with friends, visited the Classic Boat Festival, watched a cruise ship dock and the classic boats sail by from the end of the breakwater at Ogden Point, and kayaked in the gorge. A good weekend! A break from writing, but sometimes that’s what you need.