Thursday, December 18, 2008

Coast to Coast

We left Yuma with a new rear differential and camped in Las Cruces. Slim pickins' on grease in El Paso. It was blowing like snot in the desert. Beautiful, windy ride across west Texas to Austin under a big orange moon, past little central Texas towns festooned with thousand of strands of white lights.
Found our old friend, the fiddler Ben Swan, in Austin, and returned to the Continental Club to see Haybale, a great band featuring Merle Haggard's guitarist. Hit up a jazz club downtown before bed.
Easy Austin grease fill-up and north to the town of West, and their Czech stuffed pastries. The kolaches tasted good, but made a solid mass in one's stomach. North some more towards Arkansas, but news of an ice storm steers us east toward Shreveport instead. The road trip arrives at Herby K's, a cajun shack in the abandoned industrial part of town. It glowed like a campfire when we turned down a quiet street, and was better than we hoped. Great cajun food, Abita, internet, fine grease, and friendly people. An idea was hatched to make the most of the detour and paddle Caddo Lake, on my radar since a few years ago, when OK WFR Dave showed photos of deep, dark cypress groves a few hours west of Dallas.
It was a cold and beautiful sunrise paddle through the swamp and a huge push to Bessemer, Al, for a welcome feed at Bob Sykes' BBQ. We drove through a rainstorm and camped in Ft. Payne at the edge of a field. Chicken's night terrors continue, as he wakes up shouting that I am plotting to kill him. He wakes up yelling three or four times a night.
Early morning grease score at a Japanese restaurant in Chattanooga for the big push to DC. Quick stop at Dude's Drive-In in Christiansburg, VA, along the way up the Blue Ridge.
Johnny heralds our arrival in DC with a bunch of friends and jugs of mead.

Friday, December 12, 2008

4:20 to Yuma

We spend the day in Yuma with the motley crew at Ramco Automotive: a racist business owner/Minuteman, a tatoo guinea pig, a chain smoking accountant, a Native American mechanic, some bikers, and a bunch of truckers gathered for a fried catfish lunch. "You boys don't want that oil, it'll be a brick in the morning. That there is pig fat."
The rear differential is dead, long live the rear differential, en route from San Diego.
Later, we walk down 4th Avenue, America is all its western sprawl dusty sheen. Jiffy Lube, Pizza Hut, Drive-thru Liqour Store, Bob's furniture. Inhale exhaust of a dozen cars, then sewage. Hustle through the intersection. Shopping at the Goodwill, Chicken Dave looking for records, me replacing pants covered in grease from late-night mis-guided marathon mechanicin' session. Christmas carols in the 99 cent store, shoppers pluck through scented soaps and pasta sauce.
Now, encamped at the Yuma Cabana. Hopeful for early-afternoon escape. Chicken plucks guitar, takes my money in Texas Hold-Em. Fluorescent lights buzz along with the chords.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Grease Nation

From base camp at the Shea-Lee's, I made some loops east and north. I multi-tasked in Las Vegas, working on the campaign and visiting UNLV, celebrating election night on the strip before driving to Flagstaff.
I put a few ads on the internet for people frying turkeys on Thanksgiving and spent Black Friday driving around the city with Kristin to pick up their used grease.
The van has traveled 36,000 miles since the conversion in Haines, all of it on waste vegetable oil.
Today begins the next chapter, a winter cross-country grease road trip. The goal: San Diego to northern New York, with stops in Austin, Memphis, Nashville, DC, NY. It's going to be a greasy, musical exploration of America, with Chicken Dave sitting shotgun. Just gotta keep that grease flowing.....

Filling in the edges

Autumn 2008 saw the Road Trip bouncing up and down the west coast. After the Olympic Peninsula, we motored south in record time, dropping Hawthorne at the train depot in Chico after a celebratory lunch at Sierra Nevada, complete with fill-up. After some family time in California, it was north again, a return to Oregon for school visits and old friend visits in Ashland and Portland. A frozen bike ride up Mt. Ashland and some cider pressing with the Portland crew were highlights. On a whim, I inquired about grease at a downtown Portland taco shop late one night. Tony said to meet him outside. A door opened in the sidewalk, and in a moment I was in Portland famed underground tunnel system, beneath a strip club, surrounded by 60 cubies of liquid gold! It's not impossible to find grease in ultra-hip Portland, you just have to dig for it.
I left the city with a brimming tank and cruised the coast from Tillamook to Gold Beach, paddling here and there along the way. At Cascade Head, I enjoyed a beautiful afternoon surfing waves in the mouth of the Salmon River, with sunshine lighting up the wind-whipped spindrift above the gorgeous spilling waves.
Crescent City was magic as always, car-camping and paddling from downtown this time. UC Davis, then Chico again, for a birthday morning hike up to Feather Falls and ablutions under a faucet. The grease trail lead to Berkeley that night for a late-night roof top fondue fest.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


After a successful symposium, Matt and I drove back to Neah Bay, home of the Macah whale hunters, for the purpose a launching another Olympic open coast trip. The people of the reservation were as welcoming as always and tolerated our many comings and goings, which often including a hobo feast in one of their covered public areas. Matt was in a funk, the new VHF radio was giving scary forecasts, and there were a few equipment and logistical items to sort out. But, after a couple days in a holding pattern we broke the eddy of Neah Bay and paddled out in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, reuniting with sea lion friends. At Cape Flattery, when we faced the crux move of cuttting inside Tatoosh Island, the winds dropped as predicted and the swells were manageable. For the next two and a half days we enjoyed every bit of the spectacular open coast between Neah Bay and La Push including beautiful caves and magnificent pillars, survived a hairy surf landing, camped on some stunning beaches and forgot all worries of heartbreak and impending financial disaster.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

In Spokane, Headed to Port Townsend

It'e 90 degrees in Spokane right now, where I'm visiting Gonzaga University. Their grease dumpster is brimming and I'm expecting a huge turnout tonight at Wolff Auditorium for an IWLS presentation.

The Road Trip reunites with Matt Hawthorne tomorrow at Sea-Tac airport, then heads to Port Townsend for the West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium, where we'll show off the new Point 65 kayaks. If you're in the neighborhood, come check it out....

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


In Wisconsin, I visited the ultra-green campus of Northland College and did some wonderful paddling in the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Good morning North Dakota

This is the view I had at sunrise on Sunday, looked out at the badlands of Painted Canyon in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota. After many years of being stuck at 48 states visited, now only Hawaii remains. And a fine time in North Dakota it was. I visited friends from Ketchikan, the Van Walden family, who bought an old homestead in Bismarck and refurbished it. The place sits on a beautiful, wooded ten acres near the mighty Missouri River. They did an incredible job on the house, while living in the garage all winter(this is North Dakota, remember), homeschooling the three kids, while Erik worked full time with the Forest Service. A modern frontier family. Their life seems idyllic, but they reminded me I visited in early September, the rest of the year is apparently bitter cold or hot and swarming with insects. This plus a dearth of PLU's may entice them to sell the homestead and move on.
After a great breakfast, all six of us loaded in the Fried Piper and cruised Bismarck, visiting a street fair, the Dakota zoo, and going on a successful family grease hunt through the town's alleys.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Up dere in da UP, eh?

I enjoy loitering at historic hotels. Tonight the Road Trip has landed at a fine one. The Landmark in Marquette, MI, formerly known as the Northland, is a classic place on the shore of Lake Superior. Jim Harrison has written about it and is apparently frequent guest, and the Rolling Stones gathered here recently on their way to a funeral. I just climbed up to the top of the fire escape to eat ice cream and check out the moon on the lake, and now I've decamped to the lobby for the wireless and ambience, putting off, for a bit, a late night run to Wisconsin.
I crossed back into the US yesterday at Sault Ste. Marie, after a last-minute bit of paranoia had me covering the "powered by vegetable oil" slogans with electrical tape for the border. The customs guy looked at the tank and only asked how much gas costs in AK.
Late afternoon in Musining, I popped into the visitors center for Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and on a whim picked up a backcountry permit, threw together a pack and hiked in eight miles atop sandstone cliffs to a place called Chapel Beach. What a place! Crashing lake surf on Moab-like cliff formations topped with a beautiful deciduous forest. And no people. I had the camp to myself, and made a tasty sunset dinner on a fluffy white sand beach in a cove that seemed more like Thailand than Michigan. Sunrise was wonderful too, with a perfect arch of rainbow lighting up the sky before a downpour drove me back into the tent to make a pot of cowboy coffee and curl up with the New Yorker. These are good times. I made a loop out of the hike past a couple waterfalls, returned to the van, grabbed an obligatory pasty and arrived at the University of Northern Michigan with time to spare.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Headed west again!

Greetings from Ontario. Just got in from a lovely three-day paddle on Georgian Bay, Lake Huron. Now headed north for Sault-ste. Marie and da UP.
I left Springhill on a beautiful New York September day, the van loaded down with tomatoes from Jimmy's garden, squash and garlic from the Dassatti's, blueberries I picked with Ahmom, and some smoked salmon from Alaska. I had 13 days to traverse the country, with a few school visits scheduled along the way.
The van travelled west toward Buffalo and the Canadian border at Niagra Falls. A brief check for grease came up short- there was plenty, but stickers advertising "Buffalo Biodiesel" and warning of prosecution scared me off. There was no need to worry. In Canada I would have access to alll the grease I could handle.
In Parry Sound, Ontario, I camped off the road in the rain and found White Squall Kayak Centre in the morning. Really friendly Canadians, tons of great kayaks, and a bunch of chickens. My kind of place! They hooked me up with a nice loaner and I quickly took off amidst the remnants of Hurricane Gustav for a three day loop in the archipelago of Georgian Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Biosphere. Great paddling, beautiful camping, no people, brilliant stars when the storm cleared and some wonderful swims in water that felt downright tropical after a summer in Alaska.
On a quiet Sunday morning, I drove back into Parry Sound and filled the tank at a low-rent hotel with lots of bemused residents checking things out and chatting. Canadians are an unfailing friendly people. Following Lake Huron's east coast I made my way to Sudbury and west toward Sault. The next morning, after scoring a new filter and filling the tank again it was over the bridge and back to the USA, quietly importing 400 litres of used vegetable oil from Canada.

Sunrise at Quoddy Head, Maine

Kristin and I recently road-tripped "down east" to the point furthest east in the US. A wonderful spot to hike on cliffs above the sea.

Fried Scrod

This is my old friend Derek (Scrod) with Celine and their daughters Alexia and Nikka, showing off their newly converted grease bug

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Klondike Ho!

Back in Haines in all its summer glory. Paddled to Taiyasanka harbor with Corngdog, rowed a midnight Devil's Elbow river trip with Liam and Sylvia and the CG gang and enjoyed many a french press/PBR with old friends, looking out at the huge raft of surf scoters on the sea, from the porch at Brutopia.
Matt Hawthorne and I are now rigging a trip for Alaska Mountain Guides. We're headed, with six clients from the UK, over the Chilkoot Trail from Skagway to Lake Bennett, then jumping in canoes and paddling nine days down the Yukon River to Dawson City. We'll be following the route of miners in the Klondike Gold Rush, except we'll have a shuttle van, Gore-tex, access to dental care, and about 1900 fewer pounds of gear.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Skirting the 59th Parallel, Around the Globe

The road trip is rolling down the Alaska Marine Highway, aboard the ferry Malaspina, en route from Juneau to Haines. This is the climatic end to a mad voyage that began a few days ago in Goteborg, Sweden, hanging out in the streets at 3 am , eating kabobs with my brother, Matt.
Now, traveling up the Lynn Canal, the longest fjord in North America, on a spectacular late-May Alaskan evening, enjoying the amenities of the Malaspina: incredible views, a nice shower, egg salad sandwiches and (incredibly) free wireless internet. From the back solarium deck, taking in the 360 degrees filled with memories of past adventures and future ones promised. So much snow on the peaks this year! But summer now bursting through with the long and sunny days.
Now we pass the famous Eldred Rock lighthouse, perched on a basalt plug in the middle of the fjord. It was here, perhaps exactly six years ago to the day, on a paddling trip from Juneau to Haines, where I climbed up the tower late one evening to watch a storm roll up the fjord from the south, and saw whales in every direction. I spent the night in one of the abandoned quarters and spooked myself with every creaky sound, in the morning flying north with a strong following sea, and smelling the breath of a huge bull sea lion for the first, and hopefully last time.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Malmö , the heart of Skåne

After one last great bike to work on Bike to Work Day, I bid farewell to Stockholm one last time and drove 500km south with 28 kayaks on the trailer. Luckily, southern Sweden has no hills. I was headed back to Sweden's third largest city, Malmö for a two day kayak festival.
I stayed with my colleague, Malmö native Staffan Ahltin and his great family. After work on Saturday, Staffan gave me a proper tour of the old downtown, with a particular focus on churches and pubs. There was a great barbecue with all the other folks from the festival, another day of kayak antics, a now the Pointmobile is northbound once again....

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Swedish Things

Swedish McDonald's

Swedish car dealership

Swedish snack bar

Friday, May 09, 2008

Ah, Copenhagen

Studies consistently show that Denmark is home to the world's happiest people. After two days of exhaustive research I can offer an explanation: sunshine, bicycles, and beer.
I was to meet an outdoor gear product designer from a European chain of retailers called Stadium, their Denmark head of operations, managers from around the country, the coach of the Copenhagen kayak racing team, and a bunch of other water-loving folks for an all-day event in Copenhagen that would showcase the Point 65 line and teach some kayak skills and knowledge to Stadium employees.
But first, a few free hours to soak up Copenhagen on its finest day of 2008. I ditched the trailer, then the car, and set off to find a bicycle. Copenhagen is arguably the cycling capital of the world. To find out more about this culture, or if you just want to see well-composed shots of fashionable Danes on bikes, click here.
The free city bikes were nowhere to be found on such a gorgeous day, despite my searching through the Nyham district. Not to worry, a helpful woman on her own classy bike told me, just find a people's bike. I would know one if it was a) unlocked, and b) looking a bit neglected. Soon enough, I had a sweet ride of my own. If I misunderstood this system, I apologize to the owner of a black cruiser. You can find your bike two blocks off the canal on Nyham....
Soaking up the bohemian vibe of Christiana, the beautiful King's Garden park, and the alleys and street of downtown, I quickly tapped into some of the legendary happiness.
Soon, I met my contacts and we made our way to the kayak club, setting up tents for the night and having a planning session while debating the merits of Carlsberg vs. Tuborg.
The next day was even more beautiful than the last. Folks trickled in and we were all treated to a smorgasbord more befitting a wedding than a kayak demo.
Some on-land instruction followed and then some time for everyone to try out the boats. The Danish racing team, peparing to leave for a meet in Germany, joined us on the water and soon we were all involved in some really fun relay races with ever kind of kayak imaginable in the fray. At sunset, with satisfied grins, my colleague Staffan, the young Swedish expedition paddler John, and I crammed into the Pointmobile, bid farewell to our hosts, and drove off, crossing the bridge into Sweden and passing through the beautiful southern farmland on our way north to more events in Karlstad.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Further South

I drove to Norrköping for an event with Nomado, and then past beautiful fields of future vegetable oil at sunset, stumbling upon the sleepy seaside village of Christianople where I camped behind a big stone wall. The place reminded me of a campground in Findhorn, Scotland where Johnny and I stayed in 1998. I woke up early looking for rough seas in which to test the Whisky. Instead, I found a perfectly glassy Baltic. Paddled offshore to a wind farm slalom course.
Back in the car and on to an event in Karlskrona. Then another Vaxjö. Now staying with Blue Ribbon veteran (paddled entire Swedish coast) John in Helsingborg and catching the ferry to Denmark in the morning. Very excited to see Copenhagen by bicycle and kayak and connect with my people.

More from Örebro

tiny houses, a mushroom water tower, the ubiquitous Megamid, etc.

Saturday, May 03, 2008


The road trip has arrived in beautiful Örebro, Sweden. The brand new VW Caddy diesel is a gem and Fiona (GPS voice) guided the way with her usual dulcet firmness. I met Christer, my host and his wife Margaret at the hostel they'd arranged. There was a pack of thirty teens on the doorstep and I soon realized this was not the "cool French Canadian couple, two crazy Israelis, friendly nurses from Australia, one German cycle tourist" kind of hostel. More like the "history class from a high school in Stockholm" kind of hostel. I begged off as politely as I could and slept better than I have in weeks, in my tent, down by the river.
In the morning, everything found its place in the Pointmobile and the French press and muesli bowl were filled to brimming. Soon Christer arrived and we set up a demo in a great spot between river and wetlands. There is water everywhere in Sweden, it's really fantastic.
The demo was a success, and before we packed up I was able to paddle the brand-new Whisky 16 into the city- a fairy tale paddle past immaculate gardens bursting with tulips, stately homes, big willows with new leaves, under stone arch bridges. I ended up at the impressive Örebro Castle, dating from the 1200's. After wandering around like an idiot in my sprayskirt and lime green Crocs, it was time to paddle back for some rolling (exhale through nose to keep duck crap out) and packing. Christer took off, and I went for a short run in the wetlands and a shorter outdoor freezing shower. I went back to the castle and had a delightful sunset picnic of pickled herring, bread and a splash of wine, grinning like Samantha Brown on the Travel Channel. If I had a show it would be called "Let's Camp and Paddle and Picnic in Europe.

Vuja Day

Another diesel gets fancy graphics

And is sent out on the road.

Friday, May 02, 2008

May Day Scenes

Bonfire to ward off spirits, or usher out winter. I'm not exactly sure.

Socialist rallies in the streets

Recreation in the sunshine.

Fish eggs in a tube.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Stockholm Archipelago is made up of something like 25,000 islands. Or maybe 100,000, it depends on whom you ask. Last Friday, I set out to visit 30 or 40 of them. My trip began with a drive to Bjorkvik, where I delivered six Point 65 kayaks to Pierre at Kayakriet. A cool guy with a rambling compound of farmhouse, barn, yurt, tipi, Pierre runs an outfitter shop and has big groups come in for courses during the summer. His beautiful spot sits on a spit at the edge of the archipelago, perfect for launching a trip. I borrowed a boat from him, as well as the very crucial chart and compass and set off for a day trip.
From a distance the hundreds of island blend together and seem to form one unbroken horizon of land, but by taking bearings and following them I soon was finding my way around. I always love trying to hit a very specific spot on a chart by following a given heading. With little wind and almost no tidal current, I was right on course, heading out to the beacon at Bjornoon and croosing the sound to the big islands of Uvon and Morto, and the big cliff knob called Mortoklobb.
From there, I wound my way through some more little islands, on a course for a tiny little channel Pierre had shown me on the map, cutting between the islands of Angskar and Jungfruskar. I was sure I had landed in the right cove, but there was no passage, just tall water grasses. I almost left but saw a little break in the grass and poked the nose of my kayak into it. Sure enough a little passage way opened up and lead me back out to the open water. It reminded of this special place in Glacier Bay where you can sneak through a slough at the highest tides( which in August come around the witching hour) and end up flushed into Skidmore Bay. I hope to do it again this summer with students on an IWLS course.
I kept paddling from island to island, enjoying the day and the lack of people, plus all the birds.
I saw lots of eiders, murres and other ducks and my first ever sea eagle(Haliaeetus Albicilla), a close cousin to our American Bald Eagle.
Finally reaching the end of the archipelago at Gaston, I stopped and cooked some lunch, the open Baltic sea spread out before me.
From there, it was south to Gillinge, and into a cove dotted with cute houses. Pierre was actually paddling here with two girls to check out a spot for a future Point 65 trip and take a sauna.
I was hoping to run into them, but there is only so much one can reasonably expect from life. So, it the beautiful evening light and a bit of wind chop I set course back to Bjorkvik, making a couple big open-water crossings on the way, and arriving back at the car exhausted, hungry, cold, and elated.
As I drove from the take-out I was treated to a great view of a cow Moose, munching grass on the roadside in the fading light of day. And then back to the city....

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Breakfast: Cardboard and Capppucino

You will not find a finer coffee making device at any kayak shop, anywhere in the world.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Stockholm Sailing

On Saturday morning, I went with my colleague Paul to this lovely little marina filled with Hobie Cats. We scrubbed the Swedish winter off of one of them, and rigged and launched it.

Paul, "The Flying Dutchman", a former world-class rower is now entered in a world class Hobie Cat race from Stockholm to Finland and back. He has no business doing this. So begins his "training".

I got to hang in the trapeze, a new experience. We had some great puffs of wind and the boat really took off. Too soon, it was time to return to work and rig the trailer for Gothenburg.