TRAVELS WITH GREASE AND PADDLE
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
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
Sunday, September 14, 2008
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
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
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.