ArtsQuest or Bust!

ArtsQuest or Bust!

Whew! It has been over a year since we last did an interview. The time sure goes by fast. Here it is 5 years, 6 months, 10 days, 16 hours and 48 minutes since we began our ArtsQuest journey. But hey, who’s counting. Gary and I are tremendously grateful to all of you who have stuck around with us for so long. It motivates us to keep doing what we do.

Most of the last year has been spent working and reworking the ArtsQuest marketplace. Many of our conversations and brainstorming have lead us to some great ideas. And once in a while when we came up for air the memory of how all this came about surfaced as well.

It was a sign!

In 2010, I saw a sign. Literally; it was a highway sign that read Artisan. Gary and I were on our way home from a financial convention in Los Angeles and we decided to take a different route through B.C. to check out an area we had always dreamed of moving to. I saw the sign and said to Gary, “I wonder what artists in these small communities do to sell their art once the tourist season is over?” And that is how it all began.

We talked and talked, all the way home to Calgary, about how we could build a website for artists in Canada that would give them a place to sell their art all year long and give us a business where we wouldn’t be tied to the economic constraints of the city.

So in 2011, at the ages of 45 and 47, we sold our house and quit our jobs and downsized. I decided I was smart enough to build a website. After all, how hard could it be? I got the Dummies guide from the library and went at it. I did learn a little html code but what I really learned was I wasn’t the gal for the job. We then decided to look for a web developer to help us with it and we chose someone who was in the area we eventually wanted to live.

Having had a bit of life experience, and being one of the last generations to bridge face-to-face style communication with technological style communication, we decided to employ both in our efforts to create our ArtsQuest business. To use the popular misquote from Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come”. We understood very well that in the web world you have to do more than just build a website in order to have people show up there. So after our former life was settled, we bought an iconic VW Westfalia Vanagon (many great businesses like MEC and Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream got their start with one of these), convinced our 8 1/2 year old cat Marli to join us, and set out to interview artists from all around the country.

To date we have put 25,000 km on Arty (our van) and interviewed 130 + artists from B.C. to Newfoundland and up to the Yukon and back. We are still waiting for our website to be finished but we are cautiously optimistic it will be completed very soon. It has been a long journey both physically and mentally at times and we haven’t yet reached our destination. In the mean time we have learned so many different skills, had many “Ah Ha” moments, learned some hard lessons, and met and made friends with people all over Canada. Hopefully we will get to find out if the phrase “good things come to those who wait” (and of course work hard along the way), will in fact be true.

So now we are off to do at least 20 interviews in Saskatchewan and Manitoba with our first scheduled for August 20. Each time we head out our approach to things always seems to be a little different. Hmm, perhaps more creative? This time we have come up with a fun way for all of you to join us on our trip.

The-Great-ArtsQuest-revised

Each time we post an interview blog we will also include a question in our newsletter and on social media. The answer can be found within the written portion or the video portion of each interview. All you have to do is go find the answers and submit them to us via email contact@artsquest.ca or through our contact form on our website. If you miss a question, don’t fret, we will keep a running list under the Treasure Hunt tab on our website.

For each set of questions you submit (see full details under the Treasure Hunt tab) you will receive one entry for a chance to win one of 3 pieces of art which we will pick up from the artists on this interview tour. The Treasure!

We hope you will join us on our 2016 Artist Interview Road Trip, meet the artists and have some fun along the way.

Happy Trails,

Corinne and Gary Funk

Our ArtsQuest 2012 Highlights

Our ArtsQuest 2012 Highlights

Autumn leaves in P.E.I. National Park

Well here we are; the start of 2013 and so much has happened in our previous year, and I suppose so much didn’t happen such as the end of the world for the doomsday believers! Our ArtsQuest journey from coast to coast and back was filled with adventure, wonderful people, challenges and warm memories. From traversing the winding Duffy Lake Road between Pemberton and Lillooet in British Columbia, to a rocking and rolling fifteen hour ferry ride on our way to Newfoundland (it was supposed to be 7-8hrs!), we were never short of Mother Nature’s gifts and reminders of who is in charge as we ambled along through this vast country in our (mostly) trusty 1991 VW van, Arty.

Some highlights include…

British Columbia’s beauty seducing us at our own private wooded campground along the Lillooet River in Pemberton, offered up by the kind brother of an interviewed artist while we were scrambling to find a place to stay for the night. We also happened to be “adopted” by our new friends from Creston while hanging out at the Tourist Info Centre in Cranbrook, and now referred to as “the kids.”

Pemberton, B.C. private campground

Alberta provided familiarity with family and friends. That familiarity was a most welcome beacon of help as we incurred our first coolant leak while stopping over in Calgary, home to our trusted VW mechanic who fixed Arty up. Our home province also gave us new discoveries such as Medalta Potteries in Medicine Hat and a free bag of black beans from the Tourist Info Centre in Bow Island where “Pinto MacBean” greets passersby.

Sunrise in Bergen, AB

Saskatchewan’s beautiful Cypress Hills gave contrast to our second, troublesome coolant leak which we managed to fix in the Canadian Tire parking lot in Moose Jaw, a task made most unpleasant by the unrelenting heat. As a reward, we found a charming, free, mostly serviced municipal campground in Eyebrow where we were greeted by hoards of Monarch butterflies mingling with the lilac bushes. Consequently we decided to stay for three days. Sweet! Other flying creatures proved not as hospitable as we were overwhelmed by billions of blood-thirsty mosquitos in Moose Mountain Provincial Park and had to bid a hasty retreat in hurricane force winds and rain to the relative safety of the Bear Claw Casino parking lot. That night a fifth wheel was blown off the road not far from us.

Moose Jaw…of course!

Manitoba was an awakening of new discoveries as I reconnected with my Mennonite roots and relations from thirty five years ago while also meeting many, many, more new ones. I am grateful for this reunion as well as the yummy farmer’s sausage and perogies that came with the territory. The European flavoured town of Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes, with its French heritage, was such a friendly town with numerous people striking up a conversation and making us feel welcome. They also had a nicely shaded campground and the best ice cold, spring fed drinking water.

A barley sunset in Hartney, MB

Ontario is big, really big! Our refreshing swim in Lake Superior at Agawa Bay was just a brief glimpse of the endless shoreline between Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie, a distance of over 700 km! Complete strangers inviting us to stay at their lakeside cottage in Marmora and an impromptu tour of Napanee from yet another stranger on the street were just a couple of examples of people giving generously of their time and reaching out with hospitality and kindness. Oops! Coolant leak number three in Cornwall and fixed up p.d.q. by the VW dealership!

Ontario fall colours emerging

Québec, here we come! Our pitiful grade 12 French, empathized by the gracious and mostly bilingual residents, made our visit to La Belle Province not quite as embarrassing as we had imagined. The old Quebec City fortifications, farmer’s market cheese, Le Ricaneux Portageur port wine, Wakefield, Vaudreuil-Dorion and the Eastern Township are but a sampling of Québec’s charms! Exploring the Gaspé Peninsula and north of the St. Lawrence Seaway are a must for our next trip.

Fresco mural in Sherbrooke, QC

Aahh New Brunswick! The forests and waterways of this pristine province are an outdoorsman’s paradise! It is also the king of recycling, providing less garbage disposal opportunities and more recycling and composting options than its neighbours. Kouchibouguac National Park was a delight, with its boardwalk, lagoon and sandy beaches. Camping by the Bay, a private campground located on Chaleur Bay in Black Point provided a spectacular site overlooking the beautiful water, sea birds, sea sounds and sunsets. All areas of NB such as Edmundston, Fredericton and Miramichi were filled with beauty and wonder!

Sunset over Chaleur Bay, NB

Prince Edward Island, accessed by the 13 km Confederation Bridge was a breathtaking, rolling, red-soiled, pastoral landscape. Cows Creamery ice cream, The Prince Edward Island Preserve Company in New Glasgow with their to-die-for raspberry cake, and the miles of sandy beaches for those long walks will be repeat attractions. Despite Arty getting egg on his face from some nefarious ne’er-do-wells at 3:00 am in a Walmart parking lot in Charlottetown (a fox came along and licked up the ground remains!), we were unaffected as we celebrated our 11th year wedding anniversary at the Prince Edward Island National Park campground.

Happy 11th Year Anniversary in P.E.I.!

The Fortress of Louisbourg and the Grand-Pré National Historic Site are a must to see in Nova Scotia, as well as dozens of other towns and attractions such as the picturesque home of the Bluenose: Lunenburg. This was also the stop for our seafood dinner at The Old Fish Factory with a gift certificate from friends. Visiting family in Hackett’s Cove and friends in Eastern Passage were welcome stops. A partial tour of the Cabot Trail on our way from Baddeck to Inverness whets our appetite for more exploration of this historic and breathtaking road.

Peggy’s Cove, NS

Newfoundland. As my opening paragraph would indicate, it is not just a hop, skip and a jump to get there. With rough seas more often than not, even the strongest of stomachs may find themselves spending more time in the head (toilet for you landlubbers) than on deck. Once on solid ground though it is a world of wild blueberries, unforgettable fish and chips at Chafe’s Landing Seafood Eatery in Petty Harbour, Vikings at L’Anse aux Meadows, stunning sunsets in Twillingate, the Tablelands in Gros Morne National Park, the Mummers, canned moose meat and moose collision stories with their genesis from a resident moose population nearing that of its human inhabitants. Unforgettable, wild, distinct and worthy of more than the two weeks we were on “The Rock.”

Viking dwelling at L’anse aux Meadows, NFLD

Click on the thumbnail images below for a larger view of our memories:

As you can see from our tip-of-the-iceberg tasting of Canada’s attractions there is so much to see and do in our vast country, and that’s without setting foot (yet!) in the northern territories, Labrador and the unexplored regions of the provinces we already visited.

This coming year will be a momentous one for both ArtsQuest.ca and us personally! With the launch of our marketplace website combined with another tour of duty (read fun!) across Canada combined with finding a permanent home for us, we will be busier than a mosquito at a nudist colony! Stay tuned for the seven remaining 2012 interviews that we will be posting for your viewing pleasure while at the same time springboarding into 2013!!

It Is All About The People

It Is All About The People

Today we are just east of Twillingate, Nl just west of Fogo Island.

We are almost at our half way mark (St. John’s, Newfoundland) of our lap around Canada and I would have to say it is filled with amazing people; and as far as I know none of them are famous sports figures, actors or politicians. Gary and I have had the unmistakable pleasure of being free from all media outlets and therefore have discovered many things about our part of the world in Canada and the people living here. Most people are good, kind, caring and honest folks.

Here is a glimpse into some of the people we have met.

In Napanee, Ontario, I randomly approached a guy on the street to ask directions to the tourist info centre and the next thing I knew, photographer Geoff Webster was offering to be our personal historical tour guide around the town. We spent a little over an hour with him and had the opportunity to meet his friend Holly who is a local jewelry designer and co-owns Frayed Around the Edges with her partner Ingrid, a clothing designer. Both Ingrid and Holly are strong advocates for buying handmade and buying local.

Historical Furniture Manufacturing Building in Napanee, Ontario

Lyn came up to Gary at the closed tourist info centre in Marmora, Ontario and asked if she could help him find something. He explained what we were doing and then without hesitation, Lyn invited us to stay at her mom’s cabin on Twin Sisters Lake about 15 minutes outside of town. We swam in the tepid water, enjoyed a scrumptious dinner and got to know a little bit about her and her family. Gary and I found out that her dad had passed away this past January and this was the first time her family and her mom had been to the cabin without him. He spent 30 years building the family cabin where Lyn and her sister grew up but unfortunately wasn’t able to fully complete it. What he did complete in his life time were a few volumes of wonderful family memories that will be his legacy for generations to come. I have to admit I was completely surprised after finding out about her father that Lyn would have invited us to stay but I am glad that she did as Gary and I thoroughly enjoyed our time with them. Thank you Lyn, Chris and Lois for adding another wonderful memory to our journey!

Twin Sisters Lake

In Peterborough, Ontario a nice man by the name of Jack rode his electric bicycle up to our picnic table. He came to admire Arty and stayed for about a half hour, regaling us with some of his life stories from the past 85 years. Jack was never a rich man but he always had what he wanted in life. He says you can have all that you want, just not all at the same time. Some good advice I’d say. He told us about the 58 cars he has owned over the years. Most of those he has bartered or traded for or found ways of acquiring without getting into debt or going to jail. As a matter of fact he tried to trade us a collection of antique clocks for Arty. His dream is to get his hands on a Westfalia and travel to Alaska.

In Sherbrooke, Quebec, Francesca accepted our CouchSurfing request even though she was super busy. She made us a wonderful squash soup with a roasted eggplant and feta cheese side dish and even hooked us up with an artist to interview in her area. When our stay was over she sent us on our way with a container of her delicious gourmet cupcakes. Crave Cupcakes, eat your heart out!

Amazing Fresco Mural in Downtown Sherbrooke

It has been our modus operandi on our trip to be last minute with our CouchSurfing requests because we don’t really know where we will be or when. CouchSurfing diva France from Edmundston, New Brunswick answered our call for a last minute couch. When we arrived at her home she greeted us and in the same breath was giving us instructions about the shower, internet WiFi and use of her hot tub as her and her daughter were running out the door to attend a family function. If we arrived a few minutes later we would have found a note stuck to the door with all the pertinent information. It is amazing how trusting people are! France told us later that it is better to think the best of people rather than the worst. When her and her daughter arrived home, we shared some laughs about gas station mishaps (ie. forgetting to pay and being surprised to see the police at your door) and some of her more colourful Couchsurfing guests. Although our time spent with France was brief, it definately was not without quality.

Road Life Ruminations

Road Life Ruminations

Notre Dame de Lourdes! Our first glimpse of a language foreign to our own. What isn’t foreign is the universal language of hospitality. This friendly little French town of 900 people was a welcome stop and refuge from the stifling heat. Their local municipal campground was well shaded, had power for Arty, brand new washroom and shower facilities, and some of the best water around, all for a modest fee of $15.00! Not only that but free wireless internet was available at the air conditioned gas station/convenience store where we could sit at a table and get some work done before we left town. As the locals would come in they would invariably say hi, and one of them even knows the family of a guy we know in Calgary who is from St. Claude. Funny how that happens. We have to say that it was one of our favourite stops!

We’re goin’ to Miami ami! That’s right, if it wasn’t for the lack of ocean, beach and bikinis replaced by vast fields of canola and wheat, the heat could make you believe otherwise in Miami, MB. The charm of this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it stopover was a general store that seemed to carry everything we wanted. Yummy Mennonite sausage, soft serve ice cream and singles of beer and coolers are just a few of our indulgences.

So get this! Seven years ago at a company meeting a complete stranger looked at my name badge and remarked, “Funk…good Mennonite name!” Up until that point I had no idea that I came from a Mennonite background, my father not continuing the traditions with us and also a very private person about his life growing up. So 35 years after my aunt from Canada’s Mennonite capital Steinbach, MB had visited us (I was of course just a mere babe then!), here we are rolling into town looking for long lost relatives and missing pieces of my father’s past. We were not disappointed as we got to spend some time with my Aunt Alvera and my two cousins Marilyn and Deb. My aunt also showed us the farm where my dad grew up, the original home no longer there, as well as dropping in on a first cousin of his and chatting for awhile, Neil regaling us with historical facts about the Mennonite culture as well as a few stories about my father. A great reunion of family!

Travel Adventures, Trials and Treats

Travel Adventures, Trials and Treats

Gorgeous Sunset in Hartney, Manitoba

Before I post our next artist blog and interview, I thought I would share some highlights and discoveries of our journey. We are currently in Ontario but haven’t really updated our adventures since Saskatchewan. When we crossed over the Saskatchewan/Manitoba border (first time for Gary, Marli and me but not sure about Arty), I half expected it to look completely different than Saskatchewan and Alberta. I was surprised when it did indeed have some obvious differences. The first thing I noticed was the shoulders on the highway were graded but not paved and there were surprisingly many more trees. It is still relatively flat but the farmers seem to farm around the many clumps.

We arrived in a desolate looking place called Pipestone hoping to find cheap camping with the basic but necessary amenities; bathroom. What I found was a rickety broken-down outhouse with the door on one hinge. This has been one of our challenges living on the road; trying to locate free or bargain priced campgrounds as we are working on maintaining a relatively strict budget and, in fact, come under budget if we can. This campground was no bargain at $20/night and so we moved on.

Another challenge we have faced is the internet usage. We purchased a mobile internet stick from Telus before leaving Calgary and discovered three things about it so far; it is possible to use most if not all of one’s 2 GB’s for the month in less than a month, it is basically useless if you are visiting Manitoba and parts of Ontario, and don’t try to use it if you just crossed over the USA border back into Canada or you may find, like we did, 15 MB of data used and roaming charges of $5/MB. Man, there is so much you can learn from experience!

Hartney, Manitoba Campground

Hartney, Manitoba Campground Surrounded By Wheat

Our next stop was Hartney, Manitoba where we found Pat Jackson and Janice McBrien for our next two upcoming interviews. The road into Hartney left a lot to the imagination when it comes to improvement and so it crossed my mind what we might find for a town. We were both pleasantly surprised at the quaint little community with adorable small town charm. We found the campground to be just what we were looking for and a bargain at $15/night. The internet problem still loomed but we found that driving around will sometimes lead to the discovery of unsecured internet. In this case, the local library was to be just the place for it and we were able to find some more low cost camping possiblities from a website called FreeCamping.com. The next day, after our interviews, we were on the road again heading east in search of the next stop.

Wawanesa Campground

Wawanesa would be our next stop (home of Wawanesa Insurance). Their municipal campground will be lovely when it is finished but in the mean time we stayed the night for free as it wasn’t officially opened (meaning we could stay but no money was changing hands at that point). Wawanesa reminds me of another challenge we have faced especially in the rural prairie provinces when it comes to eating. These communities have tiny little grocery stores with basic prepackaged foods that Gary and I don’t eat so it has been hard to find organic choices and even whole wheat bread (although there has been a nice selection of local meats). As we have noticed, many large vegetable gardens are growing in almost all the backyards and so I assume there is no demand for what we are looking for. Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan had this awesome organic store called Alternative Foods which we took the opportunity to squeeze as much food as we could in our tiny fridge. Two other lifestyle choices that are important to Gary and I are composting and recycling. The best thing, I have found, is to avoid packaging as much as possible but there again even the produce seems to come wrapped in plastic with a styrofoam tray. We do cart around a bag of recycling until we can find a place to deposit it. As far as the composting goes, we find an appropriate place along our route, dig a small hole and bury it and then let Mother Nature take it from there. There are certainly many logistics to work out on this trip and I am sure there will be more to come.

An Impromptu Visit to Medalta Potteries

An Impromptu Visit to Medalta Potteries

A secondary reason for making the journey across Canada was to explore and find out what Canada is all about. Neither Gary or I have ever really been east of Saskatchewan during our time alive and thought now would be as good as any. I have been told that you can never be 100% prepared for something and so here we are.

When we left Lethbridge, eyes wide with excitement, we had no idea what we would find along the way in addition to the people we would meet. So when we pulled into Medicine Hat with no plans to meet any artists it was a nice coincidence that we discovered the Medalta Potteries Museum. Not only did we feel like we were on a field trip but it also kept in line with the art theme of our journey.

We arrived at the front reception area where we met Chelsea. We had told her what we were up to and that we would love to cover a little video and do a blog about our findings and experience there. She kindly called her executive director and we quickly had the permission we needed. At the same time, Aaron Nelson showed up. He is the artistic director for the Shaw International Centre for Contemporary Ceramics which is adjacent to the Medalta Potteries site. Thankfully Chelsea took it upon herself to introduce us to Aaron and he graciously offered to show us the center and introduce us to some of the resident artists once we were finished in the museum. This was a wonderful addition to the museum and we did an impromptu interview with one of the resident artists, Annette ten Cate. Interview and blog coming soon!

I had heard so much about the clay deposits in and around Medicine Hat. Many of the potters we have interviewed so far get their clay base from this area. Also, I have seen many of the Medalta crocks in my meanderings but hadn’t put two and two together to realize where they actually came from. For everyone who owns one of these, now you will get a glimpse of where it was made and likely have a greater appreciation for it as the person who made it likely suffered under appalling working conditions.

Take a look at the video as Gary and Brittany narrate the journey through the Medalta Pottery factory which first opened in 1912.

Medalta Potteries from Corinne and Gary Funk on Vimeo.

Prairie Road Rambling in the Rider Pride Province

Prairie Road Rambling in the Rider Pride Province

Most Canadians, and possibly others, are well aware of the distinct green colour emblazoned, adorned (think hollowed out watermelon on head), or painted on bodies anywhere that an ardent Saskatchewan Rough Riders fan could possibly reach! And so it is also this green on the highway signs that guide us along the rural routes of this Land of Living Skies, and pull us from town to town in search of not only fine artists and artisans, but also the interesting, quirky and amazing!

A less than Smokey and the Bandit dramatic entry crossing the border into Saskatchewan left us cruising past gently rolling fields of green heading east in search of some cost effective WiFi and a coffee and cookie in Maple Creek. After our fill of both we headed off to Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park campground for a one night stay. Not exactly fitting in with our shoe-string budget accommodations but a nice stop nevertheless.

On to Eastend for a pleasant stay at the Riverside Motel and Campground run by Ed and Wendy. Very clean facilities with shower included and since we only needed power it was a great deal at $12/night. We also shared our cozy spot with an old chuck wagon, just one of many placed around the property, and also a beautiful array of birds that felt compelled to serenade and entertain us. Although definitely more fitting to our budget, Wendy felt bad that an ill-functioning smoke detector in one of the units may have kept us awake (we barely heard a thing), so she waived the fee altogether. Thank you Wendy and Ed, we will definitely recommend your friendly and hospitable accommodations.

On our way to Swift Current we rediscovered our unwelcome coolant leak and were quite concerned over the potential costs and delays to repair it, especially without our trusted VW mechanic close by. On top of that when I went to turn the LP gas on for the fridge and stove it seemed seized and wouldn’t budge an iota. It never occurred to my neanderthal brain that I forgot to close it in Eastend and I was now energetically trying to snap off the fitting while trying to control my less than gentlemanly language that would make a rig worker blush! As it turned out I broke the well corroded handle and I realized after (err…Corinne might have mentioned it), that it WAS ALREADY OPEN! It was also Sunday with stores closing early and with too much stress and tension for one day we conceded to camp in the casino parking lot and look for answers the next day.

Aahh, but there is always tomorrow, and contrast seems to bring perspective! The next day we looked at the coolant problem ourselves and deftly “fixed” a couple of suspicious looking thingys and it now appears to be leak-free, not noticing any more poisonous coolant spewing from Arty. As well, we were referred to an RV fix it place from Mike at Home Hardware and they gave us a handle for our LP tank free of charge from an old one they had lying around. Woohoo!

Our super upbeat day ended in Eyebrow at a free campsite that also has power and water with a nice quiet small town atmosphere and quaint business names such as Eye Candy for the local candy shop. We liked it so much we stayed for three nights in an effort to catch up on work. It also appears that Eyebrow is a stopping place for many Monarch butterflies as our campground was inundated with them throughout the lilac bushes. In between we popped out to Tugaske 11km away to interview luthier David Freeman, so be sure to stay tuned for his interview to check out his Timeless Instruments!

Below is a quick little montage of our travels!

Saskatchewan Part 1 Heading East 2012 from Corinne and Gary Funk on Vimeo.

Happy Trails!

Happy Trails!

After realizing that our power inverter was fried and there was nothing we could do about it at that time, we set off from North Vancouver towards Newfoundland, via our first stop in Squamish, B.C. There, we were fortunate enough to be hosted by Lina through the Couchsurfing community. We also met her partner Mike, her kids Taylor and Jacob, and their adorable little dog Oreo. The evening was spent indulging in great conversation and a nice cup of tea.

The next morning we were off to Pemberton and Whistler for our first three interviews on the road. Stay tuned for gorgeous lamp work from Andrea, Cheryl showing us the ancient art of precision basket weaving with Tulle Rush and Bull Kelp, and magnificent functional pottery from Vincent.

Coast Mountain Range

Pemberton is a great little town surrounded by 360 degrees of the majestic Coast Mountains. We had planned on staying the night at a provincial campground that we thought would be open and free, but unfortunately we were wrong. At this point we had aquired an uneasy feeling not knowing where we were going to bed down for the night. We drove all over the place and resigned ourselves to the MacDonald’s parking lot (if allowed), when I decided to e-mail Andrea (one of the artists we interviewed) and ask her if she knew of a place. She got back to us within minutes and said we could stay on her brother’s farm 20 km outside of Pemberton. Randy was waiting for us when we arrived and took us to a heavily forested, private riverside camp spot on his 65 acres. We had the river, the incredible view of the mountains to the east of us, the dreamy silence, except for the frogs singing their welcoming acapella, and all the vitamin N we could take in. We moved slowly through the morning as we languished in our idyllic setting; a hummingbird greeting us outside our window and delicious pancakes for breakfast. We then tested out our DIY portable shower stall, just for the purposes of sharing with you pictures of us using it and we even showed a bit of skin (Oops!).

No Peeking

We set out on May 2nd towards Lillooet via the Duffey Lake Road, a 101 km stretch that took Arty (our van) about two hours to complete. With grades of up to 13% (up and down), the windiness and sheer shoulders make for some deep breaths and sweaty palms. On top of that Arty handles like a bowl full of water!

Duffey Lake Road ~ One of the few straight stretches

Arriving in Lillooet we were excited at the prospect of our second chosen open and free campground located on BC Hydro land. Sadly our hopes and dreams were dashed as we discovered it was free but not open. We were fortunate to ask a fellow who gave us directions to another campground that was not open for the season but we could park overnight without cost and without bathrooms. Unbeknownst to the campground attendents we plugged in Arty and had heat on a chilly May night. We were grateful for the power discovery not only for the warmth but also because Arty decided to blow his fuse for the fridge and the water pump and since the fridge also runs on 120 volt we could still keep our food cold. In the morning we purchased some fuses but he blew again. Arty has a short fuse, we know that much; I guess we will see.

Good Bye 2011, Thanks for the Memories

We acknowledge the instrumental music contribution on this video of “Mr Bojangles” performed by Caelen Starblanket La Rocque with the original composition by Jerry Jeff Walker.

It’s the last few hours of 2011. Most years pass by and yet another and another without giving any of it at least a fleeting thought. I can honestly say this year wasn’t one of those years. So much has been done and so many things we chose to change. It is a year filled with memories we will never forget.

5 years earlier, Gary and I did a writing exercise and we each wrote a letter to a hypothetical person describing what our perfect day was like 5 years into the future; that day was July 17, 2011. Fortunately, I remembered that we had written these letters and we were able to check and see how they compared to the actual day. In my letter I described a setting that at the time seemed like it would only ever live in my imagination. Our home was a beautiful timber frame house on 100 acres of land, we were debt free and we lived our lives together according to our own design. I remember writing about the view from our balcony as I sipped a cup of my favourite tea in the wee hours of the morning while Gary carried on sleeping. It was so quiet except for some of natures most soothing sounds. The imagery was so vivid, as I think about it now I feel a warm glow of gratitude coming from my heart.

I can tell you that we currently don’t live in a timber frame on 100 acres but we did incinerate an established 8 year career, a house (not literally), a mortgage and all our debt. Now we have all 80 square feet of Arty and when we were on the road prior to winter we did get to wake up every morning with a favourite cup of tea and stare out at some of the most breathtaking natural settings for as long as we wanted. This is life according to our own design. For us, it doesn’t get better than that.

Although, 2011 is swiftly coming to an end, I have the opportunity to think about it a while and it puts a smile on my face. As we saunter into 2012, I am excited to see what lies on the road ahead and where our chosen path will take us. I think I will write another letter and date it January 1, 2017.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Do You Have Any Thoughts to Declare at the Border Crossing?

November 25, 2011 was the biggest shopping day this year in the US. They call it “Black Friday”. I’m thinking a more fitting name should be “Red Friday”. It’s really hard to believe given the economy woes that people still have credit to spend. When all was said and done, the American news happily reported that consumer spending was up by 7% over last year which is well over a billion shopping dollars. To exaggerate the point of madness even further, the news reported that a lady standing in line pepper sprayed her shopping opponents so she could get to her bargain basement deal first. Not only did she not get it, she now has a criminal record for assault. The final question remains unclear; are these billions of dollars cold hard cash people are spending, because if not, it certainly isn’t an occasion to jump up on the old soap box and yell out hip hip hooray! Business as usual, I suppose.

Gary and I merrily found our spot in line at the border and sat to wait briefly. We were on our way down state side not to participate in the festive madness but to do something real, spend time with family over a wonderful meal for American Thanksgiving. While waiting at the border I noticed the inscription on the Peace Arch that read “Brethren Dwelling Together in Unity”. I wondered….. where did it come from? When was it inscribed? What did it really mean? Our line moved quickly and then we found ourselves in front of an American border patrol person. The usual questions came…… where are you going? How long are you staying? Where are you from? The guy then asked us about our residence and employment and Gary honestly replied, “this van and nothing”. That’s when the curve ball came flying at us. He said, “If I let you in, what’s stopping you from never returning to Canada?” I don’t know……. is that a fair question? Why would we not want to return, this is our home even though we don’t have a permanent one at the moment. It never occurred to us that we would want to escape from Canada and seek refuge south of the border.

Meanwhile: Gary was doing a wonderful job running around trying to catch the curve ball before the guy called “you’rrrrre out!!!!!”; Marli had decided to drop a smelly little parcel in her litter box (maybe that was her way of expressing her thoughts on the whole matter); I was sitting there with my mouth shut and dreaming of a skit going through my mind. I wondered if it would have helped if I had a bottle of Molson Canadian in one hand, a hockey stick in the other and a maple leaf between my teeth while yelling out from behind the stem “I AM CANADIAN”. Perhaps that would have convinced the nice man that we had no intention of not returning to our beloved country. In the end, Gary charmed the fellow and we were thankful to spend Thanksgiving with our family.