10/02/2016

Last of the Island

{originally written and meant to be published on Aug 16, 2016}


It’s Wednesday morning as I write this. I’m sitting on an amplifier in the Winnie looking out at a familiar site that I thought I wouldn’t see again for another year. It’s funny how things work out sometimes…



We left Duncan last Thursday morning after playing our last show at Bird's Eye Cove Farm and headed North to the town of Ladysmith to get some leaf spring work done on the Winnie. We dropped it off at the shop and walked down to the marina, where we sat for hours watching the kayakers glide around the bay – slow dancing with the sailboats as they gently rocked on their anchored lines. By mid-afternoon we got the call from the spring shop that the work was done and we were good to go.

The next stop that afternoon was to another shop to get our brakes checked and hopefully install new shoes on the rear. When we got to the shop we were told they wouldn’t have time to get to it until tomorrow (Friday). We considered our options, knowing that we had to be up in Courtenay the next evening for a show, but also knew that the brakes needed some work before we head out on the long drive. So we camped out near the marina for the evening and dropped the Winnie off at 8am the next morning. We headed back to the marina (free wifi, shaded picnic tables and a small cafe – not the worst place to have to kill time) and waited for the call. 
And waited… 
And waited…
and…

By the end of the work day (4:30pm) it was clear we weren’t going anywhere. The shop didn’t complete the work and they are not open on Saturdays – so, we were stranded until Monday. We still had access to the RV as it was parked in the lot at the shop, and we could use it/sleep in it. Brad called Charlie (the owner of Roy’s Pub in Courteney) to explain the situation and cancel that evenings show. But this is where things turned around – Charlie was sending his shuttle van driver to pick us up (and the dogs) and bring us to Courtenay (1.5 hrs drive) and was going to put us up for the night in his travel trailer after the show, then bring us back to Ladysmith the next day. I completely taken aback by his generosity and outward offerings to help us out. So we arrived at the pub, got set up and played our first set. At the break, we were chatting with Charlie who introduced us to Diane and Garry - a lovely couple who happened to have an empty vacation rental two blocks away from the pub and were offering to let us use it for the evening – wow! We met Diane outside the carriage house at the end of the night, she showed us around and less than an hour later we were sound asleep in the big bed. 

The next morning we decided it would be best to rent a car for the rest of the weekend so we could continue on with the shows. Diane graciously drove us to the rental place where our GMC Savanna cargo van awaited. We loaded up the van and headed out to Lake Cowichan for that evenings show – which was tons of fun. We ended up camping out at the lake in the van (which was interesting and odd, but not something I hope to do again #vanlife). The next day we hung out at the lake until mid-afternoon, then loaded up and headed to Victoria for our last show of the weekend.

We left Victoria on Sunday evening after the show and headed back to Ladysmith to sleep in our own bed (in the parking lot of the shop). Monday morning arrived quickly as we awoke to the sounds of the large bay doors being rolled open and the chatter of the mechanics. We gulped down cup of coffee, packed up the dogs in the van and headed out to the park for the day. By 7pm we were finally on the highway headed back to Courtenay to drop off the van, and around 10pm we pulled the Winnie into a rest stop and shut it down for the night. 

Tuesday morning rolled out at a leisurely pace – coffee, breakfast, a 10-second tidy and then we carried on. We were headed back to Campbell River - back to the ferry terminal for Quadra Island. Our original plan for these few days was to head to upstate Washington from Victoria, and poke around until we were due back to Vancouver for Friday’s show – but since we had to be back in Courtenay and after the busy/stressful weekend, a trip back to Quadra seemed like the perfect remedy.




So here we are – parked in Troy’s laneway, looking around at all that is now familiar. Last evening we hiked out to the cliffs overlooking the ocean, illuminated by the full moon reflecting a perfect copy onto the surface of the water. My whole body exhaled and I felt like I was home.


8/03/2016

Quadra Island

In no time flat, you staked a claim on my heart and I was a goner...



Four amazing days of hard R’s and long A’s, strange conversations around a midnight bonfire, and one incredibly crazy water taxi ride. All because of one serendipitous meeting in Midland last November.

Tuesday afternoon we left Duncan and made the 4-hour trek up-island to Campbell River – a stunningly picturesque town where the brilliant blue seascape meets snowcapped mountains in the distance. We strolled around the bustling downtown before making our way to the ferry terminal where we would catch the boat for Quadra Island. The ferry ride was no more than 20 minutes and we were soon bombing around the twisty island roads. Following a recommendation, we made a stop at the Rebecca Spit Provincial Park, where we found a great ocean-front spot to park the Winnie and make some dinner, all while taking in the incredible vistas.






After dinner and a round of throwing stones at driftwood logs, we made our way to Joyce Road where a man named Bruce would be expecting us. 

Bruce: “So you know Troy?”
Brad: “Not really, no.”
Bruce: “So you know Kyle then?”
Brad: “No, not really”
Bruce: “… “
Bruce: “Ok… Well, let me show you around.”

And just like that we found a place to park the Winnie, hooked up some hydro and joined Bruce and Barb in their beautiful cabin for drinks and stories. We explained how we met Troy last November at a show back in Ontario and that when we arrived in BC we exchanged emails and now here we were. Troy was back in Campbell River for the evening (which we didn’t know until were already on the island) and would be returning the next day. 


The next afternoon we took a hike down to the lighthouse and walked along the rocky beach. And that’s when I felt it – the lump in my chest. The feeling I get when I am somewhere I never want to leave. I had it mildly in New Mexico but this was a bigger pull and it came on quick. When we got back to El Rancho Lamont we freshened up and joined Bruce and Barb for cocktails and were soon joined Troy. Conversations flowed, the evening grew on and it wasn’t long before we were packing it in. 

The following day we planned to head to the beach for some SUPing but the crazy wind kiboshed that. We hung out, drank beers and made plans for the evening. After dinner the three of us headed out to April Point to catch the water taxi over to Painters Lodge (across the channel) and get our drink on. The taxi over was a little choppy but nothing compared to the return voyage – see video below.

video

She’s a big boat, eh bye!

After returning to the island we headed to the local Inn/Pub and caught some live music, then trekked over to the Legion for a quadrathon of athletics in the form of extreme ping-pong, darts, foosball and air hockey. We closed the place down and found ourselves back at Casa Troy’s for an epic Ween listening party before calling it a night – an adventure packed and glorious one at that.


Saturday evening we headed back down to the Pub for open mic night (minus one didgeridoo). Brad and I awaited our turn and by the time we took the stage the place was hoppin’. We stayed and watched a few more acts before heading out to a party that everyone kept insisting we should go to. We parked the car at the end of a very dark road and walked the driveway past the house towards the barn where there was a Dj dropping some serious beats. However, when we stepped inside, we quickly realized there was no one else there – just the DJ and a bunch of brightly coloured lights. We made our way back up the driveway and came upon an empty bonfire, so we plopped ourselves down and started into the linguistic breakdown of the West coast accent. Folks slowly started joining us and it wasn’t long before we had a full group around the fire. Somebody pulled out a guitar, songs were sung, and I swear to god I wondered if they were filming an “Experience BC” commercial - aside from the guy who wore a corduroy blazer without a shirt underneath (Creepy Cole as he would later be referred to as). And just as quick as the group swelled, we picked our time and made our discreet exit – it was almost 2 am. The stars above the island are incredible - the expansive sky is littered with them, and when we arrived back at T’s we stood on the deck while side two of Rumours played and just looked up. It was officially my birthday and I was officially in love with this place. 

And then it was Sunday. Sometime mid-morning I looked out the front window and spotted an enormous bubble floating in the breeze, then another one, followed by another one. There was T with a crazy bubble-making, string-and-stick assembly (not the least bit Forrest Gumpy) creating these beautiful mammoth bubbles. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried, it was a thousand times awesome. So there we sat in our folding chairs (completely sober), watching these techicoloured orbs floating in the breeze  – only on Quadra.




After the bubbles, we packed up the SUPs and made our way to the beach. It was a gorgeous sunny day and the bay was calm. Brad and T paddled out and I was more than happy to perch my chair in the shallow water and take in the views.

We got back to the house just before 6pm and quickly got ourselves organized for our departure on the 7pm ferry back to Campbell River (and back to real life). I could feel the lump my throat, the one that comes up when I’m about to cry - the thought of leaving was breakin' my heart. But alas, we said our goodbyes, boarded the boat and were back on the TransCan heading southbound.

7/05/2016

A town after my own heart – Tofino



I remember the first time I heard about Tofino. Brad and I were watching an episode of the Rick Mercer Report and he was on location in the tiny town learning to surf. I remember it looked wild beautiful and of nothing I've ever seen before.

When we started planning our BC tour dates, the only must-visit town on my list was Tofino and as luck would have it, we booked two shows there.

We left Duncan last Thursday around mid-day and made a stop in Port Alberni to visit Brad's Uncle Dave. Dave has a pretty cool job – he is on the flight crew of the famed Martin Mars Water Bomber. Being family and all, we got a first class tour of the plane, which is otherwise closed to the public.








 After touring the plane and taking turns sitting in the pilot seats, we bid farewell to Dave and continued on Hwy 4 out to the Pacific Rim. The term Highway is used quite loosely to describe the road out to Tofino. It was nothing more than a paved logging road – full of sharp twisty-turns around cliffs and constant ups and downs – very reminiscent of the coast highway in California. It took us a gruelling two hours to make our way out to the peninsula, but lordy when we got there it was spectacular. Giant redwoods, long-stretching wild beaches and surfboards mounted on every passing car, van and bicycle.






We covertly slept that night in one of the trailhead parking lots just outside of town. Friday we took to exploring the town (which isn't very big and didn't take long). We poked around in all the little shops, drank some coffee and ate the biggest 'old fashioned plain' doughnut I've ever seen. We also hit up the local brewery and enthusiastically drank our way through their entire lineup (resulting in a nap in the parking lot before we headed back out to the beach – the benefits of traveling with your own bed).

The next day we played a show at the Tofino Public Market, held in the centre of town at the park. The crowd was a fair size and just before we took to the stage, Anne the market manager casually mentioned that Sarah McLachlan was strolling around - and then she pointed her out to me (gah!). My hands instantly began to sweat, my heart rate quickened and I was nervous. Afterall, this was the woman who single-handedly spawned my entire musical path (... after I attended a Lilith Fair concert when I was 15 years old I immediately signed up for a guitar class and the rest is history). I couldn't believe she was like 'right there'. I couldn't bring myself to approach her, or even covertly stand behind her while getting Brad to take a photo (he urged, but I just couldn't, lame-o me).

We played two sets, which flew by, sold a bunch of cds and left the market feeling pretty damn good. We had a second show that night in Port Alberni, back across the two-hour road from hell. What seemed like four hours later we pulled into the parking lot of Char's Landing – an old church turned performance hall/public house. We played to a wonderful group of folks and passed out pretty much right after the show.

The next morning we stocked up on groceries and headed back out to Tofino (clearly we're suckers for punishment). We had a show that night (Sunday) at Jamie's Rainforest Inn. The folks at the Inn were super awesome, supplying us with tasty beverages during the show and an amazing meal at the end. Then they handed over a room key - BONUS! When we opened the door to our room we cracked up laughing. The room consisted of four sets of bunk beds and two bathrooms with sinks and toilets only - no shower (the only thing were were looking for, since we were going to sleep in the RV anyway). We stood outside the room for a few minutes trying to figure out what to do, before heading to the front desk to inquire. While making our way to the front desk we passed by a door that indicated there were shower facilities inside, so we tried our keycard and it unlocked. There were found eight stalls of clean and fresh showers (much like at an RV park). Having a roomy, stand-up shower with unlimited hot water was the best perk of the night.

The next morning we sat in the parking lot of the Inn, drank our coffee and mentally prepared for the drive back across our favourite highway.


6/02/2016

British Columbia - One Month Down


Another month has gone by in the blink of an eye and just like that we’re staring down the beginning of June. The local coffee shops are filled with students cramming for exams and preparing for the next chapter of their lives – making decisions about where they want to work and live as they enter into adulthood. I remember those days well and if someone told me then that in 10 years I’d be leaving it all behind to live in an old Winnebago and travel the country, I would have cocked an eyebrow and said “you’ve gotta be shittin’ me”. But alas, here we are, 11,0000 miles and five months under our belt, parked in the middle of a lush green farm field surrounded by trees and sky-scraping cliffs on beautiful Vancouver Island. 

The month of May was spent ping-ponging around British Columbia. We spent time in the Okanagan Valley, day tripped in Kamloops and Salmon Arm, met a wonderful couple who are just starting out their classic Winnebago restoration and played many awesome shows in some of the coolest places. 


{Atop a cliff just outside of Vernon}

{Salmon Arm}

{Just outside of Chilliwack - our free, riverside camp site - where we stayed for a few days}





{On the shores of Lake Cowichan - a lovely little RV park}



 And while we love traveling around and have ever-changing daily views, June brings a new adventure of the stationary kind. Nestled on the eastern coast of Vancouver Island, down the twisty-turny Genoa Bay road lies Birds Eye Cove Farm. A picturesque, family-run farm – and our home for the next two months. We’ve got a regular gig here every week playing tunes at the barn for their wood-fired pizza nights (which also means we get to eat pizza for dinner twice a week - holla!). We played our first show on Monday and it was a blast.



We’re in the works of launching our brand new monthly newsletter and some new videos to share - if you haven’t signed up yet (and would like to) - you can do so through our Facebook page (sign-up link is at the top) or on our website. We’re also working on our fall tour which will having us heading back across the country and back to Ontario by the middle of October. We’d love to set up some house shows for November - holler at us if you’d like to host one (psst, their super fun). We're also organizing another tour through the US scheduled to start January 2017, we would love suggestions on where to go/what to see this time around...

Talk at'cha again soon,
-a.


4/28/2016

Plaid shirts, Starbucks and Pearl Jam – Welcome to Seattle

Seattle was both amazing and defeating all at the same time. We followed our map to an address on capital hill, the heart of old town Seattle. We arrived at a pre-midcentury abode, home to the Beery family. The Beery House has become quite a fixture of the local music scene, hosting legendary house concerts for more than 20 years. Their modest home stands high on the hill, dwarfed on either side by multi-unit, state-of-the-art housing developments where single-family dwellings once thrived. 

Out front of the house there was a set of saw-horses tied to a stretched out rope – a make-shift blockade. This was the handy work of Max Beery, assuring that we’d have a place to park the Winnie when we arrived. It wasn’t long before we were greeted by the man himself – a chatty, kind-hearted fellow who instantly made me feel at ease. Within 15 minutes of us getting parked we were standing in his living room as he handed over his transit passes and gave us the lay of the land. There was a dog park right around the corner, so that was stop number one. After Winnie and Hank had burned off their pent up energy, Brad and I set out on foot to check out the Pike Street Market. After what seemed like 1500 city blocks (actually, only 8 – but still) we arrived at the bustling and chaotic market. Fish vendors, flower merchants and artisans galore – this place was crazy busy with a mix tourists and locals. As we made our way through the busy market, we looked up and were standing face to face with Jim and Judy. We both had that “you gotta be effin’ kidding me” look and were laughing and hugging as if we hadn’t seen each other in years. Neither we, nor them had any plans or idea to meet in Seattle….

After we finished exploring the market we headed back to the Beery house to start prep for the show. When we got back we met The Lasses – a female duo from Amsterdam who were also on the bill for the evening. Around 6:30pm folks started showing up and before our eyes the Beery house transformed into ‘the spot to be’ in Seattle that night! By the time we took the stage there were approx 60-70 people crammed in the upstairs loft with smiles from ear to ear - this is a house where music brings a community together – it’s more than just people sitting in chairs listening – it’s a place where friends are made instantly and invited for dinner the next evening, a place where people come for the first time and are immediately asking when the next show is, a place where we will definitely return to next spring and for years after – as long as the invitation is open. To Max and Theresa, thank you for including us and letting us come along for the musical ride, what you have created is nothing shy of legendary.


We hung around Seattle the next week, awaiting our next show at Cafe Racer. Brad and I are not city-folks, so we headed for the hills in search of space, quiet and flat ground to play some competitive badminton. We found a fantastic lake-front park in the town of Auburn and spent a few days playing in the sun and taking the odd dip in the frigid waters – it was just what we needed, hypothermia aside.

The morning of our last Seattle show, we headed into the city and hung around until load-in time – only to find that the bar had forgot we were coming (despite having our posters on the wall…). A local guy was playing that night and had lined up a bunch of other local bands to help fill the night. We were offered a 30-minute set for no money, we declined, then hit the highway. We pulled into a rest stop a few hours later, downed half a bottle of pecan whiskey and hit the hay. The next morning we continued on our way, a little foggy and still a little bummed but all that changed when we pulled into Winthrop. Hours of climbing steep hills and curvy mountainous terrain, through sprawling valleys where cattle and horses roamed, we arrived at the most picturesque, right-out-of-a-movie, old western town – Winthrop – it was incredible. To top it off, we were playing at Old Schoolhouse Brewing, located in the heart of the town. The show went great, we had a few tasty beers and we found a place to park and stay the night in town – beauty.







The next day we set our GPS for Republic – the last show of our four month tour in the US. That night we were set to open for The Ben Miller Band who were on a night off from their regular gig opening for George Thorogood. It was also a hometown show for the band and the 65 tickets sold out in less than one hour. We played to a fantastic crowd and spent the rest of the evening drinking great beer and listening to awesome music – it was the perfect way to cap off the tour.

Sunday morning we got tidied up, organized the RV and headed for the boarder. We were a bit nervous about the crossing and were expecting to be held-up for a lengthy inspection. To our total and utter surprise, we breezed through in less than three minutes – we didn’t even have to wait in line. WTF?!?!?!

So here we are, back on home turf –  it feels good to be “home” yet strange and unfamiliar all at the same time. We’ve spend the last few days roaming around the Okanogan Valley, getting acquainted with BC – a place neither Brad nor I have ever been. We broke down and booked a night at an RV park for this evening to get caught up and to recharge our batteries. The past four months have flown by and as we crossed into Canada I couldn’t help but feel a little sad. Our time in the US had been the start of something so much more than just a music tour. We’ve learned many things, met many incredible people and shared in so many unbelievable experiences. I look forward to our time exploring the West coast but to be completely honest, I can’t wait to hit the "road" again.

4/14/2016

If your going to San Francisco....


Silicone Valley. The land of self-driving cars, tech nerds and crazy busy highways.
We made our way into Mountain View from Morgan Hill for our show at Red Rock Coffee and were extremely lucky to find a parking spot on the street right outside of the venue. Money. While we were sitting in the rig awaiting our load-in, two faces appeared in the window and scared the shit out of me. My brain finally registered that it was Jim and Jude and not a couple of curious weirdos. We chatted for a bit and got caught up, then headed inside to set up for the show. 

The stage/performance area was on the second floor of the building and was a huge room. There were already a ton of folks sitting up there and most of them stayed for the show. The night was great! We met so many cool folks who loved the music and happily cleared out the merch table. We pulled out of town that night with full hearts and a stuffed tip jar :)


Two words. San Francisco.
It didn’t take long before I knew I loved this city. The hills, the views, the crazy amount of Japanese tourists - all of it. We stayed at a {sketchy} RV park in Vallejo and took the bike in for an afternoon of sight seeing. Our first stop was to Sausalito - man, this place is gorgeous and awesome. My sister told us to try and check out the Record Plant - the famed studio where Rumors was recorded (not to mention a ton of other incredible albums). With a bit of googling, we found the location - tucked away in the industrial-area of the harbour. The studio is not in operation anymore and instead houses a yoga studio/retreat centre. We poked around and were invited inside for a mini-tour after we were caught meandering about. The place still had all the mojo and was incredible. 





After Sausalito, we headed into the thick of it. Our first stop was Haight-Ashbury. We parked the bike and walked a few blocks. The smell of pot and unbathed hippies filled the air. It was a very eclectic scene. We left H/A and toured around on the bike for a bit. Up and down the crazy hills and taking in all the charm of the victorian mansions painted in an array of candy-coated colours. We even made a quick stop to check out the famed Painted Ladies. There were so many folks on the park hillside that my dream of recreating the Full House intro was quickly dissolved. Since it was getting on in the afternoon and we didn’t want to experience the San Fransisco rush hour, we bid farewell. We made our way out of the city, through the rainbow Robin Williams tunnel and blazed across the Golden Gate Bridge. The bay was calm, the sun was shining and it seemed like the perfect way to cap off our visit. 

The next day we started the trek North once again. We passed through Napa and Sonoma, where every inch of hillside was covered in row after row of grapevine, and made our way back to the coast highway. That evening while we were looking for a place to hunker down for the night, we came across an unmanned state park campground. The signage stated there was an 18’ maximum length for RVs – hm, that wasn’t going to work. We started to back out and noticed a gravel road that seemed to lead to the “Day Use Only” area. With absolutely no one around, we decided to see where the road would lead. The road was less than a mile long and at the end was a small grassy area on top of the oceanside cliffs. It was stunning. We decided to make some dinner and wait to see if anyone would come around to boot us out. We ate, had a few drinks and watched the sun set over the ocean - it was perfect. Around 10pm it was evident that no one was coming to lock the gate, so we climbed into bed and had a great nights sleep. The next morning we woke up to a heard of free-range cows surrounding the rig. There was at least a dozen of them. All standing there, crewing on grass and watching us from the window. Winnie was loosing her shit and was whining to be let outside. Once we were up and moving around inside, they quickly lost interest and started their migration to another field.



Two days later we made it to McKinleyville. Two solid days of switchback turns and steep inclines up the so-tired-and-totally-over-it coastal highway. Northern California has a very different vibe – the sky is more grey than blue and a thick curtain of fog hangs around until mid-afternoon. Gone are the palm trees, replaced with evergreens and giant redwoods. We played a show at Six Rivers Brewing - which was a great spot with a beauty selection of brews. It was our last gig in California and it was a great way to cap off our time there.

The next day we crossed the state line into Oregon. It was nice to see that the highway rest stops had resumed (there were none in California) and it wasn’t long before the Marijuana Dispensaries started appearing (recreational pot is legal in the state of Oregon and Brad felt it was only right to exercise this civil liberty).

We made it to Eugene for our Sunday afternoon gig at Sweet Cheeks Winery. This place was gorgeous – perched atop a hill, nestled in the rolling landscape. As we started unloading our gear we saw another RV making its way up the long driveway and right away knew it looked familiar – it was Jim and Jude! We played to a great crowd of folks, drank some fantastic wine with friends and had an all ‘round beauty Sunday.


The next day we made our way to Portland. We grabbed a spot at an RV park in Jantzen Beach (across the river) and drove the bike into the city to do some exploring. Portland has a great vibe. We went to a few guitar shops, drove through some of the gorgeous old neighbourhoods and managed to get caught up in the rush hour traffic. It was a quick trip into the city but we’re coming back for a few shows in October and I’m looking forward to having more time to see what the city has to offer.

We played on Tuesday night at a great little spot in Hillsboro – just outside of Portland. Owned by Mike and Gayle - who we met through our good buddy Marc. It was a fantastic night! We'll definitely be stopping back in on our next visit.

Today we're hanging out in Olympia, getting in some much needed internet time at the Public Library then we're going to explore the city. Tomorrow we're playing a house show up in Seattle with a duo from Amsterdam. Looking forward to checking out Seattle too.

My apologies for the ultra-long post. Too much time sleeping in cow paddy’s without internet.
See you soon,

-a.