2017

I knew this would happen…

I would get complacent and stop updating my blog, too busy enjoying myself, taking photos, hiking, finding camp spots, and dealing with the ups and downs of vanlife.

I will only be updating my Vlog (youtube channel) for the time being, as you may have noticed.

It has been a challenging and frustrating year so far, which has given me much pause to think about wtf I’m doing.  So, please subscribe to my channel for updates:

Angela M.’s YouTube Channel

And please if you don’t already follow me on Instagram for the most recent photos on the road. 🙂  Thank you and I hope you’re having a better 2017 than I am…

IT CAN ONLY GET BETTER FROM HERE!

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Portland, Local Natives & Tillamook SF

Monday, September 19th

After spending two days at Elma RV park ($35 for 2 nights w/ Passport America discount) in SW Washington State, I head south to Portland. At a rest stop I giggle at a guy who has his feet up on the dash while he airs out his socks on the drivers side door window. Also interesting I note that they are serving free coffee and cookies at this rest stop. Nice! I let Dresy out to sniff the grass and scratch the trees, then head to cross the Columbia River which separates WA and OR. I check into Jantzen Beach RV Park on Portland Island for the night at $31.50 (w/ Good Sam discount). I let Dresy explore a bit outside while a squirrel with a peanut in his mouth squawks at him from a tree. I rest up a bit, then hit the showers and start to get ready for my night out. My Lyft driver, Drew picks me up at 5pm, just in time for the rush hour commute. But I am starving and want time to find somewhere to eat. Drew and I talk about minimalism, how selfish and materialistic Americans are (he’s from Scotland) and he tells he how much respect he has for what I’m doing. I wish we could have continued our conversation over dinner as he’s an interesting guy, MMA instructor and like minded. My first connection in Portland is a good one, so the evening starts out promising. Arriving on Burnside Street in downtown, I walk around the block and find a lil restaurant that is nearly empty and looks inviting with all wood interior and the beet salad on the menu catches my attention. I also had a veggie linguine dish with zucchini, corn, cherry tomatoes, green beans and pumpkin seeds. After reading the free local guide over dinner, I walk to McMinimins to have a few beers before the show. I order a Stephen Weizen draft and it is a dark, unfiltered wheat, so it hits the spot. I see people lining up inside as the doors open at 7pm and the show starts at 8, so after a couple of beers, I head upstairs to the Crystal Ballroom. I love experiencing new music venues. The opener is Charlotte Day Wilson from Canada. She sounds a bit like an R&B Portishead to me, which is a nice mellow vibe to get the crowd ready for Local Natives. I saw LN at Float Fest last summer in San Marcos, TX and they blew me away. He is known for jumping into the audience and crowd-surfing while singing the chorus to “Sun Hands.” After a day of floating in the river, and ending with an amazing show, I must highly recommend if anyone is interested in the festival. (which I typically don’t enjoy due to the large amount of people, but this wasn’t too bad at all, as they are pretty limited on outdoor space next to the river)

Back in the Ballroom, I lose my earring and try to search for it with the light from my phone. A few people help me and that breaks the ice and we start talking. It turns out the couple in front of me are from N. TX and just moved in Portland in June. We chat while waiting for the headliner to start and they give me suggestions on where to go and what to see around the area. What a nice couple! We exchange Instagram usernames and I tell them how good it was to meet them. Small world!

Local Natives has a new album out called “Sunlit Youth” but they do not disappoint and play lots of old stuff. It is so fun being in a new city seeing one of your favorite bands plays. Everything around me is new, yet this familiar music that sweeps into your veins feels so comfortable and warm. I danced around, sweating and sung my heart out to a band that is incredible live. They are a fairly new band out of LA, I think they’ve only been together for 6 years, but they already have a very loyal following and it is clear why. Taylor Rice didn’t crowd-surf this time but made a point to walk into the crowd and high five people along the barricade set out to my left. I left the ballroom completely high on beautiful indie music and went to have another Stephen Weizen while I wait for the crowd outside to order their Ubers and clear out. It’s surprisingly kind of busy for a Monday night at McMinimins and as I pay for my beer, I see why…. Reverse Happy Hour, sweet! It turns out McMinimins has its own unique history. They are a restaurant/bar and hotel. The rooms in the hotel are each different and very funky… so Portland. Apparently there is also one that is supposedly haunted according to Drew, (as we both chuckled at the idea that ghosts actually exist). Uneventful ride home and I am happy to see Dresy and hope he’s been okay for the past 7 hours. He purrs sweetly as I cuddle him and it appears he has missed me.

Tuesday, September 20th

After a shower, I check out at noon and head to Petco, Camping World, and Fred Meyer (the Kroger equivalent in the Pacific NW). I stock up on fruit and salad (okay, and maybe a few dark chocolate bars). Then head to Tillamook State Forest for some dry, dispersed camping ($0). As I turn off on Fork Road, there is a big sign that reads “Oregon Prison Camp” … Yes, I saw the warning on the FreeCampsites.net but knowing it’s a mile from camp and a highly trafficked area, I go anyway. I pass the camp and head to find a campsite. I pull into an area with about 6 campsites. A guy in a red truck is behind me and I let him in first. He picks a site in the back and I pick the one that is the most level, near the front and back in while he starts to set up camp. He’s a young guy and I don’t feel threatened whatsoever, in fact I am glad he is here and I’m not alone out here. I have no cell signal and naturally no internet. Which reminds me of that saying, “The woods: we don’t have Wi-Fi but we promise you’ll find a better connection.” It is so lush and green here, and there is a small creek that you can hear trickle. However, I also hear OHV (off highway vehicles) in the distance, which is the only disappointment about this site.

Dresy is by my side snoring heavily (for a cat) and as the sunsets, I ponder the day tomorrow. The forecast shows no rain, sunny to partly sunny with a high of 70.

Wednesday, September 21st

Woke up at 4am to sounds of scuffling outside my van that went on for hours. It was pitch black out so no idea what it was but I finally got to sleep only to wake up at 10 to the sound of a motorbike revving its engine. Okay, so my camp is an OHV staging area, I figured like most, they don’t get folks until closer to the weekend. So, I decide it is time to head out and find another campsite. That’s one good thing to having your home on wheels, breaking camping takes about 30 seconds. I head to Tillamook Forest Center 5 minutes up the road, explore a bit and ask the worker there if he knows of any dispersed camp sites. He gives me a map and tells me where to go. After letting Dresy out to enjoy the mid-day sunshine, we go in search of Cedar Creek Road to find a spot near the Wilson River. After passing a logging truck on a gravel road I get worried that I won’t find a peaceful spot, but I keep going and find a nice, quiet designated campsite nestled near the river and settle in. There isn’t too much traffic back along this road and I have only seen one ATV pass by, so I am content with my selection. I finish the evening with the final Woody Allen dvd I brought that I didn’t sell (which now I regret), “A midsummers night sex comedy.” All I have left to watch sans Wi-Fi is MJ live in concert, Baraka and Winged Migration. Both of which I have already seen and are more meant for sharing with someone whom has not seen. (note to self… make room for more dvds!)

Thursday, September 22nd

Woke up around 10 am to the sounds of… nothing. What a peaceful nights sleep compared to yesterday! I had my morning cup of joe followed by half a golden honeydew melon. I finished reading a book while Dresy and I waited for the clouds to part to show blue skies. As the afternoon sun finally peaked through the clouds, it began to warm and so I leave Dresy to nap while I take my cameras and head to the creek.

I often wonder what people think as they pass us, solo woman with her cat… and as much of an introvert as I am, I am half tempted that they stop and converse. No such luck, so I return to my solitude and the unconditional love of my feline.

When you’ve been camping alone for days without internet and no cell signal, you start to have conversations in your head with those that you miss (or replaying ones you’ve already had). As I sit around camp basking in the sunshine, I wonder what book to read next. But then reality sets in and I have things to deal with… my full gray tank that won’t budge, the places to sleep in the following nights along the 101. But without internet, it’s hard to find an answer. I bought the only thing Camping World at Hillsboro, OR had to clean your tanks (sensor probes) but the directions say to empty your tank first. Well, that’s the issue so I don’t really want to waste a bottle of solution in a full tank. In Portland I called a Septic Tank company and asked them if they could blast my tank for me, and they were puzzled and never had the question posed to them before. But RV tank or Septic tank, to me it’s all the same, just blast whatever is causing the issue and problem solved. So, I guess I will have to solve all these RV issues on my own as no one is willing to help or they are so backed up with other requests, I’d have to wait a MONTH to make an appointment.

So my plan is to head to the next car wash and open my gray tank valve and blast it with pressurized water. If anyone gives me dirty looks for thinking I’m cleaning my black tank out I will gladly give them a “fuck you lookin’ at” stare.

Hello Canada!

I wish I had given myself more time at Glacier National Park. I was mostly concerned how Big Edna would traverse Going-to-the-Sun Road. But when I go to St. Mary’s Visitor Center, I came to the conclusion it would be best to take the shuttle instead (it’s free after all). I have a national parks pass so no fee for me, which is nice because otherwise it’s $30 per car at Glacier! And all of the campsites surrounding a national park are going to be pricey, so you just gotta grin and bear it. So, early on Thursday morning I take the shuttle up to Logan’s Pass while Dresy sleeps in the van in the parking lot at St. Mary’s. Not 15 minutes into the ride we see a line of traffic stopped on the side of the road and everyone is pointing and taking pictures. Yup, we see a brown bear. He is sitting in a field munching on a breakfast of berries. He seems used to all of the attention and pays us no mind. Our bus driver couldn’t stop and there was nowhere to park, hence no pictures. 😦

get off at Logan’s Pass, use the facilities and head up the boardwalk which leads to Hidden Lake Trail. Half way up the boardwalk it is apparent I am not used to the altitude, even though LP is not very high elevation. I quickly feel immensely out of shape. The hike up doesn’t look that steep from the outset, but you definitely feel it going up.dsc_0285

I try to take my time and not overdo it but I can feel my muscles shaking. This hike would be a lot easier 80 pounds lighter! So I find motivation to continue on, and remember one of the main reasons why I’m doing this in the first place! I stop along the way and snap photos and take video and don’t forget to breath and take it all in. I glance around to check for bears periodically and try to make some noise. There are wildflowers, waterfalls, streams and wildlife on the way up, so it’s easy to get distracted and lose track of time. Once I reach the overlook, I see that the hike is worth it. (3 miles RT, another 1.5 to Hidden Lake)
I see a little mountain goat family and snap these photos.dsc_0369DSC_0378.JPG

I have some motorcycle enthusiasts back home and feel compelled to tell them to add a drive through GNP on GTTS Road to their bucket list — It is epic!  (just search on YouTube: “Going to the Sun Road”)

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Hidden Lake Overlook

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The descent goes quickly, as I try to hustle down I see it is getting busier and I’m glad I started my day early. I need to cross the border today and get to Calgary before the sun sets.

When I get to the crossing at Carway, they took my word that I had a rabies certificate for Dresden, but when they asked me what I did for a living and I told them I was unemployed, that’s when he asked me to pull off. (oh boy here we go!)
I didn’t want to lie to a government official, but part of me is wondering if I had would they have let me pass without further inspection???
So, I pull the van under an inspection area and a Canadian Border Services Agent approaches me, asks for my passport, drivers license and tells me to step into the waiting area. I walk in and there is a large family and a couple. After waiting for what seems an hour, he calls me in and proceeds to ask me numerous questions about where I’m going, who is Elaine in Calgary, and what my plans are. After explaining everything to him as patiently as I can, he wants to know what my assets are, what my bank accounts hold, cash on hand and what I have in the van. He wants to know how many firearms I have even though I told him I have zero. I guess from Texas you’d think I’d have at least one?! He goes through my phone (text messages and emails) and reads the correspondence between Elaine and I. And after two hours of vetting and me explaining why I quit my job, he still is on the fence about me trying to emigrate to Canada to find work. He does not search my van and after I offer to call my bank to verify my funds, he backs down and proceeds to tell me that I’m clear to go but if I do want to live and work in Canada there are procedures and permits I need to obtain. I tell him I understand and thank him for his time.

I proceed to drive to Calgary and am further delayed by construction for an ungodly amount of miles and traffic. Arriving at Elaine’s I am thankful to be off the road for a few days and we sit and chat and have dinner as I call it an early night. The 3 mile hike at GNP wore me out. Dresy quickly makes himself at home and we sleep peacefully.

It’s Friday, September 2nd and while Elaine is at work, I go get currency exchanged, and run a few errands. I meet a super friendly and helpful couple at Home Depot who wanted to know if I was a Cowboys fan when I told them where I was from. I’m not a sports fan, but I know that’s what most people tend to gravitate towards when trying to break the ice with a stranger. I get some odd looks around town as their plates are in red text and mine are black and bold TX plates. After returning to Elaine’s townhouse for the day, it starts hailing hard. Marble sized pellets bang on my van and from the second floor I can see that I have a hairline crack in my roof. Just wonderful. Two weeks on the road and repairs already, ugh!

After getting supplies for our camping trip on Saturday, we head out Sunday morning to Banff. It is colder than normal for this time of year, she tells me. The clouds look heavy, but I’m hopeful that they will pass by noon. The fee to get into Banff is only $10, surprisingly. We visit the little town, the springs, and proceed to Lake Louise but it is far too busy and no parking. Being a holiday weekend, we decide to forego it and visit other smaller places like Fader Lake and Hemlock Grove.dsc_0430DSC_0440.JPG

The weather tries to improve but doesn’t seem to get any better until we arrive at Golden. We have lunch with a couple with a log cabin that Elaine knows from her travels to Mexico. Renee prepares a sandwich made from the tomatoes and basil in her garden as well as a beet soup. I drink a cider with mine and then she serves a cherry pie (also from her fruit tree) and coffee. All is delicious and as we enjoy their view and play with their dog, we reminisce about our vacations to Mexico.
Our destination is only a thirty minute drive to Heather Mountain Lodge. (A small place close to the Trans-Canadian Highway.) We relax and enjoy the view as the sun sets behind the mountains. The campfire is lit and I shiver as I try to get closer to warm my southern bones. I am not used to the chill at night here and can’t wait to crawl in the comfy hotel bed and sleep. The following morning we have a $16 breakfast buffet then hit the road to Vernon. We stop at the Swan Lake Farmer’s Market and a visit to Elaine’s mum. She is 100% Scottish and is so sweet and cute.
We spend a week at the campground, leaving only once to visit the wonderful Vernon Farmer’s Market, as she assures me the produce here is amazing. She is correct!  I had to restrain myself from buying too much because everything looked so fresh. All local and all organic!  I bought huge honey crisp apples, green beans, carrots, coronation grapes, heirloom tomatoes, a jar of curried pickles and a jar of pickled beet & cabbage salad.
Ellison Provincial Park is nice but I only wished it could’ve been warmer. Okanagan Lake is a lovely emerald green with clear waters. Vernon looks like a Tuscan village with its orchards and vineyards on the hills… not that I would know what the Tuscany looks like, but it’s what I’d imagine. Elaine has camped here her whole life and she’s quite fortunate in that regard.DSC_0483.JPG

As the campground quickly fills with the weekend crowd, I leave on Saturday and head west.