Scootin’ San Juan Island

scootin san juan map


scoot coupe

Almost a year to the day from my last visit, I set sail for San Juan Island, this time to explore more of what the island itself had to offer. Rather than take my car across on the ferry, I elected to rent a scoot coupe: a two-seater, three-wheeled moped that tops out around 40 miles per hour. The only thing standing in my way was the fact that my moped experience was limited to riding on the back of my second host father’s scooter in Taiwan–I’ve really always been more of an indoor kind of rebel, saving my leather wear for goth clubs and looking cool rather than for anything that might require that sort of protection.

My rental place did go over the ins and outs of driving a scoot coupe: don’t leave one of the buttons pressed in or your battery will drain. You have to manually disengage the turn signal because otherwise it will just keep blinking forever. Always put the wheel chock in front of a tire when parked. Always engage the brake lock when parked because of the inevitable kids playing on and around the coupe and their tendency to dislodge the chock. There is no reverse, one of you will have to get out and push in a reversing situation. Don’t go on any road that’s not on the provided map. Don’t try to u-turn on any of the roads because your turn radius is so enormous you’ll end up in a ditch. Speaking of which, pull over when cars are behind you so you don’t impede traffic but don’t just pull over blindly or you’ll probably end up in a ditch (don’t end up in a ditch). Got all that? Ok, drive that baby across the parking lot. You now have ten feet of experience and out into traffic you go! Of course, I immediately got flustered and missed the first turn, which meant poor Jason had to figure out the map and shout the new directions out at me because those big ass-helmets they have you wear are not super conducive to hearing. Or my ears clamp shut when I’m in a panic-type situation. Maybe both.

Once I got the hang of things (which actually happened fairly quickly), I had a lot of fun driving the scoot coupe. It felt like I’d somehow escaped a carnival with a souped-up bumper car, and had a great time careening around corners with the wind blowing in my face. It was late in the year, so there wasn’t a ton of traffic on the roads save for other scoot coupes, and we always honked and waved, which made me feel like I was part of a tiny adorable gang.

Since you can essentially drive around the island in one big loop, my first stop was at American Camp. As I’ve briefly talked about in a previous post, San Juan Island was the site of a territory dispute between the United States and England, with the island’s strategic position between the United States and Vancouver island, and as a result, both Americans and the English attempted to settle it. One day, an American farmer, Lyman Cutlar, found a pig digging up and eating his potatoes (not for the first time, either), so he shot it. The pig turned out to belong to an Irishman, Charles Griffin. Cutlar offered Griffin $10 for the loss of the pig, Griffin demanded $100, the British threatened to take Cutlar into custody, and in response, the other Americans on the island called for American military protection–thus sparking what is now known as the pig war. There was a lot of saber rattling on both sides, warships circled the tiny island, but ultimately no shots were fired. An American camp was established on the south of the island and an English camp was establish in the north, and eventually outside arbitration from Germany determined that San Juan lay within the boundaries of the United States. AT&T, however, still disputes that notion as I received a text message welcoming me to Canada and helpfully informing me that I’d be charged out the wazoo for data.

american camp

american camp site

american camp buildings

american camp view

eagle cove

eagle cove san juan

At American Camp,  in addition to the visitor’s center and some historical buildings, there are a good number of walking trails that take you down to the various coves and the lighthouse at South Beach. I ended up taking one of the trails to Grandma’s Cove after briefly seeing what there was to see in the visitor’s center–it was too gorgeous out to stay inside for very long. I didn’t end up hiking to the lighthouse because I was concerned about spending too much time in one spot on the loop, so after a bit more time checking out the laundress’ and officer’s quarters, it was back into the scoot coupe to putt to the next destination: Pelindaba Lavender Farm.

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Next year, a new spin-off from ITV:

dogton abbey

Not going to lie, I would watch every episode of this. Cats stirring up trouble at the garden show? Sumptuous kibble feasts? Dogs in a variety of adorable costumes? I’m so in. Plus Lady Mary can still be a total bitch.

I’ve always said that movies could teach us so much: a visit to Halloweentown

halloweentown st helens oregon

At least six people messaged me this year to tell me about St Helens, Oregon, the city in which Disney’s Halloweentown and its various sequels were filmed. Much like Forks embraced Twilight, St Helens has embraced Halloweentown, and each October, the entire city gets Halloween fever, with haunted cruises, tours, car shows, contests, and bonfires with live music and ghost stories. The area in front of city hall is even decorated the same way it was for the movie. Situated just north of Portland, St Helens is within ideal daytrip distance from my home, so I decided that it was imperative that I visit.

Also like Forks, the media that put the town on the map is…objectively not great. Wellll, let’s say, subjectively not great. After all, I was a bit too old for the target market even when it was first released (and that’s if my family had cable at the time which I don’t think we did so I couldn’t have watched it even if I had wanted to), so I didn’t connect with the series the way some people even a few years younger than me might have, and I also don’t have the nostalgia of watching it with my kids or any of the other things that give you that warm Disney glow. Instead, I was a thirty three year old watching a movie that’s basically a Halloween episode of The Magic School Bus with a villain known as “the bad thing” which may put me on some kind of watchlist as a potential child endangerer somewhere. And then the next day, I watched Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge, which could have also been titled Halloweentown II: Rehashing the First One. I guess there are a few more sequels, but I couldn’t bring myself to watch them, not in the name of research, not even under the influence, no thank you, Sam I Am, you can keep your cheesy jokes and children’s squabbles. But I still decided to visit St Helens, because I’m always down for spooky shenanigans, even when it’s based on not-that-great media. Maybe especially if it’s based on not-that-great media.

halloween pumpkin town

All of the events in St Helens for the month of October are listed on their website, and I chose to attend the weekend of the pumpkin carving contest and haunted hot rod classic car cruise-in. If I had gone the week prior, I could have met one of the actresses from the Halloweentown movie (OH BOY!!), but I’m really glad I didn’t–I have a friend who lives in St Helens and attended that weekend and she said the crowds were absolutely insane: “Fifteen thousand people crammed around that damn pumpkin. Never forget.”  When I visited, it was thankfully much quieter and in the sweet spot for these sorts of events: enough people so you feel like you’re part of a festive event and not some sad unintentional ghost town, but not so bustling that you can’t move around freely. There was still a line to pose with the various photo opportunities, but none of them were very long. If I had to elbow and jab my way in and wait in line for an hour or more to take a photo with a plastic pumpkin, I would have been very displeased.

halloween bench

queen of halloweentown

king of halloweentown

Speaking of photo opportunities, St Helens knows where its bread is buttered, with various decorated benches and thrones, all inviting you to share your photos on social media (hashtag SpiritofHalloweentown hashtag StHelensOR hashtag KalabarNeverForget hashtag ThankYouDisney hashtag WeAcceptAllMajorCreditCards hashtag CashWorksToo hashtag NeverGonnaGiveYouUpHalloweentown hashtag HowLongCanIDragThisOut). Who was I to disobey?


skeleton keychain

While waiting in line for the plastic pumpkin photo op, I couldn’t help but notice a very familiar looking ornament on their Halloween tree–a plastic skeleton keychain with red rhinestone eyes. Why familiar? Way back in the days when people joined order by mail clubs, (we’re talking the halcyon days of 1996 here, people) I joined the Stephen King book club and the exact same skeleton keychain was my free gift for joining. As a stupid 14 year old, I thought I was getting a really swell bargain, buying books at cover price plus shipping…and a really rippin’ free keychain. I don’t know how they got my name, I don’t know how they knew I was really into Stephen King and at the most gullible stage of my life, and I sure as shit don’t know how I paid for it, but I remember hanging that plastic skeleton off of my backpack and feeling like the biggest badass who ever strutted down a hallway at school. Actually, now that I look it up, that book club is still a thing, and they still offer a free gift with membership and I hope to god it’s still the same keychain because mine fell apart a decade ago and I could definitely use a new one.

vampire and friends

vampire and skulls

festive canEven their garbage cans are Halloweentown themed!

skeleton dog park

skelly stuff“Hey, skeleton, whatcha thinking about?” “Skelly stuff.”

twilight in oregonAlso, if Forks doesn’t want Twilight anymore, St Helens will take that, too.

street witch

After voting on my favorite carved pumpkin (no photos as they were all behind reflective glass and were also old enough that they were getting spooky in ways their creators did not intend), I scoped out the haunted hot rods. I have to assume that the people who own classic cars devote a good 75% of their free time driving around to various events and showing them off with the community of other hot rod owners, and the other 25% is polishing the car and acquiring new decorations. Much as I want my very own macabre mobile, I’m not ready to commit to that lifestyle just yet. It is fun checking out the way everyone has a unique take on tricking out their vehicles, though.

haunted hot rod

skeleton truck

beware hot rod

cherry city bombers

haunted challenger

hot rod st helens

monster truck

rat and rat st helens

rat engine

spider hot rod

actually haunted

I have to assume this last car is actually haunted as it was not decorated in any fashion but still parked prominently in the “haunted hot rods only” section. Ghosts in the machine? Poltergeists in the spark plugs? Revenants in the radiator? Who you gonna call?

dump stoppers

DUMP STOPPERS! I have chanted “dump stoppers” every single time I heard the Ghostbusters theme this past month which ended up being more often than you would probably believe, sometimes in public. It also works as a variant of that charming song of our youth, Diarrhea. “When you’re out on a date and your ass begins to quake, DUMP STOPPERS cha-cha-cha.”

haunted porch side

haunted porch

All in all, it was really cool to see how this entire town pulls together to celebrate Halloween, whether it’s by supporting the main events at city hall, offering festive treats at their restaurant, or decorating their yard. I’ve often thought it would be neat to live on a street where everyone goes all out for Halloween, the way that some streets get a reputation for Christmas decorations. But since St Helens would be a hell of a commute, I’ll just have to be the change I want to see in my own neighborhood.

Dia De Los Muertos in Old Town San Diego

fancy lady skeletons

giant sugar skull

piercing sugar skull eyes

skeletal bride and groom

skeletal musicians

skeletons framing doorway

The Day of the Dead has been celebrated in Old Town San Diego for over 200 years. In the 1800s, it was a quieter occasion than it is today. People dressed in black and walked slowly and quietly to the chapel with lighted candles to honor the dead. Fresh flowers were hard to find at that time, so people used paper flowers to decorate, which is a tradition that has carried on to this day.  Today in Old Town, people still remember the dearly departed by building altars to honor them, but there’s also live music, face-painting, altar tours, and even a street fair! You can also learn to paint your own sugar skulls, paper mache masks, and craft paper flowers–but if you’d rather not, you can support local artists and buy some at the Bazaar del Mundo, the bright and beautiful promenade. The heart of the event, however expanded, remains remembrance, community, and celebration: a way to honor and offer hospitality to the spirits of your loved ones with your friends, family, and neighbors, to revel in the joy of life while acknowledging that it is fleeting.

Spotted on the Roadside: The Friendship Chimp in Ellensburg, WA

the ellensburg friendship chimp

washoe the chimp

Washoe the chimp was born in 1965 and raised in Reno, NV. From infancy until age five, she was only spoken to via sign language, which she quickly learned and began to use. In 1980, Washoe and her signing family moved to Ellensburg; for the next twenty years, she would be part of weekly “Chimposiums” given at Central Washington University which educated the public about chimp language abilities. When she died in 2007 at age 42, messages of sympathy arrived from around the globe, even getting a mention in The New York Times. Not only had she broken the language barrier, but she’d done so as part of a project that was dedicated to proving that animal research could be conducted with kindness and respect, which was a huge step forward.  In 2012, this park in downtown Ellensburg was dedicated to Washoe, along with a statue in her likeness, signing “friends”.

Spotted on E 5th St, Ellensburg, WA

Nom or Vom: A Hot Dog In Your Pocket



Today’s nom or vom item was spotted in the wild by Tara, who has noticed a number of items in New Zealand that are trying to introduce bold new American flavors to the kiwi market. Regardless of where you live, how do you feel about the hot dog pizza pocket?

Pros: The taste of freedom in every bite, continuing the proud tradition of combining pizza and hot dogs, presumably personally approved by John McCain, will make you want to bust out your best red white and blue tableware, the only thing standing between you and dinner is 90 seconds, conveniently portable (would fit snugly in a hobbit’s pocket), looks like a chopped up can of cocktail weenies and as we all know you can’t go wrong with cocktail weenies

Cons: It looks like someone chewed up a can of cocktail weenies and than spit out the premasticated slop into a cardboard tube, like a hot dog vomit pocket swimming in a ketchup-y cheese gravy, I see the word “pizza” on the box but there is nothing pizza related in there so I don’t think it counts as a serving of vegetables, limited edition so often means “We don’t think this item has long term appeal so we’re banking on your poor impulse buying decisions”, to be really American it should come with some kind of frosting or dipping packet and you should maybe hear an eagle scream when you bust open the box otherwise it’s just a pale imitation of the real thing

Would you eat a hot dog pocket?

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Horseback Riding on Orcas

horseback riding on orcas shoop

Sadly, no, not horseback riding on orca whales, which is probably a ton more exciting though rife with danger if you’re shitty at holding your breath and a wimp about getting hypothermia. Instead, I went horseback riding on Orcas Island, the largest island in the San Juans (though not as populous as San Juan Island, which I visited briefly last year and plan to revisit soon).

Just like San Juan, you can get there by ferry or plane–I elected to take the ferry again, this time taking my car across so I’d have an easier time getting to Moran State Park, where the ride was to be held. In case you would like to do the same thing–learn from my mistake and make ferry reservations. I hadn’t even considered that capacity would be an issue, because I was getting to the terminal so early and just figured it would be first come, first served. When I pulled up to the ferry ticket-seller, she scowled and asked if I had a reservation. When I told her that I didn’t, she said I’d just have to wait and cross my fingers…uh oh. Luckily, I was able to drive on to the ferry I’d planned on taking, as there are so few ferries that I never would have made my ride time with a later crossing. After the crossing, Jason immediately made reservations for the trip back, and I’m glad he did, as some of the scheduled crossings were already indicated as full and I had no intention of spending the night.

After the ferry docked, I made my way to Moran State Park, which is on the other side of the horseshoe-shaped island (you know, if a horseshoe was sort of mutated and mangled and really nothing like a horseshoe at all), bought a Discovery Pass, and parked. I ended up with a good amount of time to kill, so I took a short hike on the Cascade Lake trail and also started on the trail to the waterfall before second-guessing my ability to get there and back before the ride and doubled back to wait. And wait.

cascade lake

docile deer

Eventually a big horse trailer pulled up, we filled out some waivers indicating that we would not sue if involved in a horse-related injury, checked off boxes pertaining to our level of horsemanship and whether or not we wanted helmets. As I’ve fallen off of a horse before (in a lesson that was attempting to teach me to ride at a trot bareback, which I wasn’t ready for and promptly went ass-over-teakettle), I definitely wanted a helmet. Not so much to protect my head from impact with the ground, but to protect it from those four skull-crushers that they have the audacity to call hooves while I’m rolling around on the ground like a helpless squishy bug. No one else wanted helmets, but after they saw me strapping one on, they changed their minds. I’d like to think that it’s because I make wearing a helmet look cool, but not even I am that self-deluded.

safety first

Once we were properly geared, we were assigned horses based on our skill levels. I’d selected that I’d had more than 8 hours of riding under my belt (which is true, I probably have at least a hundred hours, just not, you know, in the most recent twenty years save for a couple of rides at Long Beach), and I was selected to ride Candy. Not because she was particularly difficult or spirited, but because saddles tend to slip on her and they figured I’d be the least freaked out if I started going sideways.  Which didn’t end up happening, so hurrah for that!

candy the horse

trail ride orcas

horseback riding on orcas

The trail ride was suitably difficult, not the nose-to-tail plod I expect from the majority of rides, but a lot of narrow switchbacks with steep ascents and descents, needing to pick your way through huge roots and other hazards and duck under low hanging branches. On my beach rides, I felt 100% comfortable pulling out and fiddling with my camera, but on this ride, I was able to take a quick shot while we were stopped and immediately put my phone back in my pocket because I needed my concentration elsewhere.  Speaking of stopping–we stopped every single time a horse pooped so one of the company riders could hop off and kick the poop off the trail into the weeds, which meant we stopped a lot. A lot. Sometimes we’d ride ten feet before having to stop again. Candy pooped six times. Multiply six poops by seven horses and we stopped 42 times. I don’t think it was quite that many, but it was close. 

Close enough that by the time we made it back to our starting point, it was nearly an hour later than we were supposed to have finished. Which wasn’t really a problem for me insofar as the ferry was concerned since I still had nearly five hours before I had to board, but was a problem in that nearly everything else on Orcas was closed. At 4pm.  Someone recommended a pie shop in nearly Olga. Closed. Back near the ferry terminal, the gift shops were closed, the ice cream shops were closed, and the only place that was open, the Orcas Hotel, sold us a sandwich and a drink and then hustled us off their property so our sandwich-eating wouldn’t be in the photos of the wedding they were hosting.  So we went back to the car and waited. And waited. And waited. I ended up falling asleep for a while. I actually considered trekking back to Doe Bay and paying for access to their clothing-optional hot tub because trying to avoid looking at hippie schlong would at least be something to do.

orca friend

Finally, FINALLY, the ferry arrived and we boarded just in time to catch the tail end of a really pretty sunset.

orcas island ferry sunset

sunset orcas

purple sky

purple and blue sky moon

Spotted on the Roadside: We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat in Ocean Shores, WA


shark attack

Sharky’s is THE photo op in Ocean Shores, whether you want to photograph a gleeful mauling or an impending attack with your husband looking on in the background like he doesn’t even care that you’re about to be eaten by an enormous freaking shark. If you dare to venture inside the jaws, it’s full of nearly every shark-related thing you could possibly imagine, including a pretty decent book selection, one of which I purchased for a friend’s son who is an aspiring young marine biologist. What’s particularly funny about this (to me) is that the same people who are pumped to take photos in front of Sharky’s are super upset that an actual great white was found in their waters recently. Like anyone is going into the water at Ocean Shores, anyway.

Spotted on Ocean Shores Blvd in Ocean Shores, WA

The Sand & Sawdust Fest in Ocean Shores, WA

driftwood seahorse

If, as Michelangelo said, every block of stone has a statue inside of it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it, it can likewise be said that every log of wood has a statue inside of it, and that statue is probably a bear. Either because there are an inordinate number of bears trapped inside logs, or it could just be that people like bears. Either way, I ventured to the Sand and Sawdust fest in Ocean Shores to see what there was to see. There would be woodcarved bears, undoubtedly, but would there also be sand bears? One could only hope.

I first checked out the chainsaw carving area, where the scent of funnel cakes was barely detectable over the more dominant smell of freshly-carved cedar. Almost every vendor had someone chainsaw carving in their tent, sawdust flying everywhere, including (as I am particularly unlucky) directly into my eye, curving around my glasses somehow like the world’s smallest jerk. But oh, the bears.

chainsaw octopus

chainsawed eagle

chainsawed bears

So many bears.

wood carvings

such an angry dog

There was also this angry dog. Why are you so angry, dog? Why are your tiny black eyes so full of hate? Why are your eyebrows furrowed and your lips curled into a sneer?

no papparazzi

Maybe because I ignored his bear friend’s “no paparazzi” warning.

seahawks bench

There was also this timeless treasure, an heirloom piece for future generations (surely officially licensed by the NFL, although it’s not like the woodcarvers can help it if a Seahawk is stuck inside a log, they’re just trying to free him), and if that doesn’t float your boat, you could also buy a gorgeous wooden Beyoncé.

knock knock motherfucker

sand ogre

sand squid

They also had a couple of sand sculptures in the wood carving area, which left me a little confused and temporarily disappointed–two? That’s it? That constitutes a “fest” of sand sculptures? Then I actually walked my lazy ass to the beach and saw that I was, thankfully, so very wrong.

sea grass

ocean shores

beware of sand sharks

dragon and moat

homer simpson squid

Is this a Don Hertzfeldt Sampsans sculpture? Or am I looking at it completely wrong?

ocean shores sand and sawdust fest

racing turtle

sand mermaid

sand minions


sand sculpture

the world is your oyster

turtle race

Just like at Cannon Beach, people weren’t very respectful of the sand sculptures, walking on them, crumbling them, ruining them, just so they could get a few more likes on their instagram photos. It’s gross that they’re so easily able to destroy others’ hard work and still others’ enjoyment, seemingly without any thought about it. But what’s the alternative? Setting up barriers around each creation for the duration of the festival? It doesn’t seem like consideration is coming back into vogue any time soon.

Sadly, there were no bears freed from the sand, but I did find this written in the sand:

j and m equals love forever

Indeed, sand inscriber. Indeed.

Spotted on the Roadside: It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers!

 psl mural

psl days

psl detail 

the future

ahhh refreshing

In accordance with the agreement signed by all bloggers, I am contractually obligated to celebrate the return of the pumpkin spice latte, long may it reign over inferior similarly pumpkin spiced products, such as the pumpkin spice air freshener, pumpkin spice laundry detergent, pumpkin spice lady garden freshener, and pumpkin spice heartworm pills for dogs. This particular mural was painted for Starbucks’ PSL Days commercial on the side of the DeCamp and Stratford Furniture building and is a reminder during those other horrible nine months of the year that Our Latte has not forsaken us.

Spotted on Cherry St in Burlington, WA