Date Archives November 2015

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.