Canada! and a minor snafu

Hello, hi, hello!

It’s been a while, I know. I would apologize, but I’ve been working on being present and just enjoying getting to be wherever I am. That means a lot less computer time, and I’m not going to apologize for that.

I’m writing this now from a campground near Acadia National Park, Maine. Yep, the US of A, this time on the East Coast! And almost on-schedule, too, though not without a lot of effort. There were a couple of mishaps, and one big detour. I’ll get to that.

When I left off last, we were in Washington, about to head into Canada. We spent about 5 days in the Vancouver area. For the first 4, we boondocked with a very kind Canadian family a bit outside the city while we explored with Babybug, the Smart car we had been towing. I say had, and I’ll get to that. But first, Vancouver!

It was still quite smokey when we arrived, so we spent the first few days mostly exploring museums and more indoors-ish activities. We loved the Bloedel reserve where there’s tropical birds and plants. From where it sits, you’re supposed to be able to see all of Vancouver. Mostly we saw smoke. We did get a clear day later on, and seized the opportunity to bike around Vancouver and the seawall. That was easily one of my favorite experiences up that point in the trip -- there’s a several mile one-way loop full of beautiful views with a couple adorable beaches. I didn’t take too many photos that day because I really didn’t want to stop and get my phone out. But I tried to be better after that.

Our last evening in Vancouver, our hosts needed their roadside back, so we stayed at Walmart. It’s nice, I promise, there’s showbeds you can sleep on and everything. Ha, no but there were a decent number of other RVs parked there, and there have been at subsequent Walmart stays too. It’s relatively quiet in the parking lots most of the time, there’s space to park, there’s enough other sleepers that there’s a sense of pack safety, and if you’ve forgotten to buy eggs you can get them in the morning from your favorite Capitalist Overlords. All told, sleeping in a Walmart parking lot is not half bad, and it’s free. On the app we use to find campsite and free parking, someone gave one Walmart a one-star review because “it didn’t have showers.” Would you really want to shower in one if there were, though?

On our way to Eastern BC, we stopped for a quick hike over one of the suspension bridges in the area. I don’t remember what it was called but it was really beautiful.

We went east, and we found hostprings. Oh, we found so many hotpsrings. Well, we didn’t find them really. Other people found them first and made them nice and then charged us money and we sat in them. A couple hours drive east of Vancouver, a range of mountains begins, and it stretches almost all the way to the Rocky Mountains in Alberta. In between the ridges, the valleys hold elongated, beautiful lakes. If this drive isn’t on your radar, it should be. Every minute of the 8+ hour drive (if you go directly; we didn’t) is absolutely beautiful.

We began in Harrison Hot Springs and meandered to Nakusp, then Ainsworth, then Fairmont, and finally to Banff. There’s not much that can be told here; it was beautiful, and I wish it could have been that perfect late-summer-in-the-mountains forever. We met some really cool people, some musicians who had retrofit a bus to be a livable RV. Right around then, we realized that Babybug couldn’t start even with a boost from the RV battery. We towed it around, dead, for a while but knew we wouldn’t have answers until it could be examined by a specialist. So we took it to Calgary and left it with a German Car Specialist while we explored Banff.

Mmmm, Banff. It felt like home and it felt new. We stayed several nights in a national campground and took the shuttle to town and to hikes. It was great. I took a lot of photos. It took me til the very last day to find the showers and I was very, very happy when I did.

And now the bit I’ve been avoiding having to talk about. We got some bad news in Calgary and had to make a decision about how to proceed. We had destroyed the tow car’s clutch, and it was going to be an expensive repair. It was almost as expensive to pay to have it shipped home. There was one thing that would be sensible, and that was to tow it ourselves to Isaac’s uncle, who is a car guy and who said he’d be able to fix it for much cheaper.

I’m gonna leave this post there before things get too long and boring. I promise to write again soon. Spoiler: it all worked out. Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy the pictures.

Aya Maguire
3 shows and the 4 week mark

Well hello again!

I'm writing this post from a little cafe in Anacortes, WA. It sure it smokey here. We've had a couple minor changes to our planned route, mostly around a strong desire to slow the hell down. I'm not too worried about it.

After our blustery mishap of an engagement, we went south to Big Sur which is an absurdly beautiful little piece of coastline. Thanks to Maddie for capturing some pictures of everyone giggling. We wrote a little ditty called The Song About the Sea. It's catchy. It only has one lyric: This is our song about the sea. I'll make a recording of it when I can.

On Wednesday of that week (August 1st) I had my first show of the trip at the Hotel Utah. I've played there once before and it was a delight to be back and inaugurate my mini-tour in such a loving room. Almost everyone there was a Reedie, which is a minor theme of my life, I think.

We cut the drive from San Fran to Corvallis in half by boondocking for an evening in Northern California with a wonderfully quirky artist lady with a dog named Puppy and a cat named Kitty. Something I'm learning about the trip is how much I appreciate other people's animals. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not ready to be a dog mom, but I really love other people's pets. Our host didn't have power for us to run the AC, so we kept cool by placing ice packs under our fan. Evaporative cooling! We're engineers, right?

In Corvallis we rested, caught up with old friends, and picked more blueberries than we could eat. Literally. I tried, I really tried, to eat all of the blueberries. Photos in the gallery. Then we made our way up to Portland where we camped for two nights in a state park. Things to know about RV living: dry camping is cheapest (we've only used $15 worth of propane charging our battery and running our fridge in the 4 weeks we've been on the road) but the least comfortable; boondocking is almost free, but subject to your hosts whims and frequently doesn't have amenities; RV parks are awesome but expensive, and we rarely make use of their fancy facilities such as pools; most ideal are state parks. State parks consistently have 30 amp power, water, running water bathrooms and showers, and are almost always under $30 a night. For the record, if you're interested, my daily budget after unavoidable expenses (health care, boo!) is about $30. So while staying in a state park, $30 for two people works out to $15 each, meaning I still have $15 for food or gas. So we can't stay in a state park every night, but we can stay a couple times a week.

My show in Portland was great, and the next day I got to spend some time on Reed campus for photographs with the lovely Nina Johnson. I've posted one of my favorites in the gallery, but am saving the rest for promo. It was in the 90s that day, and I don't really remember Portland being so hot, but I'm glad I got to be there.

At that point it was August 8th, and we had plans with our friends at the Seattle Aquarium. So we fought our way through Tacoma traffic to park the RV on beautiful, shady Bainbridge Island. We loved Bainbridge, but we didn't love the ferry fees. We even experimented once with driving south through Tacoma and back up -- but for the extra hour we spent driving, we only saved $7! It turns out there's a toll bridge into Tacoma. Doh!

That Saturday I had my first house concert, and I'm thrilled to say it was wonderful. I think I prefer house concerts to regular performances, actually! So if you're reading this and you're thinking, "Hey, I could host a house concert!" give me a ring. This concert was hosted by mom's dear friend Cheryl and her husband Walter. Photos in the gallery. Thanks for having me -- I loved it.

Isaac's parents, Deb and Mark, flew into Seattle to hang out with us, and then on the same day my dad and brother arrived in Port Townsend (about 2 hrs NW of Seattle). They had driven out from Denver to move my dad into his new place, so the four of us drive up the peninsula to spend time with them. We parked the RV outside of the house and then outside of the airbnb that Deb and Mark had rented on Whidbey Island. Thanks for hanging out with me during my birthday week, family! Actually, 26 looks a bit different from 25. I read my letters from a younger me, did a little reflecting, and I feel really grateful to be here, having a little adventure. One day, I'll live in a house again and I'll be grateful for that, too.

That brings us up to today, which marks 4 weeks on the road. We're parked at a state park in Anacortes, Washington. I'm looking forward to relaxing for a few days, and then we're off to Vancouver and the rest of Canada! If you have any particular suggestions, I'd love to hear them. Thanks for reading!

Aya MaguireComment
Engagements and first stops


Whew, I'll be honest, the first few weeks on the road have been a little too busy. Finally, nearly 3 weeks in, I'm here to catalogue the first part of our journey. To be honest, if I told you everything we've done so far, this post would get too long. So here's the first week or so of my journey, in a nutshell:

We moved out of our house, held a goodbye show, organized and packed up the RV, which we fondly call Navi. It's an Itasca Navion Class-C motorhome and it's our home now. We set off on our mission somewhat late in the day and slept in a rest area outside of Glenwood Springs. This is "dry camping" and it's great when the weather's not hot. The next day, however, after driving through Utah (and seeing my wonderful friend Chloe!) we landed in Nevada. Way too hot; so we paid for a campsite.

When plugged into power and with water available, Navi feels much less like camping and much more like home, especially this far in. I don't have great photos of how I've organized everything, but we've pared down our belongings significantly. Books, art supplies, one laptop and backpack each, musical instruments, backpacking equipment, and our RV wardrobes -- that's what we have with us, and it's great. 

On day three, Wednesday, we drove to Reno, Nevada, where we boondocked with a nice couple who let us plug into their house for power. Boondocking is basically couchsurfing, but for RVs, and there's a fantastic website that allows travelers to connect with hosts. (boondockerwelcome, in case you're curious). So far we've met some colorful characters and several really kind, sweet people (the colorful characters included.)

On Thursday we drove through Lake Tahoe, of which I did not catch enough pictures because I was strangely focused on the plants I wanted to later turn into watercolors. There's a few pics in the gallery. That evening, we headed out to the Bay area where we stayed one evening in Benicia state park, a tiny first-come-first-serve campground with no electric but with water hookups. The rest of our time in Berkeley, we dry camped on the street outside our friend's house. Her hot water wasn't working, so we took more hot showers in the RV than in her house. We were really grateful that was an option.

Finally the proposal day arrived. I have never planned a proposal before, and it's possible that maybe I got a little ambitious. We had two friends flying in to the Bay to help pull the thing off:

  • My sister, Maureen, and
  • Isaac's best friend, Shawn, who had kept his travel plans secret from Isaac.

Timing was such that Isaac and our other friends (including Maddie, Munyo, and Laura), were exploring San Francisco while I collected my sister from the airport in Maddie's car, the Volvo. Shawn surprised Isaac and kidnapped him to Sausalito, where my sister and I met up with them with our bicycles. So far, so good; Shawn and Maureen have the car, Isaac and I have our bikes, our other friends are across the bridge near the beach waiting for everyone else to happen across the Golden Gate Bridge where I'll grandly drop to one knee. Isaac and I set off on our bicycles, and my sis and Shawn hop in the Volvo. At this point Isaac says to me, "I know you're up to something." Yikes! Ok, maybe it was obvious, but up to this point I thought I'd been really good at keeping a secret! It turns out that's not true, either.

As Isaac and I are setting off on the hilly trek back to the Golden Gate Bridge, I get this amazing text message: "The car is overheating." Sure there's no way we can help from our position, we leave my sister and Shawn to coordinate with the Volvo's owner, Maddie, to determine what to do. Isaac and I continue the thoroughly-uphill journey toward the bridge. By the time we reach the bridge, Maureen and Shawn have found a place to park the car, which appears to be having a coolant issue: there's fluid leaking, and everyone decides the best thing is to have it towed to Berkeley where Maddie's trusted mechanic can take a look in the coming days. The only problem with this plan? AAA has received over 50 tow requests on that busy, touristy Saturday, and since they're not in immediate danger, they're low priority. (Hey AAA, maybe you can tell us that ahead of time next time so we can all move on with our lives!)

By the time Isaac and I reach the beach and meet up with our friends, we're all in a thoroughly discombobulated mood; the 7-seat car isn't here to take us all back to Berkeley, two of our party are trapped together in Sausalito, I don't know whether to propose now or to wait, and we're all hungry. It turns out it takes longer to bike across the bridge than I remember. So we regroup with this plan: Isaac and I will bicycle back to Berkeley, while Maddie, Munyo and Laura lyft or take BART. Maureen and Shawn will find a safe place to park the car and take a lyft back to Berkeley.

Amazingly, Isaac and I bested everyone else's time despite being on bicycles. After getting yelled at by drivers who don't like it when cyclists go through intersections on green lights, we made it to the BART station and safely back to Berkeley. We got back in the RV and waited for the rest of our friends, and it's there that I decided I couldn't wait any longer. I don't remember what I said, but I know he said yes. When all our friends got back to Berkeley, we microwaved some dinner (the house had no gas for cooking) and ate several pints of ice cream. Maybe not the most glamorous, but at least I have a story to tell.

The rest of the Bay area and our drive through apocalyptically smokey Northern California I'll save for another day. Thanks for reading! 

Oh, and I've been making playlists for the journey. Here's Week 1!



Thanks for stopping by!

This is the adventure blog of Aya Maguire. Starting July 23, my partner Isaac and I will be traveling the US and Canada. I've never kept a blog before, but I've never quit my job and traveled the country before either, so I'll be trying to do both for the first time. 

If you want to be updated when I post, go ahead and sign up for the mailing list. In the meantime, check out where I'll be over at the show schedule page. I hope to see you soon!