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Northwest Coast Trip Epilog

It's a sunny summer morning here in Louie's shop, and I'm looking through my notebooks from the trip for a few out-of-sequence trip notes and thoughts, before heading south for home. I'm homesick! (However I plan a brief stop-off to skateboard at Sea Ranch, where thanks to a sympatico friend who lives there, I now have a pass to be on the grounds.)

Three Quotes (I ran across while on this trip)

"Creativity is the ability to go from failure to failure with undiminished enthusiasm."
-Winston Churchill
(This resonates with me!)

"Genius is the ability to observe something until it reveals its nature." - Sir Isaac Newton
(When I read Lloyd House the Churchill quote, he snorted and muttered something not complimentary about Churchill and recited the above Newton quote, and it's a perfect guideline for his work, where he has found say a piece of unique wood on the beach and has studied it until it reveals to him how to use it in a building.

"Well building hath three conditions:
• Commodity
• Firmness
• Delight"

-Sir Henry Wooten
(This from John Raabe. "Commodity" in the sense of "commodious," "firmness" meaning well-built, and — delight, yes!

Migration South to North

People can sell their home in say Santa Barbara or the Bay Area for big bucks and move north and buy a nice house and have a lot of $$ left over. It's happening in all the great little towns up the coast. Home prices are rising. Ferndale is a pretty little town just south of Eureka, most of the buildings Victorian, set in a dairy farming valley. I like Ft. Bragg, it's still a working town, unlike Mendocino, which I think is disgusting in its precocious sell-out to tourism. There are special towns all over the country (also islands) that are typically first found by artists, then discovered by the gen'l public and prices escalate. There were a lot of places discovered by hippies in the '70s that were cheap back then and spiralling out of sight now.

This is Not the Bay Area

Had a beer in a The Ice Bar, a biker bar in Vancouver, WA. A huge Harley-man sitting at the stool next to me had the scarf-on-head and a biker coat that had decals on the back, one of which was a confederate flag, with the message: "Try burning this flag, asshole."

Three-dot Journalism

I got to Pt. Townsend, Oregon on a rainy morning. Had been there before, but hadn't looked around. It's been getting the typical tourist treatment and influx of out-of-staters for some time now, but it's a big place and a thriving seaport and there are still lots of workers and true sea people there…In his last email before I left on this trip, Godfrey said he hoped my trip north would be "fraught with adventure."…On this trip I slept in my truck or at friends' houses 8 nights, otherwise I stayed in motels. I've sort of had it with B&B's; I don't really want a room filled with antiques. I prefer a characterless clean motel room (with wi-fi preferably)…There's nothing like going down a road you've never been on before. I'm hunting, scanning the landscape for barns, houses, anything of graphic interest. In shooting buildings I try to show them at their best, from the most complimentary angle. It takes a lot of stalking…Builder Tom Larsen wonders why no one has built a house with baled newspapers, like straw bales. He says they won't burn.Hmmmm…

Sweet Home

I love the places I visited on this trip. Victoria is a spectacular, clean, uncrowded, mellow city, the Gulf Islands are beautiful and peaceful and fertile, the people in B.C. are wonderful, and yes I do like the excitement of travel and seeing new places and meeting new people BUT on the way home when I headed out of the hot Sacramento Valley to Boonville and started the climb over the mountains to Pt. Arena and the ocean, something kicked in: home turf. Boy, I'm excited to be back.

End of 3-week Northwest Coast Trip

On Saturday (this is Tuesday), I spent the night at architect John Raabe's house on Whidbey Island, Washington. John runs a unique website offering home building plans inexpensively, and has a great builders' forum:


The next morning I caught a ferry to the mainland. They had a cop with dog sniffing under all the cars waiting to get on the ferry, looking for explosives. Ah me! I drove through to Seattle (Mt. Rainier is magnificent, it dominates the landscape in that part of the world) and then down to Medford Oregon, slept a few hours in the truck and then dropped in on my friends Bill and Judy Pearl at 5:30 AM in their gym, where I knew they'd be. We had breakfast and then yesterday I headed south. It was HOT. I stopped in Redding, and trespassed on an upscale trailer park land to get access to the swiftly-flowing Sacramento river, jumped in, and it was ice water! Talk about refreshing. Then about two hours later, I detoured off Hwy 5 to the town of Colusa, where I'd lived off and on as a teenager, found the old swimming beach and swam in water that was about 20 degrees warmer. Then decided to come back to Louie's place on the way home, finish off this blogging from the trip, show Louie some of the pix, and start trying to figure out to do with this ton of wonderful material I've amassed. For one thing, there is a whole new level up building in the northwest. It was like stepping on another planet.

Did I mention the last builder I met, Bruce Atkey? Bruce is a big strong surfer dude/builder who lives in a little cabin overlooking one of the northwest coasts lesser-known surf breaks and has built cabins and houses on remote sites along the west coast of Vancouver Island (north of Tofino), felling and splitting all the wood on-site. 40 miles by boat to get there.) He's also building a steel sailboat from scratch, almost finished (maybe 35' or so). To see and photograph Bruce's work and Lloyd House's place (also reachable only by boat), Bruce offered to take me in his speedboat out of Tofino if I would pay for gas. Would I! We'll either do it this fall or next spring. There could be a book on just these northwest coast builders.Hmmmmm....

Then there is the art work of Chief Tony Hunt. What a book this would make. I'm going to visit Tony on my next trip to Vancouver and talk about the reality of such a book. His art still has the awesome power of the coast's native people. And how about this: Tony recently built a "long house" for the Salish and Ontario people in Ft. Rupert, Vancouver Island with carved corner posts of logs 4-1/2 feet wide, 22 feet high. The building is 80' by 120' and seats 1300 people.

Well, that's it f-f-f-f-folks. Over and out from Louie's this sunny afternoon. I'm gonna go jump in the local river.

Sculpture in Homebuilding

This is a stunning house built by Dean Ellis on a beautiful site looking down grassy meadows to the blue water. I missed Dean, but he told me to go in and shoot photos. Not only is it unique in design, materials and construction (it's framed with steel tubing), but it feels incredibly good inside.

Sod roof helps it blend into site.

Kitchen counters (as at left surrounding stove) are welded, polished steel.

On the Island, Off the Road, In A Ditch

Oh yeah…

I mean I've been stuck before — in the mud, snow, sand, and even in ditches — but never like this. Backing down a narrow country road on Hornby Island one evening, my left rear tire went into a 3' deep ditch, the truck went wham! There was broken glass, I couldn't believe it, I was watching it happen in slow motion, saying this can't be happening. I pulled myself up out of the upper door and walked to the closest house. This happened to be Wayne Ngan, a gentle soul and, it turns out, an internationally known potter. Wayne called a guy who might be able to get me out and about an hour later Tim Biggins arrives in a big flatbed truck. Within 5 minutes we had established that he knew my book SHELTER well and further, that his own house on the island had been in the book HANDMADE HOUSES, THE WOODBUTCHER'S ART. Tim studied the situation a long time and concluded we should come back in the morning, so I went home with him and slept in the loft shown below. Tim is a story himself, a cowboy of the northwest, builder, welder, trucker; he reminded me of Neal Cassady.

Pole rafters are radial, all at a differnt level, and bolted to a central log.

Exterior of Tim's house

We got up at 6, had oatmeal and good coffee, loaded his truck and set off. In about 2 hours, with a combination of come-alongs, cable around 2 trees, various jacks and luckily a neighbors tractor, the gringo's truck was gently lifted back on the road. Whew, broke one window, some denting, but nothing that can't be fixed. Sometimes I think the Lords of Karma watch over me and send along the right people to get me out my dumb predicaments.