June 27th, 2010 No Comments »

We are in Washington now and have passed through Seattle staying only one night and managed to stop and see Mt St Helen’s that same day too; they have a terrific visitor center right off I-5 with a perfect view of the mountain.

I find Seattle nestled in trees and if anything were to sway my affections it would be trees, but like Austin, Seattle sprawls onward into Everett and south to Tacoma and is too big for me. I might consider a town east of Seattle if I could find one that was not too big and not too small. I am like Goldie Locks the home seeker!

Bellingham is lovely, but I much preferred the Skagit Valley where I was fortunate once again to be allowed to video a new place— Sakuma Brothers Farm. We also drove Chuckanut Drive along the Samish Bay and it was exquisite.

Sakuma Brothers Farm

Reflecting on Tami’s interview and tour of the farm, I realized that maintaining family owned farms is a community effort. Sakuma Brothers has been successful for two reasons: one, they diversified their crops and continue to try new things and two, their investment into outreach has created a personal connection to the family and the crops they grow. It’s not enough to know where your food comes from— you to also know your farmer.

Integrating family owned farms into a community landscape to provide locally grown food is the future of all rural and urban areas in the United States. We have to quit shipping food 3000 miles because it has ceased to become cost-effective or environmentally solvent. This farm is an example of a local food source that is known and appreciated.

Sakuma Brother’s Market Stand

We filmed Mt Vernon, Bellingham & Fairhaven a few days ago and then went on to relax in the Cascades. I have a video of those three cities to put together and another one I’m making of Hwy 2, plus some footage of Eagle Creek Ranch. We should have a break tomorrow night and I might have them ready to upload by then. We are leaving Washington soon and I wish I had more time, but funds are getting tighter and we will have to return to Austin some time in the next three weeks.

Below are clips from Bellingham & Fairhaven which proved to be extremely difficult for me until the very end when a lovely lady named Cindy (sp?) agreed to speak with me. Prior to that I had been shut down by three people. A first for me. My ego took a beating with three straight rejections.

Bellingham & Fairhaven

We also visited Mt Vernon and I shot some video there. I liked Mt Vernon and it seemed friendly and engaging. Thanks to Ruth & David for telling me to be sure to stop there and take a look around.

Mt Vernon WA, Skagit Valley

Last but not least, I have a video of Hwy 2 in Washington that took several days and many clips to put together and it may be a while before I have it ready. This whole trip has had a few blips here and there— equipment issues — either camping or lack of WIFI or electricity for my computer and video camera which slow things down for processing. The slowness has been good since I usually have an extremely busy schedule. We stayed in the KOA around Leavenworth for about three days and explored the area. I was just happy to be camped next to the Wenatchee River and slept soundly each night as it flowed past us below. I met a friend here at this location and that chance encounter reinforced my decision to make the trip. It had a very serendipitous feeling to it & I never looked back after that.

Hwy 2 Road Trip Central WA: A wild ride through beautiful mountain country along the Wenatchee & Columbia Rivers

This final movie is from Eagle Creek Ranch near Leavenworth, WA. We met a lovely couple Michael and Susan who operated this horseback riding outfit. It was a very special trip for Astra as she loves animals, especially dogs and horses.

Eagle Creek Ranch Trail Ride

Western Oregon

June 19th, 2010 4 Comments »

Welcome to Oregon! I have never actually lived here, but I did work one year in Milton-Freewater, Oregon teaching high school science. I lived across the border in Walla Walla, Washington. I loved the valley of the Blue Mountains because of the locally grown fruits and vegetables; I remember buying a box of Fuji apples for six dollars. At that time I had no idea about the varieties of apples, much less the difference between a Fuji or Braeburn apple. Did I ever learn! One year in Eastern Oregon and at least I can now differentiate among several varieties.

At the moment we have passed through Cave Junction and are now in Medford. You can always tell a lot about a town by the quality of its library and the Medford Library is superb! Additionally the wireless is super fast and we are here uploading video and I’m relieved that it won’t take me hours.

This video was taken yesterday and just by chance we stopped for lunch at a place called The River Valley Restaurant. None of my interviews or videos thus far have been planned. Rather they have spontaneously occurred in the moment, popping up like mushroom patches along the way.

A Souper Moment

We’ve been to Medford, Ashland and are now in Corvallis. I do have video to upload of these places, but tonight— the Solstice we chanced upon a place called the Fireworks Restaurant. It was next to the First Alternative Co-op which we filmed earlier in the day with an all access pass! We passed The Fireworks and noticed this place served gluten-free pizza and I felt Astra deserved this treat. The real treat wasn’t just the pizza. It was the place! They had cob structures just like the ones at the Solar Living Institute and they sourced all their food. I like Corvallis. It’s like Austin only about a 1/20 of the size.
The Fireworks Restaurant

Medford was nice & I had contemplating moving there. Here is my clip from Bad Ass Coffee:

The local scene at Bad Ass Coffee

Once we arrived in Corvallis Astra and I filmed our two week update. Here’s how we were feeling prior to visiting Corvallis. I should point out we had just woken from deep slumbers and then shot these two clips:

Astra & Sher Two Week Update from Corvallis

Corvallis: So my favorite place. There are several videos of Corvallis below, but the largest and most detailed and the one I had cut down because of the YouTube size restrictions was First Alternative Co-op.
I appreciate the flexibility of the staff in allowing me video any place I wanted to visit.

First Alternative Coop in Corvallis— a stellar example of sustainability

Some nice young women at First Alternative recommended I visit a bike shop and this turned into an exploration of biking in Corvallis. I had planned on interviewing only one store, but I could not resist going to as many as I could in the downtown area. Mike at Cyclotopia summed up what I think quality of life is all about— doing what you like and not being driven to make loads of money. Take a look at this video– it’s quite different and a departure from what I normally do even though I also like to ride my bike. These folks showed a side of Corvallis I never might have encountered.

Biketropolis~ Corvallis Bike Shops

While filming bike shops around Corvallis I bumped into Analise (spelling may be off on her name) and she gave me the flip side of life in the Willamete Valley as compared to Austin:

An Austinite Speaks Out

Portland was restful & fun because I got to spend time with friends. I have been kind of lonely for people my own size and Astra got to see her friend Niko and she and I spent two days with few exchanges which was a good thing as we were getting tired of each other.

Mt Hood (thank you Michael) was breathtaking and I was tickled to see people snowboarding in June. I also got to hit downtown Portland and drink some yummy beers. During our reunion dinner I videoed the story (retold nearly 5 years later) of our evacuation from Hurricane Katrina. It was all fun and laughter over a nice dinner, but it was very hard on all of us and left lasting scars. Life goes and we have all started over. Watch us recall those few fateful days:

Recalling the Hurricane Katrina Evacuation

My final visit in Oregon was Astoria. I’ve always wanted to see this place ever since I saw Goonies when I was a kid. I also have read several books and novels about Lewis & Clark and Astoria features strongly in these. Natural features, big, bold, unusual and unpredictable intrigue me and so it was when I saw the Columbia River. I had seen it before of course in more diminutive form as it passed through Oregon and Washington creating their natural border, but the confluence of the Pacific and the Columbia were chilling. What a waterway!

We visited the Maritime Museum and I learned just how dangerous the sands of the Columbia are to ships and have been since the town’s inception. We dropped by the Flavel House for some town history and of course the beach (where Goonies was filmed) and the magnificent waves of the Pacific. We also stopped at Fort George Brewery in downtown Astoria where I was able to video the process of beer making and learn more about the microbrew industry, and yes drink some beer— wait drink some fabulous beer I should say. I leave Oregon with a heavy heart, since I liked lots of places here, especially Corvallis and Astoria and could happily down in either place.

Fort George Brewery

I struggled through this interview and luckily Spencer was an easy going presenter because after I tasted all of the beers— some of which had an alcohol content of upwards near 8% my face felt like play-dough. I went to the restroom complete with really cool murals that I could not fit into the clip and splashed cold water on my face and told myself I was a professional. I took a deep breath and headed out to the interview. Once I was moving I felt more coherent. What a wild ride. Astra stayed behind to enjoy what can only be described as an unusual cheesecake recipe: bacon maple cheesecake. She allowed me a small taste and it was delicious, so if you ever stop in for the beer, save some room for the cheesecake, too.
The Fort George Brewery

Northern California: Capitola, Swanton, Sonoma, Hopland & Redwoods

June 15th, 2010 1 Comment »

We are currently traveling through Northern California and I have several great videos that I will post soon. Our respite for now is to hike around the Redwoods National Forest. We have filmed all the places listed in the title. I have been fortunate to meet and interview some unique people who live in parts of California that are stunning examples of sustainability.

Swanton Berry Farm was unbelievable to me. It’s located just off the coast, a few hundred yards and there was a low fog broken by sunlight the Sunday afternoon we passed through the area. The farm is u-pick or you can buy yourself. They make pies, jams, other confections and you pay on the honor system. All employees have health benefits and all berries are organically grown. I stepped into a piece of America as it should be. Small, local, fair, sustainable and it gave me great hope that one our nation will have more places where people can go and buy their food and know the person who grows it.

Swanton Berry Farms, Hwy 1, Northern CA

Swanton Berry Farm

I landed in Sonoma courtesy of Donna that I met through NHNE and she hosted Astra, Stella and me for the evening where we shared a lovely meal of Thai food and toured Sonoma. The town is has a rich history and maintains many historical sites, the plaza being its center piece. The next morning we were headed north and I stopped to video before we left. I hit an amazing cheese shop and got some great footage or so I thought. Later I realized I had turned the video camera off and was not filming. Luckily I saw a lady in purple flitting about on the steps of the Convention Center and something told me she was the one. Sure enough, she was! Pat gave me a great interview and provided information about the area that might be of interest to many.

Pat of Sonoma, CA

My tour of the Solar Living Institute was exciting for me because sustainability isn’t just something I would like to have happen in the United States. It’s how I try to live my life, sometimes in the face of opposing situations, but I still press on towards this type of lifestyle. Meeting Patti, Roby & Sarah was a treat for me. Patti spoke to me off camera about the trip we were making and gave me some advice that stuck with me. She and Roby had made a similar journey years before and while they had not found their ideal spot, in the end it didn’t matter. It’s the process that is important. She was right in the end. After all that happened one thing I ended up with was fearlessness. If you have try and maybe try various jobs, places and even people before you can find the right fit. Being afraid to try is what keeps most people stagnating their whole lives.

Solar Living Institute & REAL GOODS

The Solar Living Institute

Roby & Patti’s Blog 96 square feet

I spent two extra days in northern California than I had originally planned. One, I was tired, two there was much to see, three Astra had made a great friend and did not want to leave. Given all the media attention to the economy in California I was not considering it as a potential spot and as I was there traveling north through Hopland, Ukiah, Cloverdale, Santa Rosa, Willits and Arcata I started wondering why not live here? Everyone is howling about money, but the fact is I’ve never had any or owned a big house and had to live frugally. How is it any different from where I am now except smaller, close to the ocean and mountains with an emphasis on sustainability. However I was surprised at how poor the Crescent City area was give the access to the Redwoods National Park.

This last video is from Trees of Mystery, a privately owned tourist attraction that to me also embodies low impact tourism and maintains the natural resource. We had a great time on this trip even though we were crazy enough to attempt the advanced hiker trail. The advanced portion of this is the steepness of the trail. Still I consider this visit a favorite place and would encourage you to visit it if you are in the area.

Trees of Mystery

Trees of Mystery

GBW Maiden Video: Sedona, AZ June 11, 2010

June 11th, 2010 2 Comments »

Astra and I filmed on Red Rock Loop on a windy afternoon. With some highly skilled assistance from David Sunfellow and our new camera equipment (a Kodak Zi8 HD video recorder and awesome tripod) we were able to make our first video.

Looking for folks to tell me about their town

June 2nd, 2010 4 Comments »

The search for a new home may be a less than scientific process because I
have given up looking in online databases for “the best places to live”. If
I went by the statistics for housing, crime or cost living then I would not
know where to go. I am simply lost in all the data. So it’s time to pack the
Prius and set out like a pioneer. It must have been an incredibly empowering
moment when after months of hauling all your belongings in a covered wagon
you came upon a valley or river bend and knew that you had found home.

My home quest will begin in northern California taking me up the Oregon and
Washington coasts with potential detours, then crossing northern Washington
and heading into northern Montana. I have a planned stop in Kalispell, MT. I
met a nice woman from Kalispell last year — she was my Farmer’s Insurance
agent who came to our area after a spring of hailstorms. During our
conversation she told me about her hometown. She spoke of the people and
lifestyle of this town and ever since then I’ve wanted to visit it. I’ve
also applied for a few jobs in Montana — Anaconda, Missoula and Great Falls
and while I didn’t make second cut for the federal jobs, I’d still like to
see these places. After that I will head south into Wyoming and finally wrap
up my search in Colorado before returning to Austin.

During this journey I plan to collect my own data informally as I pass
through the states mentioned above interviewing local people to find out
about their hometowns. I have a few folks lined up already, but I would like
to use a network of ‘friends of friends’ like the kind that exists on
Facebook. My travels will be presented in a kind of blogumentary with video, pictures and journal entries. The interviews will be videoed and uploaded onto
http://greatbluewanderers.com . So if you or a good natured friend or family
member would be willing to spare some time this summer, I’d like to hear
from you. I can be contacted at sher@greatbluewanderers.com.

The interviews will take place in and around your local area, not at your
home. We would meet somewhere that you feel epitomizes the spirit of your
hometown, maybe a market or town center and the interview would take at
least 30 minutes. I might gather other footage too and interview people on
the street if they are willing to talk with me so your information would be
part of a possible series I collect for that area. Your interview would be
public access so anyone could view it online, so be sure you don’t say
anything you don’t want recorded for posterity.

My intention is to get honest opinions about the places I see so if you feel
the economy is not so good in your area or the city is not planning well for
the future, then by all means feel free to say so; I expect that each place
will have some extraordinary things and some challenging ones too. The goal
for me is to collect enough information to narrow done my search for a new
home and if I am lucky enough I will have that “aha moment” like the
pioneers did and find my spot along the way. However, the universe generally
makes me work pretty hard for all my epiphanies so I expect I’ll have to
visit all the areas I am considering before making any decisions.