September 19, 2017
Holy cow I don’t even know where to begin this post…
I arrived in Seattle on August 22nd with the intention of staying for a week then making my way to Vancouver before riding the coast down to Mexico. It’s now almost a month from then and I’ve yet to make it to Vancouver– but today’s the day.. I think. I’m currently sitting in the living room of a dear new friend, Grace, waiting for her to wake up so that I can say my goodbyes before departing from Bellingham, WA to Vancouver. It’s time for me to move on, but before I leave this magical place and as I wait for her to get up, I must reflect on and share some of the beautiful madness that has occurred this past month.
Whilst in Seattle, I stayed with my good friend Julia and her parents.. I have many stories about that too but I think that that’s a post for another time. On September 1 (two and a half weeks ago), I rode out of Seattle and towards Vancouver–sad to part from a friend but also excited for the adventures ahead. It is about 170 miles from Seattle to Vancouver on bicycle so I figured it would take me two days. I rode with no real intention of where to stay but as the evening grew closer I began making phone calls to hosts on WarmShowers. I got 3 immediate shutdowns but the fourth call was the charm. I spoke on the phone with a gentleman named Eric:
“I’m also Erick. I got your number off Warm Showers and was hoping that you might have a place where I can pitch a tent and take a shower tonight.”
“Uhhhh.. We’re kind of in the middle of putting together a festival right now so things are kind of hectic.. but umm yeah sure come on through.”
“Great! See you later.”
I had no idea what he meant by “we” or by “festival” but hey a place to stay is always nice. It was 100 miles away from my start that day, however, so I wasn’t quite sure if I’d make it or choose to stop somewhere before, considering how late it was getting. I pedaled on and realized I could make it right at sundown, so I did. I arrived at the address Eric had given me but wasn’t exactly sure I was in the right place. There were some old buses and trucks out front and then a gravel/dirt road leading to some stuff. I followed the drive and stopped at the first thing I saw: a warehouse with a cool mural painted on the side of it. I leaned my bike on the side of the building and went inside. There were people everywhere and all seemed to be occupied with some task. I was expecting someone to say something to me like “oh hey you’re here” but no one did. People just smiled at me or walked on by. I started asking around for Eric and eventually found him. He welcomed me and showed me where I could pitch a tent, shower, and the kitchen. He also said that I should walk around and take a look around the property in the morning. I was beat so I ate, showered, and went to bed.
I woke up the next day and took a walk around. The first thing I noticed was how friendly everyone was. People I had never seen before said good morning to me with a smile or a hug and asked how I had slept. I walked out onto a big field towards a shop because I heard noises coming from there. Here I met John Top, Kailani, and Clarisse. I asked John what he was doing and if he needed a hand. “Oh yeah that’d be great man! Thanks! .. You know how to use power tools?” / “Yeah” / “Ever used this?” / “No but if you show me I can learn” / “Alright, here’s what you do…”
In a matter of minutes I was planing timber. I then learned how to remove bark from trees, and how to torch timber (for artistic purposes).
torching timber with Kailani^
Next thing I knew the sun was setting–I had spent my day working and helping out, it felt good. A bell rang and I asked John, “does that mean dinner?” “Yeah.” We went over to the dinner area and there were about 50 people congregated there. I didn’t know whether I should eat their food or cook the little food I had left. I asked somebody about my concern. They replied, “Well did you work today?” / “Yeah.” / “Then eat up man.” It was that simple–you contribute, you eat. That seemed totally fair to me and I loved the vibe here. Maybe I’ll stick around for another day. The next day I helped Britt put in floor joists into an old ship that we were converting into a hangout spot and stage.
At this point it was Saturday and the festival (Sh’Bang) was still a week away. I didn’t think I’d stay. I figured “OK, I’ll probably stay another day to help out and then I’ll head to Vancouver to meet up with Robert.” But every day I found another reason to stay. Before I knew it, the festival was only a few days away. In that time I had spent my time meeting people, hauling hay, making campsites, using a chainsaw to chop timber, hauling timber, cleaning the kitchen, making paper mache art, swimming in the quarry, relaxing in the air stream converted into a sauna, and simply having the time of my life.
The Magic of the Quarry
The Lookout Arts Quarry is a magical place and I still can’t believe I stumbled into it. The mission of the Quarry is to provide a space for people to practice and express their creativity without limits. It is a community of artists–musicians, builders, circus performers, creative people–that live together as sustainably as they can. There are vegetable gardens, some chickens, and they compost their own poop with sawdust to use as fertilizer. Most people at the Quarry live there part time, or are doing a residency art program, or simply love the space and are just passing through. I arrived at the perfect time, during Sh’Build–this is the period of time before the festival Sh’Bang where people come and help build up the festival. Overall there were about 250 volunteers this year and about 700 attendants at the weekend festival.
The attitude here is laid back, friendly, open, and accepting, It is a place where you can feel free to be yourself to the fullest extent. I think that’s the most magical thing about this place–people are free to discover and share their beauty. This also fosters an environment where people are inspired and encouraged to create freely.
The large property that makes up the Quarry used to be an old mining quarry that was excavated for rocks. It was shut down some time ago and then a few people got together in search of a place where they could practice their crafts freely and bought the place out. The selling point was a beautiful pond/lake that sits in the quarry.
Sh’Bang–a Festival of Ideas
Every year, for 11 years now, quarriors have been putting on a festival unlike any I have ever seen. It attracts people of all types and is a festivity of creativity and life. Before the festival, people come up with ideas that they want to bring to life and then everyone rallies around and makes the ideas come to life. Here are some pictures and videos that attempt to capture only a fraction of the awesome stuff that was built at the quarry that is scattered around the property, as well as some of the activities:
nekked fire spinning^
Sh’bang was a crazy awesome experience and I felt so inspired to take the energy with me. After Sh’Bang I stuck around a couple days to help tear stuff down and then I hopped on my bike and, 18 days after my initial arrival, I resumed my trek to Vancouver. I made it about 8 miles to REI. I stopped in to get a new saddle and walked out with a new friend. In the store, Riley–a tall, skinny guy my age with chill vibes–struck up a conversation with me. By the end of the interaction he had given me his address and invited me to stay with him that night. It was dark when I left the store and I was still 4 miles from my friend’s house in Bellingham so I took him up on his offer. I arrived at his place and he greeted me very warmly with pizza and beer. A little later, Buster came by the house to visit Riley and hang out–turns out Buster was the guy at REI who had helped me with my purchase! We all hung out and the next day Riley called into work to say he was going to be late because he had met a traveler and wanted to show him around town. We drove and walked around. He took me to different parts of town and the vista points. Then he decided to just take the whole day off and drive with me to Mt. Baker. The views were incredible…
After that, Riley, Jeff–Riley’s roommate–and I went to do a small construction job at someone’s house. Riley studied civil engineering at Western Washington University but didn’t finish because he really didn’t need to. He got a job as a project manager at a construction firm and has also since started his own construction company on the side. He’s going to do some cool stuff–excited to keep in touch with him.
2 days after showing up at REI, I once again resumed my trek to Vancouver. I decided to stop at a recommended museum on the way out. As I was there, and getting ready to roll out, my friend Grace hit me up and said she wanted to hang out if I was still in town. I had just met Grace a week before at Sh’build and we got along well. She has a wonderful spirit and so I definitely wanted to see her. We met up and I ended up spending a couple of great days with her–picnicking, juggling, doing acro-yoga, riding our bikes, and simply enjoying life. At this point now it was Friday and there was a skill-share festival happening at the quarry. I went out there with Grace and ended up volunteering at the festival and learning some really useful knots that weekend! I sojourned another day at the quarry the day after to help take stuff down and I eventually made my way out yet again. I said my goodbyes and rolled up to Grace’s place–which is also a really cool home of travelers and free spirits–to spend the night in town before heading to Vancouver today.
I woke up this morning and decided that I should ship my laptop out but that I had to write another post before I did. So I sat down to write this morning but it is now 4pm in the afternoon and I’m definitely not making it out today. And there is also a party tonight at the quarry for all the Sh’bang volunteers so Grace and I will be making a ton of cookies for that. I think tomorrow I will actually leave…
There is much to reflect on from my experiences these past few weeks and here are some of my thoughts:
The community aspect of the quarry was incredible to me and the first example I have seen of sustainable community living at that scale. I am inspired to find more places like this and to potentially create a similar environment in Oaxaca, when I move there next year. Specifically, I was inspired how a community can function without set roles and jobs but by the mere desire of everyone to want to contribute to the space.
The people I’ve met here have also become like family and I feel like I have a home here always. I’m excited to return–something I rarely ever say about a place.
While at the quarry, I also realized how much I have neglected my creative needs most of my life. I love to build and I love to make things–and for the first time in a while I got to do this freely around people who were also passionate about it. I am inspired to build a shop in Mexico where I can build things and bring to life ideas and prototypes that I have.
I fostered so many beautiful friendships here and am excited to kindle those friendships. I will be meeting up with many of those people along Oregon, California, and Mexico. I’ve never been so hesitant to leave a place but it is definitely because of the people.
The energy that I will take with me is one of community. I will seek to help others for the sake of wanting to contribute to the success and accomplishment of their dreams–in whatever shape that takes place. I have also further learned the lesson that life is not something we can plan–things happen and we must adapt to them and enjoy what we have in the moment. This is a lesson I have learned from meeting so many wonderful people who live life non-conventionally, traveling from place to place out of buses, ships, backpacks, and bikes.
Not sure how often I will post to this blog anymore since I will be shipping my laptop out to Los Angeles. But you can always give me a call to catch up with me–If we met anywhere, I’d love to hear from you! You can also reach me on facebook and follow my posts there: https://www.facebook.com/erickg213