North out of Seaside, Oregon, it’s a short drive to Astoria and across the bridge over the Colombia River. The Lewis and Clark Columbia River – that one. These guys stopped everywhere, it seems, at least if you go by the signs honoring them, which are everywhere. I stop to read this set of L&C signs, and now I don’t remember what they said, but I think something relatively nasty happened to them on the spot I have chosen to take a river photo op, and I think they moved on from here post haste.
Me too –
continuing north along the coast on Hwy 101through the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge and up to the Willapa River, where the highway heads inland along the river’s edge. And right there, at the southernmost bend in the Willapa, is the town of South Bend. I slow down and pull over onto the shoulder two doors down from River View Dining, which looks like the place to eat in town. Grilled oysters is what people come here to eat; well, except me. I get a burger and fries; I have no idea how good the oysters are, but this was the best burger I’ve had in ages. Compliments to the chef.
I ease back in to the nonexistent traffic, head over the river, and take heed of how the scenery drops off as I head inland to pick up the trail that travels north along the eastern side of the Olympic Peninsula – to my home for the next three months, Port Townsend, on the northeast tip of the peninsula. I’m couchsurfing with Susan my first night in town, but as luck would have it, the next day I find a place to rent for the month of July – at the Ann Starrett Mansion “up on the hill” in the historic district.
The hill is where the well-to-do built their homes in the late 19th century, and down the hill is the commercial district – and the most direct way from uptown to downtown is via a set of stairs that became a necessary part of my walking routine.
When Bridget and I were here for all of about 15 hours four years ago, our impression was this might be my kind of town. We dropped into the bookstore and got into a conversation with a local, who was lamenting how we’d just missed such-and-such a festival, and the week before that had been some other kind of festival, and in fact, every week for three months, beginning the first week in July, had been some sort of festival, and they all sounded great. I knew I must return, and here I am, ready to festival out.
Coincidentally, Centrum-hosted Port Townsend Writers’ Conference is held for one week during July, and as soon as I get to town, I sign up for it and get a slot in the Starting Your Novel class led by author Skip Horack. It was a great week, and I learned a lot, both in that class and the afternoon workshops. My main takeaway was that I have a lot to learn about writing a novel. I don’t think this will be my last writer’s conference.
The week before the writers’ conference, Centrum hosted Fiddle Week, and the week after was Jazz Week – with plenty of music, both on campus in Fort Worden State Park on the north side of town and downtown on the streets and in the clubs. And every Thursday evening, there’s a concert in the park, complete with beer and dancing.
I ended up staying only for the month of July. So along with everything else, I missed out on Blues Week and Film Festival Week that came up in August and September. I made do with blues in a couple of the clubs in town and a couple of movies at the Rose Theater. But my main form of cultural entertainment was the DVD collection at the local library, which I ransacked. I just started in the A’s and worked my way through to the end. It was a good month for movies – the absolute highlight had to be getting to see the Italian film “We The Living” from 1942. For something a little more modern, “Sunshine Cleaning” was also very good. But enough with the reviews.
A month was plenty of time to get a sense of the town, and it’s not my kind. It was never going to be … there are too many well-heeled liberals here who command the scene – everything is a cause, their cause, and you daren’t disagree. But nobody does, so it’s one big, happy family. Just not me in it.
Other than the wonderful public library, there’s plenty else to rave about: the great work that Centrum does to devote space and time to current writing and music, in the beautiful setting of Fort Warden State Park, creates a lot of summertime energy on their grounds. I took advantage of all the free-to-the-public author events, movies, and live music on offer, and I was well entertained. There are some nice trails in the park too.
I’d also like to do a little rave on the Ann Starrett Mansion. I was treated as their star guest; no surprise there – everyone is treated as their star guest. I love Victorian – all that polished wood and everything in its appointed and proper place, so Downton Abbeyish. I was tickled pink they were able to accommodate me on such short notice. The first few days I spent in two different rooms in the mansion, until I could move into the bottom-floor apartment in the cottage beside the main house. Fully furnished, with a good kitchen, TV, and ever so well appointed 🙂 The manager, Richard, is a kinder, gentler Mr Carson – I think he appreciates Victorian like I do, and he wears it so well: a wonderful soul who was totally at the heart of my stay there.
Port Townsend is a pretty, little town, fun to walk around in, drop in at the coffee shop or the bookstore or any of the shops and restaurants, and its location on the Strait of Juan de Fuca makes for picturesque. Here’s some of what I saw …
The speed limit in town is 15 mph, which means the deer can and do roam freely and eat lunch wherever they can find it, even the brown grass. Evidence of animal life is everywhere …
And speaking of grass, there’s no lack of it in the state of Washington. I’m not sure what the name of the shop is that’s just south of town, but the sign on the wall says 420, so I’ll go with that. $15 a gram, with $6 of that going to the government. What a racket. Budget surplus time!
The ferry to Whidbey Island leaves Port Townsend, with me on it, on another beautiful sunny day, and sometimes the view is stunning, sometimes awe-inspiringly beautiful, all the way over to I-5, which takes me up to Birch Bay and a couple of days with longtime friends Linda and Ron. Not that it’s all about partying, but here’s to the first drink of the day!