Saturday, June 15, 2013

Last day on Lopez

We woke up to light clouds on our last full day on Lopez. After a light breakfast we decided to drive around and see some of the places that hold a lot of memories for us. First we stopped by Shoal Bay on the north end of the Island where I visited my Aunt's house "Batten Down" almost every summer of my youth. 

Across the bay from my Aunt's home, in a cove at the base of a tall cliff there used to be a Salmon farm named "Aqua Sea" where I spent almost three years hoisting nets during my early twenties. It was cold, wet, brutally hard work, but a great time just the same. I was working with half a dozen other twenty year olds from five different states and we had a blast; working hard and playing hard on a tiny little Island. It was also during these Aqua Sea years that Jerani and I met. The cove in which the forty five net pens used to float is now a small marina and it's weird seeing boats moored where I used to farm Salmon. 

We then drove over to the property Jerani used to live on. Her family moved onto the Island from Seattle in the seventies to get away from the big city, and kind of went back to the land. They first lived in a tent and a teepee as they hand built a round house and stone barn. Jerani moved to Lopez right before entering ninth grade, and she quickly talked her parents into getting her a horse which she rode all over the Island. She graduated from Lopez High School with a class of eighteen, and lived the life of a small town country girl with all the benefits and drawbacks that come with that lifestyle. Jerani's family didn't have electricity during that period so instead of watching TV she grew up reading by kerosene lamplight. Her life was decidedly different than that of a normal teenager, but that certainly wasn't a bad thing. The round house her father built has since had a second level added to it, but the overall character remains the same.

We looked out at Swifts Bay from the bottom of their old driveway, and noticed a sort of common theme her on the Island which is "unusual" mailboxes. 

Another mile or so down the road we drove into Spencer Spit State Park, where we were married in an outdoor ceremony years ago. We had wanted to drive down to the spit but in the ensuing years the park has closed off those roads down to the beach and have centralized all the parking high above the beach with absolutely no view of the water. 
There was a five dollar day use fee to park, which we were in no way interested in paying, so after snapping a couple pictures of a yearling deer we continued on our way.

We spent the rest of the afternoon just hanging around the cabin, reading, blogging, and just doing what you do on Lopez. Life here is much slower than on the mainland, and you start to see that you need to accept that and adjust. Slow your roll.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The more things change the more they stay the same...

Now that we've had the chance to settle in a little what we are most surprised by is that Lopez has changed so little since we were last here. 
Sure there are some brand-new businesses and the new grocery store is so appointed with bells and whistles that it's shocking by it's incongruousness within the village, but for the most part Lopez seems unchanged during the past fifteen or so years. 
The village is still the center of commerce for the island, but since they have moved the store a few hundred yards to the north the old center seems kind of lost. It's as if a Walmart came in and moved the downtown core to the outskirts of town, but on a much smaller scale. 
Still you feel some of the same effect. In the original village there's still “Holly B's Bakery”, a staple since the 70's, and the “Bay Cafe”, another throwback to days gone by that has made the transition from a hippy health food store/cafe to the fine dining establishment it is today. These were two places that we most frequented while living here during the 70's and 80's. There are a smattering a vaguely familiar gift shops and coffee houses, all of which have changed ownership and retail emphasis during the past couple of decades, but it seems like now that the grocery has moved out of the center of the village, that the village seems a little scattered, like there's no central core.
Still on the whole the village retains much of it's original vibe.
Locals are still sitting on the porch outside of Holly's eating cinnamon rolls and talking, a dog wanders by conspicuously without leash, a couple of thirty something new age hippies are tending a garden bed across the way, and a trio of bicyclist ride by on their way to the south end. Take a snap shot and it could just as easily be 1979. This is not a bad thing. I'll tell you the truth, I didn't want to see great changes. Sometimes things can't be improved on.
There are definitely much more low income housing within walking distance of the village, but this too takes on a classic Lopez twist with banks of solar panels and communal gardens. It seems Lopez has gone full circle. The low-income housing communities of today are eerily similar to the thriving Lopez communes of the 70's.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.
We are certainly taking advantage of the beautiful walk between Andie's and Wally's cabin and the village. We've only been here for two days and have walked to town twice. Walking down the quiet road we pass by what used to be my Grandparent's property. 

They moved to this property from Indiana. It's a stretch of land close to forty acres that runs from the property the cabin sits on almost all the way into the village. My Grandparents purchased the high bank property just after World War Two and either sold it off or gifted it to their children over the years. The five acres that the cabin sits on are all that remain in the family of the original farm. 

Now as we walk past where “Hi-View”, the acreage where my Grandparent's home and barn stood, where I visited every summer of my childhood, we can catch glimpses of a huge ultra modern contemporary home through a tall fence, all angles and exposed metal, looking more closely like a P.U.D. building than a home. Sometimes you just have to move on.
As we near the village we spy the “Plum Ducky”, my father's older brother's home. It sits back from the road, a cute little cottage almost exactly as it looked seventy years ago. I never met my Uncle, he died before I was born, but I still remember the stories of him running the original Lopez village market during his years on the island, and how much my father looked up to him. It's strange, both Jerani and I have so much history on this island, we both more or less grew up here, both of our families have deep roots here, and yet when we visit it's hard to get past cashiers who we've never seen before, who might have moved here within the past five years, comment somewhat condescendingly “...just visiting for a couple of days?”. Although it's true, we are “visiting”, it's always weird to be treated like a tourist. 
But that's Lopez. Even people who have lived on the island for forty years or more are still sometimes treated as off-islanders by the handful of families with names adorning gravestones throughout the pioneer cemetery. That will always be the way it is here. You ether live here or you're just passing through.
This morning we walked into town and visited Holly B's bakery. We lounged around on a picnic table in the center of the village and ate a leisurely breakfast. Holly makes the best cinnamon rolls.
They tasted great and they brought back memories of Holly and her husband Andre and hanging out at the bakery when it was in it's infancy. After breakfast we walked home and made sandwiches for a picnic lunch. We were planning on heading out to Shark Reef, a jagged outcropping of rock that marks Lopez's closest point with neighboring San Juan Island. 
The currents between the islands, and especially near Shark Reef are very volatile due to the tiny gap the water is forced through during tidal changes between the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Haro Strait. It's an extremely picturesque setting with the two islands, rugged natural landscaping, and backdrop of the Olympic Mountain range. 
We left Erley in the cabin to catch up on his beauty rest and Max just because he's been so incredibly boorish and spoiled (more on Max's need for behavior modification forthcoming). After unhooking the RV and a little maneuvering in the tight confines of the driveway, we were off. 
We pulled up at a practically empty parking lot fifteen minutes later, threw the day-pack on, and set off down the wooded ½ mile path towards Shark Reef. The path winds it's way through some of the last old growth Douglas Fir still on the island, and the trees were offset by the almost neon green new leaves of the Salal bushes. The blue sky and sun peeked through from between the trees and the setting was wonderful. It was warm enough for shorts and tee shirts, which even in June is unusual for the islands. 
We came out to a magnificent view of San Juan Island and the Olympics. It was idyllic to say the least. 
We slowly wandered down the well worn path which meandered through small meadows of Lichen, tough little tufts of grass, and wild flowers. 
We found ourselves a ready made bench of natural granite and sat down and ate our sandwiches while Sea Lions heaved themselves out on to a small outcropping of rock just off shore. It was pretty darn nice. 
 We hiked around a little bit more and then headed back towards the cabin. We fixed ourselves some dinner and watched some of Andie's DVD collection of “Saturday Night Live's” first season, 1975-76. It was a wild time capsule as it was from the year I graduated from high school and the comedians, guest hosts and music all brought back such vivid memories. We turned in early somewhat exhausted from all the walking and slept quite well thank you very much.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


We are now settled in our little backyard parking space and enjoying Jerani's parents hospitality. Sort of boon docking without the possibility of being rousted. 
Max just loves his Grandmother, and since we haven't supplied Pauline and Marvin with any real live human Grandchildren, she tends to spoil him silly. Erley is wandering around the old farm house trying to figure out how in the heck he got there, and where in fact there is. 
He does covet the chance to roam a little, although he always more than happy to return to the little RV, our home away from home. (I guess I had better drop the away part and get real and just call it “ our home”.) 
We are enjoying the opportunity to take Erley on some long walks around the beautiful Cap Sante neighborhood. He really is a champ of a walker and seems to be getting more and more accustomed to these leisurely strolls. (When you walk a cat, believe me, they are ALL leisurely strolls). 
Erley pretty much demands equal outdoor time to Max, so it ends up being a whole production whenever we leave the house. Ah, “RV Adventure with Pets!”.
When we aren't walking the animals we are either exploring the back roads of Anacortes or looking through antique shops and architectural salvage yards for items for the soon to be vacation cabin. 
There are a ton of gorgeous places to walk and the weather has been so glorious that it's a pleasure to get outside. Anacortes is a really nice city, almost completely surrounded by water. It does reside after all on Fidalgo Island, so the scenery is outstanding. 
On top of this are all of the great neighborhoods with their classic turn of the century homes, a revitalized old town core and lots and lots of parks and trails. Really, we couldn't wish for a nicer place to come visit. The temperatures have been in that perfect 70 degree range, and there hasn't been hardly any wind, which is highly unusual up here. Really, really nice.

Marvin and Pauline eat differently than we do (vegan) while we tend more towards hedonism as far as they're concerned. Mom did fix us baked chicken which we put to good use for a couple nights, so that was nice. Pauline also decided to take Erley out on a walk with his walking jacket on while we were both antique shopping. (I mean how hard could it be to walk a cat?) Anyway, long story short, halfway through the walk Pauline panics when Erley tries to get under some cars and tugs on the lead to stop his progress, the cat throws the harness and gets away and runs into the neighbors yard. Pauline runs to open the front door so that she can call Erley inside but the door is locked. She has to run around the house to open the door and yells at Marvin to help her get the cat. Marvin has Max our dog on a lead tied out, so he grabs the dog and puts it in the house through the back door so he doesn’t get away too while they comb the neighborhood for our lost cat. 
As Marvin gets to the bottom of the backyard stairs here comes the dog into the back yard after running through the front door that Pauline has left open to call the cat through. Now both the cat and the dog are loose. Marvin gets a hold of the dog while Pauline calls over and over again “here kitty kitty kitty...” as two of the neighborhood women watch. Marvin scolds Pauline for letting the animals get loose, and just as Erley finally gets bored and moseys over to the open door, we drive up. We find Pauline all sweaty and flustered, and the two of them hardly speaking to on another. Nothing like having the kids drop off their animals with you and go off willy-nilly to ensure harmony in the household.

Marvin has been helping us fix a few things on our RV that we might not of gotten to otherwise. He is very handy and is versed in a multitude of mechanical practices we fall far short on, so he's great at trouble shooting and addressing things that could become issues down the road. (Literally...)
He also played one of his tricks that he's sort of known for. 
He forced us to taste some brown honey which had a very unusual flavor. I couldn't place it, clover fields? No a little more earthy. It was very dark brown for honey..... Then once we taste it he goes on this tirade about how this honey was from bees that feed on cow patty fields. Like at a dairy. And that it was disgusting and not even edible.......Ah yes. Now I know the flavor. Old cow urine. Nice.......
We've been using their kind-of-fast internet connection to do a bunch of research for the cabin. Nothing like flipping a cabin into a vacation rental at warp speed. There's the planning dept presentation that we have to pull together. A site plan, a floor plan-all to scale, and a document answering a bunch of questions along with a hefty check to get our conditional permit. Let's hope the neighbors don't cause a fuss. We're just looking for the rubber stamp, nod, nod, wink, wink.
After a few days in Anacortes we hit the road to check out David's sister's cabin on Lopez Island which is short ferry jaunt from the Anacortes terminal. This was originally David's parents retirement home, and was used as a soft landing spot for David in the early 80's when he sort of flamed out in college. This is the Island on which both our parents lived, where David's Aunts and Uncles and Grandparents retired, where I graduated from high school in a class of eighteen students, where we first met working together on a Salmon farm, and where we were married. Obviously the island holds quite a few memories for us both. We hadn't been there for ages and thought it would be fun to reminisce, and to see the changes that have taken place in our time away. 
The ferry wasn't even full which seemed unusual for a summer run. The island is scenic as ever and the weather is amazing. Once we started our vacation we have been blessed with sun! 
The cabin sits right on the cliff edge (like literally) and has a panoramic view of the Islands and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. 
It's on five wooded acres and within walking distance to Lopez Village. You take this long and ludicrously windy driveway that only David's father would have come up with, and at the end you are rewarded with a small clearing where the cabin sits and a million dollar view. 

We have the RV plugged in and we are enjoying the comforts of home. 
Max is curled up on the living room chair and David is taking a hot shower as I write. You really covet those free hot showers now!
Yesterday we went to the graveyard to put flowers on a few graves. It was a little solemn and also hot as blazes marching around trying to find the Horne family grave-sites. (It doesn't matter how often we visit the graveyard, we never can seem to remember where their gravestones are located.)
We finally managed to locate them while Max whimpered and barked back in the RV. No dogs allowed at the cemetery and especially pooping machines like Max. I think it's his favorite activity. He knows we collect it in bags and likes to keep us supplied...
We took the ill tempered puppy and kitty for a walk on one of  nearby spits and then drove back on Lopez's sleepy rural roads that seem unusually devoid of summer traffic even by Lopez standards. 
This could be because of the humongous costs of the ferry tickets. (It cost us $92.00 for our RV and two adults!) We were hardly complaining though as it seemed we had the island all to ourselves.

After an easy camp style dinner of hotdogs and potato-chips, we settled in and watched “Stand by Me” on David's sister's dvd player. After the movie we watched the sun go down in classic Lopez style and then turned in for a wonderfully noiseless evening.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Bakery letdown and a family homecoming

We woke early but well rested. One thing we did before we left to increase our overall comfort level was to purchase a couple of “camp mattresses” from REI. They are oversized Thermorest type self inflating air mattresses that have really increased our bed's sleepability. 
We inflate them to about 3/4's full, and put them on top of the King size bed and cover them with a mattress pad and sheet. They act as a pillow top to what was already a pretty comfortable bed. The overall result is wonderful and makes for much more cozy evenings inside our little self contained capsule.
We cleaned up in the very nicely appointed port bathrooms and then took the animals for a quick walk. We fixed our coffee and then did a fairly thorough clean up of the RV. (Something which we decided will become a morning ritual so we don't become insane in such tight quarters). 
We were both excited to head into town and stop by one of our favorite bakeries outside of Paris, “The Tyler Street Coffee House”. When we lived in Port Townsend in the nineties this establishment was probably the best kept secret on the West Coast. Owned and operated by a classically trained European baker, the quality of the baked goods was second to none. Not only were his pastries and bread products delectable, but he was equally amazing for the sheer number of different choices he provided. He ran the gambit from the classic croissant to tarts, panne dolce, and twists. It truly was some of the best bakery goods we've ever eaten. We had made sure to glance down the side street it resides on as we entered town the night before to confirm that it was still there, and were relieved to see it hadn't gone out of business. Now as we parked the RV in the small downtown core we were close to salivating with the anticipation of our forthcoming breakfast.
We walked down the side street and the first thing that struck us was that although the shop was open, it was conspicuously lacking a queue, even though it was in the height of the breakfast crush. It was troubling because the Tyler Street Coffee House never was without some sort of a line in times past. It was a given, and something people gladly put up with. Now as we neared the front door we could see a handful of patrons inside, but none were eating the baked goods, just sipping coffee. Another troubling sign. A quick glance at the case only confirmed our trepidation. It was by Tyler Street standards practically empty. A few cinnamon rolls, some sad looking muffins, and a smattering of other pedestrian looking fares. This was starting to look grim. Jerani said to just get a couple of cinnamon rolls to go and she would wait outside. I spied the hipster dufus baker hiding around the corner checking on his text messages, who was most certainly not the previous owner and became even more apprehensive. When the girl across the counter placed them in a bag and handed them to me I just knew we were screwed. The paper sack weighed next to nothing, not a good sign when one is looking for freshly baked goods. This felt like a bag of dry sawdust. I paid the girl and wandered out clutching my bag of fluff and spied Jerani across the street. I said “it doesn't look good...”. She asked what the matter was and I told her they felt really dry. Dry in baked good terminology translates to both over-baked and old, neither which are good. Jerani opened the offending sack and found these rolls to be both. Nasty day old over-baked yucky grocery store quality cinnamon rolls. She was not happy. It was as if you had sat down at a five star restaurant, and been served hot pockets. The audacity of these posers. To take something that was so good, something that totally nailed what a bakery coffee house could aspire to, and to reduce it to this... oh the inhumanity of it all! I am normally one of the more inspired fighters for justice when we have been wronged in financial dealings; but whether it was that I was so crushed by the complete disappointment of our cinnamon rolls, or just the fact that I didn't feel like taking them back across the street, in the end I was ready to roll over. “Let's just throw them away” I said, to which Jerani answered, “give me your wallet and the bag”, and sternly marched across the street. She went back into the coffee house and tossed the bag of offending pastries onto the counter and announced to the bored cashier “These aren't gonna cut it, I want our money back”. The girl didn't miss a beat, like this was an every day occurrence, and reached into the cash register and returned the money. Jerani turned and headed for the door and the girl shouted out a somewhat patronizing “Thank you! Bye bye!”
I guess it's tough to go back; things usually get better or they get worse, they rarely stay the same.
After stopping at another nondescript restaurant and eating a nondescript breakfast we drove up to the upper part of town and gave the animals a walk as we admired the fine Victorian homes that grace the the neighborhood. We then drove back down and got into the ferry line and waited for the Port Townsend to Keystone run, a short thirty minute ride over to Whidbey Island. 
We soon boarded and enjoyed a sun swept ride across the strait, watching a large pod of Doll Porpoise cruise through the swirling currents that are so prominent in this area. 
We disembarked on Whidbey, drove through some very beguiling scenery of old coastal villages interspersed with woods and fields. We maneuvered our rig across the extremely narrow Deception Pass bridge with it's breath taking views and vertigo inducing height and fifteen minutes later we were pulling up to a turn of the century Victorian era farm house owned by Jerani's parents. 
Marvin and Pauline greeted us and the animals warmly as usual, and we drove the Pleasure Way down below the house to a perfect little RV parking space. 
We are now settled in and look forward to enjoying everything that Anacortes has to offer.