Driven to extremes: the Washingtons

Ask me to fly across the country to spend a week exploring an area I’ve never visited and I’ll drop everything to go now. But ask me to drive 8-10 hours south of here through the most congested part of the country to one of the busiest cities and.. gulp, I can do it but don’t ask me to like it. Yet that’s what we did in a short space of a few weeks in September: the Washingtons. Here are some of the highlights.

WA STATE: Our biggest issue on arrival was whether a particular floating bridge would be passable or if we’d have to detour through a scenic area and add up to 90 minutes to our trip. Big deal.

WA DC: Before we left I was checking traffic reports to find out if there was any major road construction or other foreseeable impediments to the trip. We were leaving on a Sunday and didn’t want good weather, which would make NJ beach traffic heavy, or a road race in NY that could throw a wrench into traffic flow that would continue to ripple for days. I was already having flashbacks to the time we got stuck in a 2-hour Beltway traffic jam on a Saturday night for no reason at all.

WA STATE: Boats. Serene beauty of mountains and water. Quiet walks through Port Townsend. Bambi.WA deer mother and bambiWA hike state park Mike

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WA DC: Cabs racing around, high-rise buildings, “I don’t want you to walk to CVS alone.” Ugh.

WA STATE: “GRIZZLY BEARS?!! GRIZZLY BEARS?! We can’t go hiking here! Those bloodthirsty beasts will just tear us apart for no reason! I want to go home!” It took a while to calm him down. I read to him from a guidebook that said there are no grizzlies on the Olympic Peninsula. He didn’t believe me. I finally convinced him the radio station we heard the grizzly report on had to be bounced from over the Canadian border. He finally relented — after he confirmed the info with a guy working in an info booth at the park. Whew, that could have blown the whole week. I had to restrain myself from bringing up the shark issue — how is it that sharks only bother him when he sees them on the nightly news, but not when he’s racing down the beach, ready to jump in the water? Nevermind.

WA DC: Kabob places, everywhere. Did we make a wrong turn and end up in London?

WA STATE: The best recommendation we had was Rialto Beach, a gorgeous hours-long stroll past huge gnarled trees on the beach that will forever change the way I think of “driftwood.” Mike says a British tourist at the Grand Canyon told him about the place. Thanks, mate!

rialto beach wa 1 rialto beach wa 2 rialto beach wa mike 3rialto us in hole

WA DC: Decent hotel room, not noisy as I worried it might be. But it was a mistake to let my expectations rise above the bare minimum: when I went looking for the hotel pool, of course it was bone dry and under construction. Great, after driving all that way it would be a night in, sharing a beer in front of the tv and hitting the sack early (dreading Monday’s dash across town already).

WA STATE: Cheap “inside” room at a beachfront resort with separate indoor pool/sauna/weight room across the street. Hours of peaceful beach walks. Yes, per usual we filled the room with “treasures” from our hikes and the beach (rocks, sticks, sand dollars.. even a significant piece of driftwood that he had to dare me to fit into my bag — so I did). I will forever laugh at the memory of Mike removing his pants to wade across the Moclips River when we were beachcombing. He said “People who see me will just think I’m a Canadian in one of those speedos.”

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WA DC: Do we really have to be across town, over three bridges and through Stage One of security at what’s basically National Security’s headquarters by 8 a.m.? And wearing panty hose for the first time in months (me, not him)? There goes the inner peace I’d enjoyed since the trip to the West Coast, wiped out in a single morning.

WA STATE: Had a good chuckle when someone told us the Moclips “store” had actual food.. sure, when we got past the big growlers of cheap beer and bags of chips we were able to find a neat bundle of celery sticks for $1. Smeared them in peanut butter and called it dinner. So the next day we dashed into a town for groceries, then retreated again to the cozy hotel room. We didn’t have time for restaurants, we had ground to cover and important stuff to do, like hike up miles of empty peaceful trails through rain forests and chase elk around at the Quineault River:

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WA DC: Our uniformed escort looks annoyed when we find her inside the security checkpoint. “Um, I had a phone call from security this morning. Which one of you is a foreign national and why didn’t you tell me before? I almost couldn’t get you in.” That was enough for us, we nixed the plan to stop at the Air and Space Museum on the way out of town. Red tape and hassles everywhere (BTW, we’d both submitted our IDs to security weeks before and neither are foreign nationals!).

WA STATE: We couldn’t stand the thought of going back to reality, so we detoured on our last day and drove through part of Rainier National Park. The mountain itself was shrouded in clouds but there was still plenty of beautiful scenery. We put off going to the cheap airport hotel as long as possible.

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WA DC: Mike says, “That was great, but I’m glad it’s over. I won’t agree to another one of these for a long time. Now let’s drive home and hope we don’t hit too much of the Northern NJ and New York City rush hour traffic at 5pm.” (We did, but he slept through it.)

WA STATE: Do we really have to leave? When can we come back?

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