Travels postsFriday August 26, 2011
26 Things I Learned While Camping on San Juan Island and at Baker Lake
- The wrong time to get attacked by mosquitoes is two days before camping. Makes you sensitive to what you can't avoid.
- The 2008 Mazda 3 doesn't have a plug-in or outlet to charge iPhones.
- Washington State Ferrys do--but we figured it out too late. Thus no personal pictures here. Apologies.
- The San Juan ferry trip is 100 times better on a sunny day (returning) than on a cloudy day (going).
- San Juan Island has a camel. Her name is Mona. She has a baby. T-shirts are for sale.
- A camel is all well and good but it doesn't beat baby alpacas.
- If you go to Downriggers, in Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, spend the extra money for the dungeness crab sandwich. The grilled crab sandwich sounds like “grilled crab” but is actually a dollop of crab mixed with a gallon of mayonnaise and then the sandwich is grilled.
- Orca whales are actually dolphins.
- The skeletons of whale fins look like human hands.
- Dorsal fins are made of cartilage.
- Porpoises are shyer, smaller and chunkier than dolphins. They are nerds, essentially. Dophins are BMO-Seas. (Apologies.)
- Oceanographers are worried that boat noise, including noise from whale-watching boats, is depleting the whale population. Which is why we watched them from Lime Kiln Point State Park. Which may be why we didn't see any.
- The Whale Museum at Friday Harbor, where I learned #s 8-12, and which my nephews, 10 and 8, didn't want to leave after an hour, kicks ass.
- The scientists at Lime Kiln Point kick ass, too.
- Putting up a two-person tent is hard.
- Changing into your swimsuit in a two-person tent is harder.
- Changing into your swimsuit in a two-person tent, and getting a good look at your stomach, is a good way to get someone to go to pilates class next Wednesday at 5:30 PM.
- There are many multimillion-dollar yachts for sale at Roche Harbor, San Juan Island.
- The rich obviously need another tax break so they afford to buy these multimillion-dollar yachts and get our economy going again.*
- Yachta Yachta is a good pun but a bad name for a boat.
- Ryan, 8, likes rock climbing.
- Jordy, 10, knows the words to Sir Mix A Lot's “Baby Got Back.”
- Baker Lake is fucking gorgeous.
- A good brat beats a great hotdog.
- Patricia is freaked by worms. Even inchworms. Particularly inchworms that come down from trees on silk threads. She calls them “ninja worms.”
- The sign in park outhouses, advising against throwing garbage down toilets because “it is extremely difficult to remove,” is not only one of the most understated signs ever written, it also makes me think park employees are not paid nearly enough.
Baker Lake. We woke up to this. We went swimming in this. So can you. Because it's ours: a National Forest.
Searching for Birds in Bodega, Calif.
If it's been a quiet week on ErikLundegaard.com it's because Patricia and I drove from Seattle to Bodega, Calif., for our friend Ward's 50th birthday. Ward actually lives in Seattle but his friends, with Patricia at the forefront, told him he had to do something special for his 50th; he couldn't just have a party. Initial discussions, I found out this past weekend, actually centered on Lebanon, but others reined in that thought and offered the Oregon coast. Bodega Bay was the compromise between the Oregon coast and Lebanon. As it always is.
My reaction upon hearing the party's location was the film nerd's reaction: You mean the place where Hitchcock filmed “The Birds”? I suggested all blondes attending wear their hair in a chignon.
Tippi Hedren demonstrating the playful insouciance, and the Hitchockian chignon, that made her so memorable in “The Birds.”
We actually stayed a few miles south of Bodega Bay, at Dillon Beach, renting several houses with spectacular views of the ocean. Saturday morning, after the initial, intense warm-up dinner, with too many courses and too much wine, Ward convinced the entire crew to attend a charity pancake breakfast, then a mid-afternoon wine-tasting, but I begged off, not hungry, a bit hungover, and a whole lot curious about Bodega. I drove into town searching for ... I don't know what. That diner. That schoolhouse. Tippi Hedren.
This and that looked familar but not familiar enough, so I pulled over to the side of the road and read the Bodega Bay (pop 1423) section of Lonely Planet's Coastal California book. Apparently the place is “the first pearl in a string of sleepy fishing towns” and “the setting of Alfred Hitchcock's terrying 1963 avian horror fllck, The Birds” (I like the helpful addition of “avian” there, not to mention “terrifying”), but as to what is where, the book wasn't much help. So I stopped in at the Terrapin Creek Cafe for a quick lunch and peppered the waitress with my “Birds” questions. She suggested the Visitor Center back on California 1, which runs through town, and which I'd passed on the way in. There, as soon as I mentioned “The Birds,” the woman behind the counter took out a single-sheet black-and-white map and a yellow highlighter, and in a tone somewhere between Selma Diamond and comatose, laid out the particulars:
- The Tides Wharf restaurant where everyone gathered during the attack
- The gas station that goes up in flames
- The house across the bay on Gaffney Point that never existed
- The Potter schoolhouse five miles south on California 1 in the town of Bodega; and
- The country store across the street that has the most extensive “Birds” collection anywhere in the world.
“I get the feeling you've done this before,” I said. This brought a smile. “Only about eight thousand times a year,” she replied.
So I filled up my car at the gas station that blew up in “The Birds,” then drove across California 1 to the Tides Wharf Restaurant, where Tippi Hedren had watched in horror as the gas station blew up in “The Birds.” But the perspective still seemed off. The gas station was across California 1? On a hill? The Tides Wharf included a gift shop that barely mentioned “The Birds,” just—after a search—a few postcards, some lame T-shirts, a big picture book, and a smaller, almost mimeographed pamphlet called “The Birds by Hitchcock: Sonoma Coast Guide: Expanded Second Edition.” This last, I figured, you could only get there, so I got it there, then peppered the girls behind the counter with questions. The second was a fount of information. The Tides Wharf where we were? Not the original. The original burned down in 1965, along with the gas station, which, yes, had been on this side of California 1. But the schoolhouse, the Potter Schoolhouse, still existed. Five miles south on “The 1.”
And that's where I went. Here's the famous scene:
The Potter Schoolhouse attack in Alfred Hitchcock's “The Birds.”
In the town of Bodega, I initially mistook St. Theresa's Church, made famous by Ansel Adams, for the Potter Schoolhouse, made famous by Alfred Hitchcock. But then I turned into a small road and there it was. It's privately owned now, and there's no bench in the backyard, let alone a playground or jungle gym; but I still got out and took a picture:
The Potter Schoolhouse today.
Then to the country store. As quiet as the rest of the town is about “The Birds,” the country store is just that noisy. It's like a museum but with all of the pieces for sale.
Apparently Tippi Hedren also sells wine now. Apparently she was in Bodega Bay the weekend before, at the Tides Wharf, signing autographs. I bought my share of swag—including a “What Would Hitchcock Do?” T-shirt—and acted the tourist. I just needed the Bermuda shorts and the camera hanging around my neck to complete the picture.
The next day, on the way out of town, Patricia and I returned to the schoolhouse to complete the picture:
We'll photoshop the birds in later.
Take a long drive with me
On California 1, California 1...
--The Decemberists, “California One/Youth and Beauty Brigade”
This past week, driving along California 1, the state route begun in 1934 that winds down the California coast, as Patricia and I traveled from Seattle to Bodega Bay for a friend's 50th birthday celebration, I kept thinking of baseball and pitching.
I know. Apologies, and bear with me.
Most roads, certainly most highways, are like fastballs down the pike. They may have some bend in them but nothing you can't handle. California 1, in contrast, is like the craziest pitch thrown by the greatest pitcher ever. It twists and swoops and dips and soars and bends and keeps bending and keeps bending further until you're almost heading in the opposite direction—north when you want south, south when you want north—until, at last, it finally breaks the other way, your way, and the whole damn thing begins again.
And the speeds! A good freeway may vary its speeds a bit, like a good pitcher will vary his speeds between the 95-mph fastball, the 85-mph splitter and the 75-mph change-up. These differences are nothing on California 1. There, you'll be spotted 55 mph. Then with hardly a warning it'll cut back to 15 mph. Back up to 45. Down to 25. Then 15 again. Then back up to 55. All on these swooping, dipping, winding roads, with incredible views of sky and ocean, cliffs and haystack rocks, and you're so distracted by it all, by the beauty and the winding roads, you find yourself going 55 in the 15 zone, 15 in the 55 zone.
But worth it. We can't wait to go back.
Bumper Stickers Seen Driving From Seattle, Wa. to Bodega, Ca.
WHY IS THERE ALWAYS MONEY FOR WAR BUT NOT FOR EDUCATION?
FOLLOW ME TO DRIVE-THRU FEED
GOD DANCED THE DAY YOU WERE BORN
MY OTHER CAR IS A DRAGON BOAT
LAND OF THE FREE/ BECAUSE OF THE BRAVE
ARNOLD DON'T SURF
Patricia, Dairy Queen, and Hwy 101 during a rare sunny moment on our trip.
Travels: Rehoboth Beach: Lessons in Capitalism
I fear I didn’t capture Rehoboth right here. I fear I didn’t capture our week in Rehoboth right. I missed so much. For example:
- Rehoboth’s summertime workers used to be populated by Mid-Atlantic kids like my sister, from Timonium, Md., but now they’re more often from the former Soviet Union: Russia and Belarus and Ukraine. I brought this up with the owner of the house my sister was renting, who lived next door and popped in on us one evening, big-voiced and garrulous and fun, with the thickest of Delaware accents, as we were all drinking and talking on the screened-in front porch. He assumed I was referencing a prostitution ring that made headlines in the mid-1990s but I said I didn’t know from prostitution rings. It’s the geography of it. Why Russia? Why not, you know, Timonium? I forget his response. Were Russians cheaper? Were American kids no longer interested? He might have repeated the line I’d heard from others: that summer vacation in Eastern Europe tends to go on longer than ours, and so the Russian kids can stay past Labor Day and not leave businesses short-staffed for the final weeks of the season. That made sense to me. Until I spoke with a girl from Russia I met at the Internet Cafe on 1st Avenue, who, while answering a slew of questions from me (“Had she been to other cities?” Yes. “Favorite?” Miami. “How did she hear about the Rehoboth job?” There was a company in Russia, who worked with a company in America, who...), added, unbidden, that the tough part of the deal was getting back to Russia two weeks after school started. Summer vacations aren’t different. The difference between then and now is who bears the burden of the overlap. It used to be Americans businesses, who remained short-staffed while American kids returned to school. Now it’s the Russian kids, who remain in America while their Russian peers get a leg-up. Welcome to capitalism.
- My nephew Ryan couldn’t get enough of Funland. Not the rides but the games. And not the games but the prizes from the games. He loves stuffed animals. As soon as he won one he wanted another, and as soon as he won a small one he wanted a bigger one. Funland allows you to trade up this way: three smalls equal a medium; three mediums equal a bigger medium. The big prize was a giant stuffed alligator. He was all id—want, want, want—and no army of stuffed animals sated his desire. We talked of having an intervention but we acted as enablers. Yes, Ryan, one more game. Sure, Ryan, I’ll play with you since it’s 11 in the morning and no one else is at Wac-a-Mole. At the end of the week, his mother, my sister Karen, showed up at lunch with the giant stuffed alligator under her arm. But she hadn’t won it. She’d run into the owner of Funland, for whom she worked back in the 1980s, and he gave it to her. Another lesson in capitalism: It’s who you know.
- Ryan’s older brother, Jordy, didn’t want stuffed animals; he wanted stuff: electronics, mostly. He’s a gamer, with earlier versions of PlayStation and current versions of Wii at home, and one night, at the Surfside Arcade, he played the arcade version of “Guitar Hero,” which he has on the Wii, and did so well with Foghat’s “Slow Ride” (on “hard”) that he drew an audience, to whom, like a real rock star, he was oblivious. He wound up with the fifth-best score, just ahead of someone calling himself “Slash.”
- Two of my favorite swims at Rehoboth were early-morning, solo swims after jogs along the boardwalk. There’s nothing like diving into the ocean still sweating and steaming from a run. There’s nothing like a swim before breakfast with only beachcombers and sand zambonis around. That’s living. That’s fun.
- Mostly we ate in, lovely meals over at the Muschlers’ rental home, sitting in the backyard, drinking and talking, as the light died and the bugs came out. We went out for dinner twice: once to Obie’s By the Sea, just off Olive on the north end of the boardwalk, and once to Ed’s Chicken & Crab in Dewey, where my mother and sister, who ignore the chicken part of the equation, closed the joint.
- But my favorite meal may have been the one we had before we arrived. My mother had picked up Patricia and I at 9:30 a.m. at Reagan National, and we sped over the Bay Bridge before 11:00, which for Patricia and I was 8:00, so we weren’t interested in the sea food restaurant just on the other side that my sister had recommended. But once it was after noon, where to eat? We drove along 404 toward Rehoboth, seeing a few spots, but momentum kept carrying us on until finally, at a county junction, Patricia yelled, “That place!” and I stopped the car and turned into the gravel parking lot. It was a Kiwanis Club barbecue chicken joint, open-aired but covered, where you ate at picnic tables and used a water pump to wash your hands afterward. A line of women were serving up the following: half a chicken, sweet pickles, a roll and bag of potato chips. That chicken turned out to be the best barbecue I’ve had in years: tangy and juicy. I also had a great encounter at the end of the line, where you paid, and where a tip jar stood for donations to the Bridgeville Center. I looked at the cashier, a man in his 70s, and pointed. “What’s the Bridgeville Center?” I asked. He seemed surprised, first, that a question had been asked, then leaned forward conspiratorially. “It’s just a buncha old farts,” he said. I gave him a dollar for the laugh.
And on and on. I could add more, but I don’t think I’ll be able to capture what I really want to capture about Rehoboth Beach. It may be as simple as the heat on the wood of the boardwalk; it may be as complex as the sense of fulfillment you have in the ocean, or the sense of longing you have out of it. Besides, I know I’m lingering. I know it’s Saturday morning. Time for one last walk to the boardwalk. Time for one last look at the ocean. Bye.