Olympic Peninsula (Days 3-5)

tAs three young, beautiful (weakling) ladies, we tried to take some basic precautions to keep safe and avoid creepers, psychos, and bears. Both Orcas Island and Deception Pass felt pretty safe and tame, but entering the Sol Duc Campground in the Olympic National Forest, we knew we had to be on guard. This was a Monday now, meaning the average (normal) weekend family campers were back home, leaving the true blue (read: a little odd) outdoorsmen in the wilderness. It didn't help that Sol Duc is the kind of forest where there is more moss on the trees than bark and the sky is anything but visible.

We ultimately nabbed a spot between families, not too far from the bathrooms but far enough from wilderness that bear threat was low to nothing. Just to be safe, though, we secured the cooler and any traces of crumbs in the back seat with the door locked. It was just after dark that this sweet beast of a van literally barreled down the lane and across the way from us. It doesn't get much more molester van than no windows, chipped edges and a 55 gallon water barrel bungee strapped to the roof.

It was only just before we turned in for the night that the horror realization came that the car keys were sitting inside the cooler lid. Locked. The marshmallow pokers were working great when we were disrupted by a chuckle coming in from the darkness. Mr. Creeper van himself, up close not so creepy (except for the chuckle and looming out of darkness). He was a poster boy for REI in a ginormous Patagonia puff coat (the puffiest), straight jaw, chin length hair under a beanie and those glasses that are really goggles, but you know, are glasses. He apologized for laughing and assured us that the ranger could help us out in the morning. Then off to the darkness. Really, a very nice guy. But I did still wake up in the middle of the night sure he was unzipping our tent to come murder us.

Come morning, we used our new friend's cracked-screen pay as you go Walmart cell phone to phone into the Ranger station for a Slim Jim. A good while later came this hunk, Ranger S. Bagocious to save the day. A quick Slim Jim later and we were in, but had to prove to the local authority that we weren't trying to steal the piece of crap car from the middle of the forest.

The officer first chided me for locking the keys in the car with no sympathy for our smart bear attack prevention. Then it came out that the registration is still in my dad's name. Does he even know you have this car? Uh, yes... I'm about to buy it and change the registration. Then, the dates came out and we realized that my tabs expired... 7 months ago (yes, we. I just noticed as well). And then that I didn't have my license (I lost it last week, I promise!). BUT I did have my passport!! (We were maybe going to jump up to Canada at some point)

Don't worry that Mr. Bag went through it page by page and asked me for details about the stamps in it. He made it to Laos once too, you know, and I think it's for that that he gave us the warning that policemen in the area would eat me alive if they found me, which they very well might because the locked car report went out over the radio. Lovely!

All the while, our friendly creepster neighbor sat squatting by his fire pit down the way watching the action. Every time the ranger went back to his oversize Suburban for paperwork he would amble over and mock us, usually postulating that women are biologically predisposed to lock keys in the car to attract strapping, young rangers. Men just aren't wired that way. He would wander away just as Ranger Bag returned for more (overly flirtatious at this point) chiding.

And finally we were on the road again! A long shower at the nearby Sol Duc hot springs gave us a new lease on life and we were on the road again.

Forks was totally creepy and 100% overrated (they have had a 600% increase in tourism due to Twilight. Crazy!)
but La Push was quite pretty.
Cape Flattery is the northwest corner of America and the ocean white with foam got me singing God Bless America all over again.
Then back to Sequim for a killer sunrise over the Dungeness spit and an idyllic day of picking lavender and berries. And lots of Indian sites!
We hit Poulsbo, a little Norwegian town, (where we saw an old man barely hit in a crosswalk and the entire police force show up to deal with the screaming wife and poor 16-year-old who just didn't look hard enough) and Bainbridge Island (where I unsuccessfully tried to do a drive-by of an old boyfriend's house) and finally Russ' house for a sunset over the East side before collapsing back at home.

I love my home!


Pacific Islanders (Days 1-2)

Brooke and Mary decided to come to Seattle, I don't remember why. Probably because I've realized that I'm going to be here for a while with no big hoopla traveling plans and that I've got to keep the spirit alive while I'm working on that whole career and responsibility thing, so I've been recruiting. Brooke owes me a visit from 7 years of friendship and Mary flies for free. Boom. We've got a party.

The party begins on Orcas Island. Well, really the party began in the Anacortes ferry line, which lasted at good 4 hours longer than promised and allowed for a rush tour of the 3 street city's finest antique shops, dingy diners and ocean-themed street decor. Then, the hour and half long ferry through the glorious San Juan Islands. Is it just me or are Friday evening ferry's always full of gruffly handsome island-mountain men? Well worth the $40 price tag for car and passenger if only for the scenery.

Last time I was on Orcas was 6th grade outdoor ed camp. 150+ pre-teens in a week of October rain is a good recipe for flushed cheeks and lungs full of fresh air adventure. This time there are 7 of us onboard and the sun is shining, and I expect nothing less.

Friday night we defied all laws of camping and satisfied my month-long craving of real deal beer battered fish and chips; salty and perfect, right from the ocean. In the morning we hiked up to the big viewpoint with a clear 360° of the San Juan Islands and Victoria, Canada over yonder. Seriously, what kind of world is this where there are people who have to stare at deserts or buildings for their whole lives. Pure deprivation.

And then we got on a little yacht and rode around the islands.

Totally normal. An awesome girl in my ward just happened to be at sea with her dad so we loaded up and cruised through the surprisingly chilly air, unsuccessfully whale-watching, but loving every minute. I had spent the morning talking up the beauty to two Arizonans who believed that AZ's natural beauty could hold a candle to this. SERVED!

The rest of the evening was spent just us three girls at Deception Pass. How this gem has been unknown to me my whole NW life is a mystery to me. The bridge at sunset is a kind of green-gold that merited our three simultaneous gasps of surprise from my little Escort as we wheeled around the corner. We weren't the only ones impressed, dreamer yogi (right) loved it too!

Sunday on Whidbey Island day meant one mission: Find the town where Practical Magic was filmed. Apparently, they painted Coupeville's whole "downtown" in different shades of white to give it that idyllic, small-town feel. The colors are back to normal now, but it's still got some pretty quaint magic going on. Plus, the young Dimitri from the Knead and Feed who made my day with Strawberry Rhubarb pie and stealing my heart. If only the floppy haircut and bumbling sweetness only an innocent 17-year-old can genuinely smile could find its way into my ward, perhaps a decade older.

Another ferry at Keystone (almost didn't make it on/off this one at least 3 times) and voila! We're on the Peninsula!!

To be continued...


Pacific NW

I've been on a journey. It's a little hard to find the energy to whittle it down to a concise and enjoyably readable blog post, but I'm working on it. A teaser for you: our route

And some pics. More photos, stories and clever commentary to come.

aargh, I hate html


Fourth of July Festivities

I have to get this announcement off my chest. It has been plaguing me for weeks.

I RAN A 5K!!!

If you know me, you know that I hate running. With everything in me. But sometimes, a girl's got to do things she hates for the simple fact that it should be done. I promised myself I'd run at least one this summer and even though my jogging routine has all but gone out the window, I signed up for the Firecracker 5000, Midnight 5K. I might be a masochist for agreeing to almost all up-hill (how is that even possible) route around Seattle's most beloved landmark, the Space Needle, especially with my wimpy, toddler lung capacity and Heavyweights-like endurance, but I did it! At midnight! With a USA theme! And I didn't die! (The !!!s must come from that runner's high I've heard so much about)
I was going to do it alone, no lie, until I found out that some girls I know (runners themselves, the kind that run on purpose, fast) were signed up as well so we made a caravan of it. And by caravan I mean that we started at the time and I took twice their time to get back to the finish line. Great motivation to keep at it and get better!
I'm not sure what's going on with my body here, but I am excited it's over!
The celebration continued on the night of the fourth, this time with I think everyone from Seattle congregating at Gasworks Park. They played God Bless America during one of the fireworks sequences, which I'm thrilled about, considering the masses of atheists in attendance. Monica commented on my perma-smile throughout the show. I really do love fireworks. Twice a year is just not frequent enough to enjoy them.
Troy, on my right, I went out on a blind date with over 6 years ago. Oh what a world of run-ins!
The lovely Carrie and Catherine


Tangibly American

A mission companion once said to me of her travels, "living abroad makes one realize that there is something within that is tangibly American." I could not agree more. While the national anthem and patriotic movies do encourage a certain love of country, leaving the perimeters of this freedom, opportunity and God-given rights to which we pledge allegiance from the day we enter Kindergarten provides us with new eyes and a fresh understanding of just how lucky we are to call this country home.

Poverty, corruption and class separation surely make their mark within our borders, as well as abroad. There is something deeper, though, that I can't seem to articulate, something that rises to the surface upon exiting the country. I keep typing and deleting, trying to pin down what exactly that I mean, but I can't seem to get it right without sounding pompous and US-centric.

God created men to be free and America is a testament to the fact that it is possible. I have rights by breathing that I didn't have to fight for, that citizens of other countries don't even know are options.

Sure, my country has done ugly, nasty things in the history of the world; stealing, lying, oppressing for the sake of self. I love the quote by David Sedaris,

"Every day we're told that we live in the greatest country on earth. And it's always stated as an undeniable fact: Leos were born between July 23 and August 22, fitted queen-size sheets measure sixty by eighty inches, and America is the greatest country on earth. Having grown up with this in our ears, it's startling to realize that other countries have nationalistic slogans of their own, none of which are "We're number two!""

It's not a sense of superiority I feel, nor disdain for countries who don't mirror the understanding, but my country stands up and agrees with God that men should be free, and that is about the most blessed fact on my birth certificate.

I'm going to have to work on putting this into words that make a little more sense. But for now, I'm feeling proud to be an American, and extra grateful for the individuals I know and don't who have given themselves so that I could be.

And for muppets.



*I wrote this a week or two ago and forgot to publish it. I'm feeling a whole lot better now (easy to improve from this kind of state) and will be posting the proof of it shortly!

I'm cranky. And cold. Because my room has this weird stink right now so the window is open and even though it's July 3, it's only 50 degrees outside and I bet it rains again tomorrow. I'm annoyed that the only place where it's any kind of quiet is in my car and I can't be in there with the windows closed because it still reeks of gasoline from a tiny spill three weeks ago and the vanilla tree hanging from the mirror doesn't work for crap. My house is a disaster. The kitchen sink is clogged and it looks like diarrhea is coming up the pipe whenever I try to do anything to remedy the situation. I'm thinking of torching the whole house and starting from scratch. I'm sick of breaking out, breaking up and breaking earrings, which somehow never ceases to surprise me how often all three of these storm through. I can't believe my dryer takes 2 hours for a full dry with no mildew smell or that girls who I think of as 7th graders are married now with babies, which means they are having sex and I don't get to. I can't ever decide what to eat and that is not getting easier. I miss Thailand. A lot. Weather, food, people I love and the weird sense of humor I get when I speak Thai. I have angry feelings towards some people who are driving me crazy. It's rare that I hold a grudge for more than 5 minutes and I don't know how people do it for longer than that because it is exhausting! I'm praying for a get-over-it heart, a little humility, and a lot of patience. And a better mood.