Road tripping; touring historic Route 66 in bite-size pieces…old highway celebrates 90th birthday!

The Foothills Drive-in Theater sign is all the remains of the iconic drive-in theater in Azuza, CA that fronted on Rt. 66; the sign is now part of Azuza Pacific University.

Road tripping; touring historic Route 66 in bite-size pieces…
The fabled ‘Mother Road’ turns 90 this year!

Western terminus of Rt. 66 is on the Santa Monica, CA, Pier.

I was first exposed to Route 66 in the summer of 1962, when my mother packed me and my two brothers in the back of a Ford station wagon, towing a Nimrod tent trailer, and set off from Ohio to Chicago, then following Route 66 all the way to Southern California. My dad would fly into Los Angeles and join us – but we had two weeks on our own, on a journey along that fabled highway that changed my life.

Since then, I’ve done my share of reading about the historic route that connected existing highways in 1927 and knitted them together into a new US highway, Route 66. The government was reacting to the continuing popularity and growth of automobiles and more and more American’s willingness to travel long distances.

Back in the day, gas was selling for $.16-$.18 a gallon, new Fords and Chevys could be bought for $350 and $525, respectively – a large sum in those days – and Americans were beginning to revel in the open road. Then came the Depression, the Dust Bowl, World War II and its aftermath and more and more Americans used the highway to head west to build new lives.

Old "Flying A" gas station on Shamrock Ave. in Monrovia, CA, once served Rt. 66 drivers.

The new highway took shape in 1926 when the Bureau of Public Roads authorized the first Federal Highway, by linking existing local, state and national roads; Rt. 66 debuted in 1927.  The result was a meandering 2,445 mile highway that began in Chicago, Illinois and crossed Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and ended in Los Angeles (a realignment 10 years later shifted the western terminus to Santa Monica). Aggressively promoted by the US 66 Highway Association as “the shortest, best and most scenic route from Chicago through St. Louis to Los Angeles”, travelers poured westward!

Small to large towns along the newly christened Route 66 looked at the road as an opportunity to promote themselves and businesses, restaurants, motor courts and gas stations exploded.  Though World War II caused a dramatic downturn in travelers along Route 66, traffic again increased dramatically at war’s end.

The once-classy Aztec Hotel in Monrovia, CA, was a popular overnight stop for Rt. 66 travelers.

President Eisenhower, noting the success of the German Autobahn during the war, spurred the construction of a new, Federal four-lane highway system in 1956 that would become today’s Interstate system.  Five new Interstates (I-55, I-44, I-40, I-15 and I-10) would steadily replace Route 66 over almost 30 years, and in 1985 Route 66 was decommissioned (Williams, AZ was the last town bypassed).

The mother road turns 90 this year and the Nat King Cole hit, “Get your kicks on Route 66″ celebrates 70 years. Each year, more and more Americans endeavor to tour all, or part, of the historic highway. To do it well, Chicago to Santa Monica, you need at least 2 to 3 weeks. Better, for most, is to tackle the old highway in bite-size pieces.

That’s just what we’ve done over the past four years. We tackled our first segment, from Williams, Arizona west to California’s border four years ago, followed by the Oklahoma, Texas and eastern New Mexico portion three years ago, then the Needles, CA to Santa Monica section two years ago, and, last fall, the stretch from St. Louis, Missouri through Kansas to Oklahoma. That means we still have the Chicago to St. Louis stretch to navigate – hopefully a meandering diversion on our next trip across the central US.

Rt. 66-themed shops line the main drag in Williams, AZ, the last town bypassed by the interstates, which led to the decommisioning of Rt. 66 in 1985.

There is not enough space to share all our favorite memories of the roughly three-quarters of Rt. 66 we have toured.  But, in California they have to include Needles and the grand old El Garces Hotel (an old Harvey House Hotel) built in 1906, the Needles Theatre, circa 1930 and old Union 76 and Texaco gas stations.  Just behind the Route 66 Motel are the moldering remains of the old Carty’s Camp Motor Court, featured in the Grapes of Wrath movie. In Azuza the old Foothills Drive-In Theater sign remains and the end of the route, on the Santa Monica Pier.

In Arizona, Williams takes a top spot for creatively capitalizing on the nostalgia of the old highway, and, just west, the tiny town of Ash Fork, with abandoned truck stop and the town almost dried up, is sober testimony of a city that lost its luster when bypassed by the new Interstate. However, the next town west, Seligman, offers an example of how a small town off I-40 can recapture much of its grandeur by focusing on the highway’s drawing power.

Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and southern Missouri have their respective highlights; it’s fun to take the time to dig them out. Each small stop offers photo highlights and mute testimony to a simpler, slower age before Interstate travel allowed 70 MPH traveling.

An abandoned truck stop in Ash Fork, AZ, offers mute testimony to the future of many towns bypassed by the Interstate Highway system.

By the way, my life change: that 1962 family trip, which covered Route 66, then north through California and Idaho to Yellowstone Park, hooked me on the west and left me forever nostalgic about the old highway. That led me to a summer job in Yellowstone Park four years later where I met my future spouse. How can we not tour the balance of that old highway?

For more info on Route 66: Overall historic Route 66: nps.gov/nr/travel/route66; California, route66ca.org; Arizona, azrt66.com (other states have their own statewide associations).

"The Eagle has landed van", parked outside a dusty bar in what remains of Ash Fork, AZ, just blocks from the busy Interstate 40 that bypassed the town in 1985.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in your world!

Posted in Midwest US, Southern California, Southwest USA (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas) | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The ‘endless summer’ continues, from Santa Monica to San Clemente, California

Santa Monica's lively pier on a hazy summer morning (and end of old Rt. 66).

Endless beaches and the ‘endless summer’ continues, from Santa Monica to San Clemente, California

Santa Monica's 3rd Street Promenade street scene.

We’ve been visiting Southern California every year for the past 20 years or so. From frequent forays with kids and grandkids, mixing in camping, bicycling and good food, we’ve located favorite spots for the beach scene, family activities and laid back days.

This stretch of the California coast offers 60 miles of sparkling beaches and coves, family activities, entertainment, hiking, bicycling and dining options extending north to south. Orange county, making up the bulk of this area, is famed as California’s Riviera, and is also home to Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim hockey team, LA Angels of Anaheim baseball team and many cultural attractions.

But it’s the beach scene that captures the attention of kids, grandkids and even older adults. With ocean views, lively activities and inexpensive to fine dining around every corner, here are our favorites, starting with Santa Monica and heading south.

Surfers catch a few final waves with the sun setting beyond the Huntington Beach Pier.

Santa Monica and Venice Beach: With its famed pier, Santa Monica is also the westernmost end of the historic Route 66. Its wide beach has a paved hiking/biking trail that runs both north and south (to Venice Beach, home to the iconic Muscle Beach and some of Southern California’s most fit weight lifters). Take time to stroll the old pier and shop the vendors lining nearby Venice Beach’s bikepath.

Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade, just a few blocks off the beach, has developed a huge following for trendy shops, boutiques, restaurants and street entertainment. For fine dining, you can’t go wrong at Ocean Avenue Seafood, just a few steps north of the pier.

Corona Del Mar State Beach and the Newport Harbor entrance.

Huntington Beach: With three famed beaches, Huntington City Beach, Huntington State Beach and Bolsa Chica State Beach, the city is ‘Surf City USA’. You’ll find surfing, volleyball, fire rings for night-time campfires and a paved cycling/walking trail running the eight mile length of the city’s ocean-front.

The city’s Main Street also features the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum and Surfing Walk of Fame; with camping right on the beach in several locations this is a hard town to ignore for campers or surfers. At its border with Newport Beach, cyclists can turn east and pedal up the Santa Ana River Bike trail for more than 25 miles through a changing cityscape and deep into the coastal mountains.

The Balboa Island Ferry crosses between the Balboa Peninsula and Balboa Island, carrying passengers, bikes and a few autos.

Newport Beach Arguably the most upscale of these oceanfront cities, the town boasts two piers, Newport and Balboa Piers, along a wide, sandy beach front and a paved bike path. Check out Balboa Island by taking the cute three-car Balboa Island Ferry from the Balboa Peninsula and walk around the island amongst charming homes, cottages, restaurants and boutiques. Walk through the 1905 Balboa Pavilion, cupola-topped and gabled, offering harbor tours, whale watching and cruises to Santa Catalina – about 26 miles and 75 minutes via ferry. A great and funky family restaurant is the Crab Cooker, with good food and lower prices than many of its nearby neighbors.

Dolphins frolick just off the beach at Crystal Cove State Park.

The south end of Newport beach features the three-mile, oceanfront Crystal Cove State Park with rocky coves, pristine beaches and the former oceanfront town of Crystal Cove, site for several dozen movies and television shows. The old beachtown preserves the cottage used in the film ‘Beaches’ featuring Bette Midler, and a number of other films including Son of Tarzan, Treasure Island, Herbie the Love Bug and other epics. About half the old cabins have been renovated and can be rented per night in the $200-$300 range. Beachcomber’s Restaurant, right on the beach, is a favorite for quality food and spectacular sunsets. Two weeks ago, a school of dolphins frolicked just 100 feet off the beach

Laguna Beach is just south, offering more rugged coastline, sandy beaches and attractions like the Laguna Playhouse and Laguna Art Museum. The town’s Main Beach features volleyball and basketball courts, a grassy kid’s play area and borders a quaint downtown packed with shops and boutiques right across the street.

The brig Pilgrim at the Ocean Institute at Dana Point Harbor.

Dana Point: With a huge harbor offering more than 2500 slips, it’s home to the Ocean Institute, featuring a replica of the sailing brig the Pilgrim, on which Richard Henry Dana (author of Two Year’s Before the Mast) sailed and the Maddie James Seaside Learning Center with the Spirit of Dana Point, a replica of a 1770s privateer used during the American Revolution. On the south end is Doheney State Beach, offering camping, beachcombing and easy access to the nearby harbor.

San Clemente: once President Richard Nixon’s ‘Western White House’, the pretty town features a beachfront pier, anchored by our favorite Fisherman’s Restaurant, where one can dine and watch surfers on either side of the pier. With a meandering bike path and the tracks for the Amtrak Surfliner both paralleling the beach, there’s always activity going on.

What’s nearby: East of Newport Beach is the Upper Newport Beach Estuary with a huge variety of wildlife and birdwatching opportunities along miles of walking trails. Just east of Dana Point is San Juan Capistrano, built around the mission founded by Father Junipero Serra in 1776. Walk through the old mission courtyard with plants dating back two hundred years and cross the rail tracks to the Los Rios Historic District with over 30 homes, some dating  to 1794; It’s the oldest residential neighborhood in California.

Mission San Juan Capistrano's historic courtyard and garden dates to 1776.

For more insight: Santa Monica, santamonica.com; Orange County, visittheoc.com.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in your world!

 

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Carrizo Plain National Monument, Pinnacles National Park and Fort Ord National Monument make for exciting tours!

Wildflowers are exploding on the Carrizo Plain in golden and purple hues!

Carrizo Plain, Pinnacles and Ft. Ord; wildflower explosion all through central and coastal California

Hills of the Caliente Range on edge of Carrizo Plains are becoming blanketed in golden hues!

We had been up-and-down the state of California on Interstate 5 dozens of times, but never turned off near Buttonwillow to see the Carrizo Plain National Monument just an hour to the west. But several friends had recently posted photos of the monument’s spectacular wildlife bloom, and that’s all it took to cause us to take the journey to a very special place.

A bit of online research revealed that, just a few hundred years ago, California’s Central Valley was a vast, undeveloped grassland where elk and antelope grazed and the spring landscape was a’blaze in wildflowers. Over the last 200 years, agriculture and human settlement has forever changed the face of the valley; the Corrizo Plain preserves a segment of California as it once was. It’s a place of scenic grandeur where you can virtually hear the sounds of silence!

Sign marks entrance into Carrizo Plain NM, managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

So, off we went; from Interstate 5 we headed west through a far-flung oil field, with derricks pumping away, pulling oil and natural gas out of California bedrock. We were soon into emerald green hills, testimony to the long, wet and fairly cold winter the state has experienced.

We took winding CA Hwy. 58, becoming more scenic by the mile. Golden and purple wildflowers began to show their faces, and as we reached a deep pass through the dramatic hills, suddenly the slopes were a’glow in gold, purple and yellow hues.

The monument website notes that March to April is the most usual time to see wildflowers in abundance, though this long, wet winter promises blooms deep into May. During our visit a week ago, goldfields carpeted the hills with brilliant golden hues, and daisies, poppies and lupine were beginning to burst forth. A BLM rep noted that the cool temperatures should allow April flowers to stay in bloom longer than normal, and that in May, buckwheat, mariposa lilies and farewell-to-spring flowers should make a strong appearance.

An old windmill guards a hillside awash in yellow splendor.

The Monument offers two campgrounds, and the nearby Los Padres National Forest offers additional camping options. San Luis Obispo and Morro Play on the coast are just a bit further west, offering a number of hotel, motel and bed and breakfast accommodations, as well as seafood and views of the mighty Pacific.

The Carizzo Plain provides a wealth of hiking and bicycling, horseback riding and stunning birdwatching, wildlife and wildflower viewing. Wildlife for the hardy explorer can include sightings of pronghorn antelope, tule elk, black-tailed deer, bobcats and mountain lions, coyotes and ground squirrels. For a map of the Carrizo Plain National Monument, go to: CA_CarrizoPlain_NM

Geographically, it’s an exciting place, with the Caliente Range running through the monument and the Sierra Madre Mountains lying just to the west. Of particular interest is the San Andreas Fault, which on January 9, 1857 ruptured the monument area with a huge earthquake causing 30 feet of lateral offset within the Carizzo Plain, splitting the surface with a fault-line stretching 220 miles. Take the trail on Wallace Creek, and watch for the unusual land forms, following the trail guide to see the remnants of this huge earthquake more than 160 years before.

Machete Ridge is the rugged spine of Pinnacles National Park (photo courtesy of the National Park Service)

To make a several day exploration of our emerald green national monuments or parks, include a visit to either Pinnacles National Park or Fort Ord National Monument on your return north. Both offer stunningly scenic vistas and promise wildflower blooms this year like none recently.

Pinnacles is our most recent of 59 national parks, also the result of the San Andreas Fault. The park features the rugged remnants of an ancient volcano just north of Los Angeles, moving steadily along the fault about 2.5 inches per year, distancing itself from the mother volcano!

Ft. Ord, established as a national monument in 2012, is sandwiched between Monterey and Salinas and offers an undiscovered gem with plenty of hiking, bicycling and birding options, as well as wildflower and wildlife viewing in its undulating backcountry.

Wildflowers are beginning to carpet slopes in Ft. Ord National Monument.

 

How to get there: To reach Carrizo Plain National Monument, take interstate 5 south, exit Buttonwillow and follow Highway 58 to the west and the signage to the monument; it’s 250 miles and four hours from Stockton.

To reach Pinnacles National Park or Ft. Ord National Monument, continue west on Highway 58, then turn north on Highway 101.

 

For more information: Carrizo Plain National Monument, blm.gov/nlcs_web/sites/ca/st/en/prog/nlcs/Carrizo_Plain_NM.html, phone: (805) 475-2131; Pinnacles National Park, nps.gov/pinn; phone: 831.389.4486; for Ft. Ord National Monument, https://www.blm.gov/nlcs_web/sites/ca/st/en/prog/nlcs/Fort_Ord_NM.html, phone: (831) 582-2200 .  Camping at federal campgrounds can be booked through www.recreation.gov, or by calling 877.444.6777.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in your world!

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National Parks week is this week…and, get a deal on a Senior Pass!

Wildflowers cover the hills in Carrizo Plain National Monument (BLM photo).

We are a couple of days into National Park Week, April 15–23- still time to visit nearby national parks like Yosemite, Pinnacles, Death Valley, Joshua Tree NPs and nearby national monuments like Ft. Ord NM near Monterey, Carrizo NM just west of Buttonwillow and many others. So, get out this weekend, or, plan your trips for the upcoming weeks! All these national parks and monuments are within a three to eight hour drive from San Joaquin County.

Wildflowers in Ft. Ord National Monoment are expected to be much more dramatic than these I saw a year ago!

Parks need you; your continued support ensures that the parks remain vibrant, relevant, and preserved for today and always. Help protect and celebrate America’s treasured places during National Park Week, April 15-23!

Federal Senior Pass?If you are a senior, 62+, and don’t have your national park’s senior pass – get it quick.  Just $10 at entrances to our national parks, or $20 on-line, it’s good for a lifetime – and gets you into all 59 national parks and many other federal lands (like national monuments) for free, and saves you half off on camping reservations. Over the last four years, we have saved close to $2,ooo with this pass. The National Park Service has announced that sometime later this year, the price will rise to $80 – so, act quickly!

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in your world!

Get this America the Beautiful Senior Pass before the price increases later this year!

Posted in East Coast US, Hawaii, Midwest US, Mountain West (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado), Northern California, Pacific Northwest USA (Oregon, Washington, Idaho), Sacramento/Capitol region, San Francisco Bay Area, Sierra Nevada, Southeast US, Southern California, Southwest USA (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas), Stockton/San Joaquin County, Teardrop and tiny travel trailers | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Seattle, WA; exploring the city on the cheap…

Seattle's Space Needle, downtown, Mt. Rainier and Elliott Bay from Kerry Park.

Seattle, WA; a frugal traveler’s guide to doing the city on the cheap…

605 foot tall Space Needle towers over the city.Many of best destinations are free for the exploration!

We first honeymooned in Seattle 47 years ago and have repeatedly returned to this classic city by the bay. From the serene waters of Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains to the west and the Cascade Mountains to the east, Seattle offers a wealth of visitor amenities and attractions – many of them free of charge. Join us for a frugal explorer’s tour of the city on the cheap!

If flying into SeaTac Airport, about 20 miles south of Seattle, take the light rail line right into the center city.  From there, rely on a variety of public transit options to get around the city – avoiding the cost of renting an auto (you’ll also avoid the parking and traffic hassles that all-too-often snarl this picturesque city by the bay).

Seattle has one of the best public transit systems in the nation, from Metro bus lines, the Monorail, light rail, streetcars, Uber, Lyft and taxis. For details, downtownseattle.com. And, if driving into the city, plan to park that vehicle and use public transit to get around town almost seamlessly!

For views of this spectacular city ringed by rugged mountains to both the east and west and fronting on Elliot Bay, skip the pricey ride to the top of the 605 foot-tall Space Needle.  Instead, take in a majestic, free view from Queen Anne Hill’s Kerry Park on W. Highland Drive. Here you’ll take in stunning views of the Space Needle, downtown, Elliott Bay, the Olympic Mountains and Mt. Rainier shimmering in the distance.

Stately home typical of those on Queen Anne Hill.

While on Queen Anne Hill, stroll Queen Ann Avenue for a tour of lovely old mansions and stately homes and check out the shops and restaurants within a few blocks of the Boston Street intersection. Just north of Queen Anne Hill is a favorite part of Seattle, lining the north bank of the Lake Washington Ship Canal.

The canal’s Hiram Chittenden Locks allow commercial and pleasure boats to lock up or down, traveling from Lake Washington and Lake Union west to Elliott Bay; the surrounding park is offers free boat watching and a fish-ladder allowing viewing of fish as they navigate the locks.

A big commercial fishing vessel navigates the Chittenden Locks on the Lake Washington Ship Canal.

The Burke Gilman Bike Trail heads east from Elliott Bay along the Ship Canal, through Ballard, Fremont and the University of Washington and north up Lake Washington, making Seattle a world-class bicycling destination. Scores of bike shops in the area rent bikes for easy and photogenic cycling adventures.

Cyclists meet at Fremont Farmer's Market, right off the Burke-Gillman Bike Trail.

Weekend farmers markets are part of the year-round culture in Ballard, Fremont and the University District near University of Washington. Stroll organic farm goods, crafts and find a variety of delicious street food like salmon sliders!

No visit to Seattle is complete without a visit to the iconic Pike Street Public Market for free street music, flower growers and craftsmen extraordinaire and the liveliest place for people-watching. Views of Elliot Bay spread out below. Stop for a bite and something to drink at one of the many eateries throughout the sprawling market. A favorite, the Athenian Restaurant, was also part of the 1993 hit movie Sleepless in Seattle.

One of many other-worldly art creations at Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle Center.

Seattle Center, anchored by the Space Needle and the site of the 1962 World’s Fair, offers a plethora of tourism activities and attractions. Spend your tourism dollars at the Chihuly Garden and Glass or the nearby Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop), separated by the Monorail with speedy service to downtown retailers and hotels.

The Chihuly Garden and Glass experience features the mind-expanding work of Dale Chihuly, with colorful and stunning art works in eight galleries, a centerpiece Glasshouse and a lush outdoor Garden. Next door, the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop), anchored by rock and roll, serves as an entryway museum with innovative galleries such as Sound Lab, Sky Church (a concert venue with the world’s largest LED screen and high-tech lighting and sound) and a huge collection of over 100,000 historical objects. The 140,000 square foot building designed by Frank O. Gehry is stunning architecture.

Make a day out of exploring the film sites of the hit 1993 movie Sleepless in Seattle, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Hanks plays Sam the architect, who moves to Seattle with son Jonah; Ryan plays Annie, a reporter for the Baltimore Sun; their cross-country connection makes for a romantic and scenic movie.

Daffodils and tulips at one of many flower vendors in Pike Place Market.

Those movie locations include the Pike Street Market and the Athenian Restaurant, the Dahlia Restaurant (where Sam dates a woman with a most-irritating laugh and Annie has the date staked out by a private investigator), Sam and Jonah’s houseboat home on Lake Union and Alki Beach Park in West Seattle.  For a roadmap to these and other movie locations, see:   http://www.movie-locations.com/movies/s/Sleepless_In_Seattle.html#.WOmERDxHaEc.

The historic Pioneer Square area, with nearby ballparks home to the Mariners and Seahawks and downtown ferry terminal (with frequent departures to both Bainbridge Island and Bremerton) make another walking tour option, with antique shops, boutiques, restaurants and bakeries a’plenty.

How to get to Seattle, WA: From Stockton, take I-5 north; it’s 810 miles and 12.5 hours; or, fly into SeaTac Airport.

For more information: Downtown Seattle, as well as public transportation, downtownseattle.com; WA State Ferries, wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/; for Washington State tourism, experiencewa.com.

Two Washington State ferries near Anacortes, WA.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in your world!

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Cheap thrills; touring Seattle’s Elliott Bay and Puget Sound via ferry boat!

Two ferries, one departing, one arriving, at Anacortes Ferry Terminal in Washington.

Cheap thrills; exploring Seattle’s Elliott Bay and Puget Sound via ferry boat!

Issaqua class ferry, the Kitsap, loading passengers and vehicles in Anacortes.

From our first visit to Seattle some 48 years ago, we have loved the Washington State Ferry System. Stately, oceangoing fairies, cruising the serene waters of Puget Sound with the Olympic Mountains to the west and Seattle and the Cascade Mountains to the east. The fleet offers an inexpensive way to experience some of the most stunning scenery and reach bucolic destinations throughout the area, from Tacoma on the south to Anacortes on the north.

On our most recent visit, we experienced a number of the newer ferry boats. The Washington State ferry system has sailed the waters of Elliot Bay and Puget Sound for over six decades, and with a fleet of 22 classic and high-tech ferries is largest in the US and one of the largest in the world.

Friends Bob and Diana at work on one of many unfinished jigsaw puzzles on the Kitsap ferry.

It’s legacy harkens back to the “Mosquito Fleet” of the 1850s, ranging from tiny jitneys to larger sternwheelers, carrying goods and residents back-and-forth across the Sound. The last private ferry service, Puget Sound Navigation, sold out to the state in 1951.

Today’s ferry fleet ranges from the largest, the Jumbo Mark II class, 460 feet long, 90 foot beam, carrying 200+ vehicles and up to 2500 passengers. We sailed one of these, the Puyallup, to Kingston. Next size down, Jumbo class, includes the Spokane, 440 feet long, carrying 188 cars and 2000 passengers. Most frequently seen are the Issaquah class, including the Kitsap we took out of Anacortes, 328 feet long, 79 foot beam, carrying 124 vehicles and 1200 passengers. Each ferry can do from 16 to 18 kn, or about 20 mph.

Kitsap ferry at Friday Harbor on San Juan Island.Our first voyage on this trip was the Edmunds to Kingston ferry, part of our journey to the Olympic National Park’s most northwestern point, Cape Flattery. We would return the same day – all-in-all, a pretty good bargain, our vehicle and two seniors, $27 roundtrip. On the return sailing, with rain pelting down, we discovered the lovely fact that, on each ferry, travelers leave unfinished jigsaw puzzles, from 500 to 1000 pieces, for other travelers to try to patch together.

On another day, we toured the lovely LaConner daffodil fields, then took the Deception Pass bridge across to Whidbey Island, south to Clinton and the ferry over to Mukilteo, our shortest ride. Another day, it was a Seattle to Bainbridge Island round-trip, pleasant to stroll the quaint island town and take the return trip back, getting the most marvelous views of the Seattle Space Needle, downtown skyline, and, on a clear day, Mt. Rainier.

A sea plane lands just outside Friday Harbor.

But our most impressive day-long ferry tour was our day up to Anacortes. Here we caught the San Juan Island ferry to Lopez Island, then to San Juan Island and Friday Harbor where we lunched and walked the town for several hours, returning late in the afternoon to Anacortes. It cost five dollars to park our vehicle in Anacortes, and, the ferry cost us $14, roundtrip for two seniors. In the summer season, Anacortes ferries also depart for Sidney, B.C., so tourists can visit Canada’s lovely provincial capital, Victoria.

Friday Harbor offers a wealth of choices for touring on foot. From the ferry terminal on the edge of the old port city, it’s a block walk to fine dining on the waterfront; the quaint, historic town runs up the hillside for about five blocks.  After a delightful lunch at Downriggers Restaurant, we gathered information at the Chamber of Commerce and toured the Whale Museum.

Skeleton of a 30' yearling gray whale towers over the Whale Museum. Adults reach over 100' in length!

The museum’s Gallery of Whales covers the smallest of species, up to the huge gray and blue whales.  It’s daunting to stand under the 30 foot-long skeleton of a yearling gray whale that died caught in plastic netting near Neah Bay, when one realizes its adult parents reach 100 feet. The museum offers special programs and tours aimed at youngsters (see their calendar for special events).

Had we more time, Friday Harbor offers many other attractions, including whale and kayak tours, the San Juan Islands Museum of Art, San Juan Historical Museum and the San Juan Community Theatre. As you’d expect, a host of hotels, inns and B&Bs offer lots of options for spending several days, and most offer bikes for use by their guests.

The Kitsap ferry arrives at Lopez Island to pick up passengers and vehicles. Lopez is most rural of the San Juan Islands, but loved by bicyclists for its quiet country roads.

Our ferry also stopped at Lopez Island, the most rural of the San Juans and popular with bicyclists for quiet (and mostly flat) backroads.  Because the town with lovely secluded harbor is about two miles from the ferry terminal, we saved it for a future visit. The ferry system also makes stops at Orcas Island, at 57 square miles the largest of the islands, but today it was not on our schedule.

On this voyage, we discovered the San Juan Islands and surrounding Salish Sea contain 172 islands, islets and skerries (rocky reefs) at high tide. For the entire four hours at sea, the views are both endless and inspiring. Despite a gray and misty day, even Mt. Baker, towering 10,781 feet over the Cascade Range and covered in glaciers, smiled down on us, allowing occasional glimpses as we returned to Anacortes.

The Kitsap ferry disgorges vehicles and passengers at the Anacortes Ferry Terminal at the end of our full-day adventure.

How to get to Seattle, WA: From Stockton, take I-5 north; it’s 810 miles and 12.5 hours; or, fly into SeaTac Airport.

For more information: WA State Ferries, wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/ ; San Juan Islands, visitsanjuans.com; the Whale Museum, whalemuseum.org; for Washington State tourism, experiencewa.com.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in your world!

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Dodge Ridge, Bear Valley celebrate an epic winter with late openings and special events!

Dodge Ridge, Bear Valley celebrate an epic winter with late openings and special events!

With a big winter bringing almost 40 feet of snow to Bear Valley and Dodge Ridge Ski Resorts (closest ski resorts to home for residents of San Joaquin and Stanislaus Counties), here are updates sent along by the two resorts:

Family celebrates season in Dodge Ridge's Boulder Canyon.

Dodge Ridge’s Jeff Hauff shares this: It’s been an incredible season at Dodge Ridge with 477 inches of snow since our opening day, including 231 inches during the month of January, and 127 inches during the month of February. In celebration of this incredible season of skiing and riding, Dodge Ridge will be hosting their annual Pond Skim on Saturday, April 8.

The snowpack continues to remain strong with base depths over 100” and nearly 2 feet of snowfall from the past week alone. As we look to the forecast for crystal clear, blue bird skies and beautiful spring-time skiing and snowboarding conditions, the stage is set for a weekend of festivities.

On Saturday, April 8, the Annual Dodge Ridge Pond Skim returns. Skiers and riders are encouraged to come dressed in fun and wild costumes to skim or swim across Lake Dodge Ridge. All participants will be rewarded with good times, cheers from the crowd, bragging rights, and the chance to win prizes for the best skim, best splash and most importantly, best costume of the day. During the festivities, Dodge Ridge will also be hosting the DRAIL Brew Fest Fundraiser with live music from the Jack Tones and BBQ in the plaza. Don’t miss out on this huge slopeside party. Be sure to check out some highlights from last year’s Pond Skim here.

It might technically be Spring, but Winter is still holding strong. With the significant snow accumulations this season, Dodge Ridge is projecting to continue the season through Sunday, April 16, as long as the weather cooperates. As tradition continues, this is the best time of year to get your season pass at the lowest possible price possible through Friday, March 31, 2017. Adult & teen passes are only $299, youth passes are $99, and senior passes are just $239, and they come with unlimited access to all 862 skiable acres and 1,600 vertical feet with absolutely no blackout dates. At $299, Adult and Teen passes pay for themselves in only 4 visits. Check out the entire list of season passholder perks from the Season Pass page at DodgeRidge.com.

For more information about the Dodge Ridge Pond Skim and the DRAIL Brew Fest, please visit the events page at DodgeRidge.com or call (209) 965-3474 from 8am to 5pm, 7 days a week. Located in Tuolumne County off highway 108, Dodge Ridge offers 1,600 vertical feet, 67 runs, 12 lifts and 852 acres of skiable terrain. With over 400 inches of snowfall this season, Dodge Ridge is projecting to stay open through Easter Weekend, April 16, 2017. For lesson reservations and additional information please visit DodgeRidge.com or call (209) 965-3474.

Bear Valley’s Marc Gendron shares this: Bear Valley has announced a new 2017 spring season pass as well as its 2017/18 season pass. Both passes come with a variety of mountain perks and discounts including discounts on lessons, buddy passes, retail, food and beverage.

Bear Valley, looking northwest from the mid-mountain lodge.

The 2017 spring season pass provides unlimited lift access for the rest of the 2016/17 season which runs through April 23, and costs less than the price of two adult tickets. The pass offers the same perks as a full season pass including a 10 percent off retail, 13+ group lessons, food items and discounted buddy tickets, and can be traded-in for a 2017/18 pass if upgraded by April 30. The cost for an adult spring pass is $139 (ages 23+) and youth Spring pass is $99 (ages under 22).

There are two type of 2017/18 season passes for Bear Valley: Peaks Pass and Polar Pass, both of which offer new unrestricted access to lifts for the spring of 2017 and the entire 2017/18 season. Peaks Pass holders enjoy unlimited skiing and riding on nearly 1,700 acres of terrain, plus season long preferred parking, 20 percent discounts at retail, 13+ group lessons, food & beverage and up to 30 percent on discounted buddy tickets. Child Peaks pass holders also receive 40 percent off mid-week Cub Club lessons and 20 percent any other time, based on availability. The Polar Pass provides unlimited access to lifts with 10 percent off retail, 13+ group lessons, food items and discounted buddy tickets.

Pricing for the Bear Valley 2017-18 season passes are as follows:

Adult (23-64)         Youth (14-22)       Child (6-13)
$599 – Peaks         $449 – Peaks         $329 – Peaks
$449 – Polar          $339 – Polar         $259 – Polar

Kinder(5&Under)  Senior (65-69)     Super Senior (70&over)
$89 – Peaks            $329 – Peaks        $89 – Peaks
$79 – Polar             $259 – Polar        $79 – Polar

Military                   College
$219                         $219

Season Pass Renewals for the 17/18 Season begins April 1, 2017. The deadline for Forever Pass members to renew is April 30, 2017. For more details, visit bearvalley.com/season-passes.

Bear Valley Mountain and Village is the premier family mountain sports and lodging destination in the Central Sierra.  Located between Yosemite and Lake Tahoe on National Scenic Byway Highway 4, and surrounded by two of California’s largest federally designated wilderness areas, outdoor activities in Bear Valley are abundant. Bear Valley Resorts is known for its warm, welcoming staff, affordable ticket prices, a variety of terrain, and a commitment to providing the ultimate mountain experience.

The ski and board area offers 1,680 acres of varied terrain, more than 70 trails, two terrain parks featuring more than 18 features, and 1,900 vertical feet.  Bear Valley averages over 30 feet of annual snowfall per year.  Bear Valley Village is home to a variety of services, shops, restaurants and a wide range of accommodations.  Winters provide skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, sledding, snowshoeing and snowmobiling.  Hiking, fishing, cycling, rock climbing, kayaking, camping and a variety of cultural events make for a perfect summer of activities. More information is available at www.bearvalley.com.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in your world!

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Olympic Peninsula and Olympic National Park; wind-swept coast, old-growth forest, glacier-covered peaks!

Rough waters pound Cape Flattery, looking south from observation point.

Wind-swept coast, old-growth forest, glacier-covered peaks make Olympic National Park a special place!

Old Port Gamble (pictured, combined General Store/Museum) is a friendly, picturesque and historic stop in route to Cape Flattery.

Our mid-March coastal destination was the Olympic Peninsula and Olympic National Park. We took the Washington State ferry from Edmonds (we are housesitting for a month here), across to Kingston, then headed west towards the first piece of the national park, Hurricane Ridge and the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, just above Port Angeles.

Our planned full-day’s journey would then continue west to Neah Bay and Cape Flattery, the northwestern-most point in the continental, contiguous United States. The Olympic shore is popular in winter and spring, with forest, coast and mountains combining to create a spectacular wilderness park. Waves crashing along wild beaches, rivers meeting the surf and, twice daily, intertidal animals and fish weather pounding surf and high winds. Bears, coyotes, sea otters, eagles and gray whales are frequent visitors.

Clallam Bay, viewed from Hwy. 112, looking west over rugged Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The park protects the largest old-growth forest in this part of the US, with trees 200 to 1000 years old. Rainfall averages from 40 to 240 inches annually, from sea-level to the highest peak.  Mount Olympus towers 7,980 feet, below, glaciers carve U-shaped valleys and brilliant wildflowers cover sub-alpine meadows in the spring.

Cape Flattery's sea caves, looking to northwest.

At Port Angeles we stopped first at the Park’s Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, and found the road, due to snows and high winds, was closed and predicted to remain shut-down for the next several days. Hence, we scratched the Hurricane Ridge journey, saving it for another trip and headed down the hill for a quick tour of the old port city and lunch beside the ferry terminal.

Our route took us west to Port Gamble, a well-kept small port town with a delightful general store/combination museum, old church and several block long historic district; it’s worth a stop to tour the general store and museum and grab a snack.

Cape Flattery's rugged sea spires stand sentinel, even during rainy days, looking to southwest.

We continued along the Straights of Juan de Fuca, and stopped above Clallum Bay for a scenic view of the coast stretching westward. It’s a view of old-growth forest along this rugged coast, cut by wild rivers like the Elwha crashing into the sea.

A considerable portion of Hwy. 112 continues right along the water and we soon came to Sail and Seal Rocks, a quarter mile off shore near the mouth of Snow Creek. Here is one of the best gray whale watching viewpoints – though we saw no evidence today.

We eventually reached Neah Bay, home to the Makah Indian Reservation and stopped at the general store to buy a $10 day pass for our time at the Cape Flattery area (because the Makah tribe has sovereignty, a national parks pass does not apply). Explorer James Cook, sailing north up the wild coast in March, 1778, noted in his log: “there appeared to be a small opening which flattered us with the hopes of finding a harbour… On this account I called the point of land to the north of it Cape Flattery.”

Sail and Seal Rocks, just off Hwy. 112, are a popular spot for watching gray whales.

Six miles of winding road past Neah Bay we found the Cape Flattery parking area where the drizzle of the day increased to a driving rain. We set off on the trail to the Cape, paved and wide at first, becoming a path and boardwalk through an emerald-green, boggy woodland with increasingly large puddles of standing water, beginning to look like small lakes.

After three quarters of a mile, we reached four overlooks with marvelous views of the Cape, looking both north and south through the hard rain. Trails wended down to the shore in several areas – we chose to avoid those due to slippery footing. The Cape Flattery Lighthouse, on Tatoosh Island just off the Cape, was not visible through the rain and fog of the stormy day.

I realized, with trips to the four corners of San Diego, Key West and West Quoddy Head in Maine, we had reached all four distant corners of the contiguous continental United States. Had we had time, we could have explored the park more to the south. The Lake Ozette and Cape Alava area, as well as La Push and Rialto Beach areas, are scenic and beckon a visit.

Miles of beaches stand just below Kalalock Campground, running north to Ruby Beach.

Further south is a favorite destination, the Kalaloch/Ruby Beach area. Kalaloch Lodge is right on the ocean for a delicious food or lodging; just a mile north is Kalaloch Campground, with 170 camp sites right on the ocean. Here you can walk along the gorgeous coastline for miles. In our tent camping days, we would carry a big sheet of clear plastic, to rig over our tent and picnic table, for the frequent windy, rainy days that drench the Olympic Peninsula even during summer. Historic lodging includes the Lake Quinault Lodge and the Lake Crescent Lodge.

How to get there: From Stockton, Olympic National Park is about 890 miles and 15 hours; or, fly into SeaTac Airport and rent a car.

Park lodging/camping: Lake Crescent Lodge fully reopens April 28, olympicnationalparks.com, (360) 928-3211; Kalaloch Lodge is open year-round, thekalalochodge.com, (360) 962–2271. The park usually has open campsites year-round at seven campsites, including Kalaloch Campground. Camping reservations can be made at several, recreation.gov, 877444–6777.

View from Kalaloch Lodge; yes, the sun does shine on this stunning portion of Washington coastline!

For info: For Olympic National Park, ww.nps.gov/olym/, (800) 833-6388; Cape Flattery, makah.com; Washington travel, experiencewa.com, (800) 544-1800.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in your world!

 

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Jaw-dropping Chihuly Garden and Glass anchors the Seattle Center; Space Needle, MoPOP nearby!

The Glass Forest, an early work by Chihuly from the 1970s, is first to greet you as you enter the exhibition galleries.

Chihuly Garden and Glass anchors the Seattle Center; home to Space Needle, MoPOP, Monorail near downtown Seattle

The Sealife Tower reaches 15 feet in height, evincing Chihuly's love of the sea and Puget Sound.

Imagine, a life-size Glass Forest with ghostly blue and pink light glowing from the trunks. Picture a Sealife Tower, 15 feet tall exuding iridescent primary colors emulating the sea floor and Puget Sound. Turn into another gallery and stand under the Persian Ceiling, with overhead Persian glass art aglow in kaleidoscopic red, orange, ruby and yellow. Exit the galleries into the Glasshouse, and find, floating 30 feet above, a 100 foot-long art installation of a colorful palette featuring yellow, orange, brown and amber glass – framing the Space Needle towering 605 feet over head.

After an hour, we’re nearing virtual sensory overload as our eyes and minds work overtime to take in these stunning, ethereal art objects exploding with light and colors.

Our place of wonder is Chihuly Garden and Glass, a long-term art exhibition that opened in 2012. Located at the base of the Seattle Space Needle, it helps anchor Seattle Center, the home of the 1962 World’s Fair that since has brought Seattle art, sports and excitement of almost every stripe.

In the Glasshouse, a 100 foot long Chihuly installation frames nearby the Space Needle.

Dale Chihuly, born in 1941 in Tacoma, WA, began his infatuation with glass while studying at the University of Washington. He then enrolled in the first glass program in the country at University of Wisconsin and continued to study at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Since, he has become world renowned with art housed in over 200 museums worldwide and major exhibitions staged in Jerusalem, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago and Royal Botanic Gardens near London.

The Persian ceiling is a colorful homage to Persian art.

He’s exhibited at the deYoung Museum in San Francisco and one of his works hangs in the lobby of the San Joaquin County Administration Building, at Weber and San Joaquin Streets in downtown Stockton. Chihuly’s work is testimony to his talent, and that of his team, of extending the possibilities and boundaries of glass as art, in both execution and presentation.

The Chihuly Garden and Glass experience includes eight galleries, a centerpiece Glasshouse and a lush outdoor Garden. After spending about an hour and a half in the indoor galleries, our senses swimming with color and vibrancy, we took a break outdoors and watched three Chihuly contemporaries work together to blow a delicate pink glass vase on a milky white pedestal. Best of all, they were working out of a 1962 Airstream travel trailer, converted to house two glass-blowing furnaces reaching 2200°.

A Chihuly contemporary works on blown-glass from a 2200 degree furnace.

After the glassblowing demonstration, we then walked through a light drizzle in the outdoor Garden to admire four major installations that dominate a landscape that contains daylilies, dogwoods, camellias and a variety of trees to add to the Crystal and Icicle Towers and the installation of Reeds on Logs. At the center, backed by the Space Needle, is the giant Sun, bursting with oranges and yellows.

After almost three hours at the Chihuly exhibition, we walk under the Seattle Monorail (another vestige of the World’s Fair) to see nearby attractions like the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop), just a block away. With its roots in rock and roll, it serves as a entryway museum with innovative galleries such as Sound Lab, Sky Church (a concert venue with the world’s largest LED screen and high-tech lighting and sound) and a huge collection of over 100,000 historical objects including about 75% of all music generated in the Northwest in the last 100 years. MoPop is housed in a flowing 140,000 square foot building designed by Frank O. Gehry – the building itself is well worth seeing!

Seattle Center was home to the 1962 World’s Fair and contains Key Arena, the Space Needle, Seattle Children’s Museum, Seattle Children’s Theater, MoPOP, Chihuly Garden and Glass, Pacific Science Center and Boeing IMAX theater, a number of theaters and much more.

This colorful art installation towers over visitors in one of the galleries.

Seattle’s Monorail is just steps from the Chihuly Garden and MoPOP; for those with energy to spare, hop the Monorail to downtown Seattle and its terminous, just three blocks from the ever-popular Pike Place Market.

A big part of finishing this feature was working to pick the top 6-8 photos of this mind-blowing exposition, from the over 100 wonderful shots my wife and I have taken! Make Chihuly’s work a part of your next trip to the Seattle area!

Reeds on Logs, one of the lovely art installments in the outdoor Garden area.

How to get to Seattle, WA: From Stockton, take I-5 north; it’s 810 miles and 12.5 hours; or, fly into SeaTac Airport.

For more information: Chihuly Garden and Glass, chihulygardenandglass.com, (206) 753-4940; Seattle Center, seattlecenter.com; for Washington State tourism, experiencewa.com.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in your world!

The Frank Gehry-designed Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) is just a block away.

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LaConner and Skagit River Valley; waterfront, seafood and spectacular colors of daffodils and tulips!

LaConner's iconic Rainbow Bridge frames the city's waterfront, with Mt. Baker looming on the horizon (photo credit to C. Coleman and the LaConner Chamber of Commerce).

Prior to our departure to the Seattle area, the majority of our Seattle friends all told us “you must visit the LaConner/Skagit Valley area to see the daffodils and tulip fields”.

Daffodils in spring bloom frame an old barn (photo courtesy of Pam Headridge).

The Skagit River area was settled thousands of years ago by the Swinomish tribe on the banks of the river; along the west side of the Swinomish Channel we toured past a huge tribal totem pole, part of the Swinomish Indian Reservation and location of a multi-tribe gathering each summer. A nearby tribal Chevron station offered, with no Federal or state taxes, gasoline about 25 cents less than other nearby choices.

Huge totem pole marks the Swinomish Indian Reservation.

The area was settled by pioneers in the early 1860s; fishing, farming and logging were the city’s early underpinnings. Today, an historic downtown stretches for eight blocks along the Swinomish Channel, home to a host of shops and interesting restaurants. Fishing boats routinely depart looking for Dungeness crab and shellfish. In addition to a walking tour that takes in a number of historic town buildings, the Museum of Northwest Art, Skagit County Historical Museum and LaConner Quilt and Textile Museum share the town’s early history.  Several hostelries dot the landscape; the Channel Lodge and Hotel Planter B&B look interesting for lodging.

LaConner tulips stretch almost to the horizon at RoozenGaarde farm.

We stopped first at the LaConner Chamber of Commerce seeking insight and suggestions – chamber volunteer Lisa Judy (Judy owns an artist cooperative currently being remodeled) provides a wonderful information resource! In addition to a variety of maps and guidebooks. Notes Lisa, “it’s been a cold, wet winter, so plant blooms are running late”, and she shows off the Chamber’s website, offering a “bloom map” which shows daffodils, tulips and their stage of bloom, to help gauge your most colorful visits to the flower fields.

The town, with both history and waterfront adventure making it a romantic get-away, also offers a host of events for repeat visits.  They include the Daffodil Festival in March, the Tulip Fest in April (with April 8 Tulip Festival Parade in La Conner), the May 6 Opening Day Boat Parade, the Hometown 4th of July Celebration and the August 5 La Conner Classic Boat & Car Show.

LaConner's First Street is lined with historic buildings, shops and waterfront restaurants.

Channel-front restaurants line the city’s 1st Street, from Nell Thorn Restaurant, LaConner Waterfront Café, LaConner Pub and Eatery and more. We chose LaConner Prime Rib and Seafood – due to the low tourist season we were one of the few couples in this fine restaurant for lunch. Marvelous fresh codfish and chips, chowder and a fine spinach salad set us up for a post-lunch stroll (even some sunshine!) along the waterfront boardwalk and back along the town’s historic main drag.

Local activities include fishing, birdwatching (Trumpeter swans and snow geese visiting 16,000 acres in LaConner and the Skagit Valley), hiking, bicycling and kayaking. LaConner makes a fine gateway to the San Juan Islands and the 400 mile Cascade Scenic Loop. The town is only 8 miles from Anacortes, a larger fishing and lumbering city with a host of motel and hotel options, with ferry service to four San Juan Islands.

We were also planning to tour the western end of the Cascade Loop, a 400 mile scenic route that includes the San Juan Islands and Puget Sound, up through the rugged Cascade Mountains and back to the waterways.  Hence, we made our next stop Anacortes, just eight miles away, a town big enough for provisioning and offering its own set of attractions.

'America's Finest', a huge fishing boat, in drydock at Anacortes shipyard.

Anacortes is much larger with commercial shipyards, boatyards and plenty of commercial fishing and pleasure boats. Lumberyards still provide employment to townsfolk. We admired about 10 blocks of historic buildings and wandered into Anacortes Hardware for antiques, marine goods and hardware in the 1891 Olson Building. The city offers blocks of historic buildings, a number dating into the 1800s with shops, boutiques and restaurants, as well as a large choice of hotels, motels and VBROs.

From Anacortes, we continued south  across Fidalgo Island on WA Hwy. 20 towards Deception Pass, where a stately bridge carries you over the Deception Pass channel to Whidbey Island. Stopping to photograph the bridge, eight US Navy Jets screamed overhead, doing practice runs from nearby Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. We pass through a large variety of state parks and campgrounds, headed south along Whidbey Island, where we switch to WA Hwy. 525 to reach Clinton.

The historic Deception Pass Bridge connects Fidalgo Island to Whidbey Island.

Towns along the island like Oak Harbor, Coupeville, Greenbank and Freeland offer scenic waterfronts, respites for food and drink and views of the Saratoga Passage to the east and Admiralty Inlet on the west. We make notes to take a summer journey along much the same route.

At the south tip of the isle, we book passage on the Clinton-Muckleteo Ferry, $7.45 for a vehicle and two people, gaining a 20 minute scenic ferry ride, with Mount Baker looming in the distance. Then we’re back on the mainland at Muckleteo and headed down to Edmonds for future explorations.

How to get to LaConner, WA: From Seattle, take I-5 north and exit WA Hwy. 536; it’s about 70 miles.

For more information: LaConner and the Skagit Valley: LaConner Chamber of Commerce, lovelaconner.com, (360) 466-4778; Cascade Loop, cascadeloop.com; for Washington State tourism, experiencewa.com.

Tulips of every hue grace the Skagit River Valley.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in your world!

 

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    Tim Viall

    Viall is a local travel writer who retired in late 2012 after 10 years as executive director of Stockton, CA's, Emergency Food Bank and six years with the Downtown Stockton Alliance. Previously, a 21-year career in daily newspapers helped shape his ... Read Full
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