A Love Affair with Architecture and Ambiance

I am not so naive as to think my love affair with Port Townsend wasn’t tinted through sky-blue glasses.  The weather was nothing short of perfect by my standards.  Waking up to chilly mornings under the down comforter, looking out across the Sound blanketed in a soft, willowy layer of fog.  Long before the alarm starts to shriek, I am awakened by the haunting sound of laughing gulls echoing across the Point.   By noon, the sun is out with rarely a cloud in the sky, warming me up to “short pants weather.”    Then as the light starts to slant toward horizontal, lighting up the beautiful Victorian buildings, the evenings turn to sweater weather.  How could it get any better?

Romanesque Jefferson County Courthouse, 1891, complete with clock tower and turrets.

Romanesque Jefferson County Courthouse, 1891, complete with clock tower and turrets.

DSC_0279IMG_0202Victorian era architecture has tugged at my heartstrings since I was a young girl doing volunteer work as a docent dressed in period costume for the local summer “Gingerbread Trail.”   Port Townsend enjoyed a heyday back in the late 19th century as the harbor was well on its way to becoming one of the busiest in the PNW…so much so that the town was dubbed “The City of Dreams.”  So Victorian architecture runs rampant here, with office buildings and historic plaques all reflecting late 1800′s.  The entire downtown area is a National Historic Landmark.IMG_0180

Bell Tower, 1890, used to call volunteer firemen to their post.  It is the only known tower of its kind in the US.

Bell Tower, 1890, used to call volunteer firemen to their post. It is the only known tower of its kind in the US.


As for ambiance, well, that is the stuff that love affairs are made of, as there is ample music, dancing, and merrymaking enough to suit the most romantic of courtships.   Walk the main street and find guitarists and fiddle players busking on the corner, or just serenading friends along the waterfront.IMG_0234


Loved the little sailboat in the upstairs window!

Loved the little sailboat in the upstairs window!

I am not typically the type to strike up conversations with the locals, but at the Thursday evening “Concerts on the Dock” event it was unavoidable, as it was like a street party where no one is a stranger.  Since the median age is 47, there were a lot of gray pony tails and Hawaiian shirts in the crowd.  They cordon off a section with a plastic rope, and stick up a paper sign that says “No Minors,” while $4 beer and wine flow freely!   Locals are friendly and eager to talk about their town.  It feels like a scene straight out of the movie “Cocoon,” as my geezer tribe-mates bust a move on the lawn.   It truly feels like “a community that plays together.”

Imagine the soundtrack of Chuck Berry's "Goes to Show you Never Can Tell."

Imagine the soundtrack of Chuck Berry’s “Goes to Show you Never Can Tell.”

If I have not yet conveyed that the Arts are big in Port Townsend, the little town of 9,000 has the Centrum organization dedicated to creativity who’s “mission is to promote creative experiences that change lives.”  They sponsor monthly Arts walks, the “Fiddle Tunes”  fiddle festival, Ukulele Festival, Jazz Fest, Blues Fest, and a Film Festival in the historic turn-of the-century Rose Theatre, just to name a few.IMG_0181DSC_0299

Best Sushi Roll EVER at Hanazono Asian Noodle.

Best Sushi Roll EVER at Hanazono Asian Noodle.

Even the bi-weekly Farmer’s Market has a festival feel to it.   Many Farmer’s Markets have live music, but where do you see one with seating where people actually stop to listen to the music, rather than just giving a passing nod between perusing the booths of local produce?DSC_0353

This singer at the Saturday Farmer's Market had a soul like Janis with a voice to match!

This singer at the Saturday Farmer’s Market had a soul like Janis with a voice to match!

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And lastly, as if that were not enough???   There is a lighthouse!   Nearby Fort Worden, one of the three forts established in the “triangle of fire” to guard Puget Sound during WW1 is home to the Point Wilson Lighthouse, built in 1914.   This lighthouse will forever stand out in my mind as the first time I was allowed to touch the Fresnel lens.   The Coast Guard volunteer staffing the lantern room had to be at least 80.   The pretty little Fourth Order red and white Fresnel lens still rotates, so she sat there spinning it like a roulette wheel at the Golden Nugget.   So right or wrong, only thinking makes it so….I have to ask, “May I turn it?”DSC_0374

Beautiful little Fourth Order Fresnel has red panels to give red/white "signature" (flash) when it was operative.

Beautiful little Fourth Order Fresnel has red panels to give red/white “signature” (flash) when it was operative.


If the barracks of Fort Worden look familiar, it was the location for the filming of “An Officer and a Gentleman,” and if there is not enough romantic ambiance present during my Port Townsend Love Affair, there is a wedding taking place overlooking Point Wilson Lighthouse.   I would like to think, had the movie continued, this would have been exactly how Richard Gere and Debra Winger tied the knot.  ;-)

Old barracks at Fort Worden, location for filming of "Officer and a Gentleman."

Old barracks at Fort Worden, location for filming of “Officer and a Gentleman.”

Wedding at Fort Worden, overlooking Point Wilson lighthouse.

Wedding at Fort Worden, overlooking Point Wilson lighthouse.

Three posts for one town, but I had a lot to say.   No doubt, I will return.  Who knew a little known stopover destination for the work week would steal my ever-lovin’ heart?  “Cest la Vie, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell…”

They had a hi-fi phono, boy, did they let it blast
Seven hundred little records,
all rock, rhythm and jazz
But when the sun went down,
the rapid tempo of the music fell
“C’est la vie”, say the old folks,
it goes to show you never can tell
~Chuck Berry

Boats, Books, and Brews!

I always manage to find something I love in every town I visit, which is why my friends have often told me before, “You should write travel brochures, because you always make me want to go there.”    But in all the places I have visited, I can’t recall ever being in a town where I have found so many of my passions all in one place as Port Townsend.  I am falling for this little town, and falling fast…

Mural named "Tree of Heaven."  On the commemorative plaque, someone crossed out "of" and wrote "Tree in Heaven."

Mural named “Tree of Heaven.” On the commemorative plaque, someone crossed out “of” and wrote “Tree in Heaven.”

An entire store dedicated to wooden boats.

An entire store dedicated to wooden boats.

I love my charts like I love my maps!

I love my charts like I love my maps!

IMG_0226 IMG_0225First thing I notice while parked in the little Point Harbor Marina is these aren’t just your basic fiberglass sailboats around me.  The majority of them are finely crafted wooden boats.  And in fact, the Wooden Boat Foundation is in the building right behind me, with boat building, restoration, and repair taking place all around me. DSC_0286

Wooden ship masts are hollowed wood.

Wooden ship masts are hollowed wood.


A gray-ponytailed, weathered man works meticulously on a hand carved wooden mast.   Prep is taking place in the Northwest Maritime Center for upcoming classes on wooden boat building.   I learn that Port Townsend is the location for many wooden boat builders, from the sleekest of kayaks, to large, seaworthy ships.   They even host a Wooden Boat Festival every September, which is billed as “most educational and inspiring wooden boat event in the world!”. DSC_0287 DSC_0298 DSC_0322

The graceful lines, the skill and patience required to replicate the symmetry, and the layer upon flawless layer of varnish to leave the wood impenetrable to the elements are just a few things to appreciate about the wooden boat.  There is romance in the life story of any boat, but a sailing vessel made of wood, painstakingly crafted from natural resources of the earth, used to harness the power of the wind to see faraway lands?  Well, I am hopelessly in love…

A kayak in the process of being constructed.

A kayak in the process of being constructed.



So do I love to sail because I am drawn to boats?   Or does my love of boats make me long to be a skillful sailor?   I could ask the same question about books.  Am I so drawn to bookstores because I love to write?  Or do I love to write because I have always enjoyed perusing the aisles of bookstores?   Am I attracted to skinny men because I want to be…..well….you get the idea…

Such is a rare find today as a local bookstore…and Port Townsend has not one, but three of them…four if you count the Metaphysical shop.    I always stop to pause outside a bookstore to do some prep work…sharpen my senses…cleanse my olfactory palate, if you will, before I walk in.  I want to be fully focused and completely cognizant of that first whiff of the musty smell of a room full of well seasoned books.   I love touching them, smelling them, running my hands across the linen covers and embossed gold titles.IMG_0238 IMG_0209

But one Port Townsend bookstore took me to a whole new level.  It wasn’t only a bookstore with over 5,000 books in stock.  It was also headquarters for the Writers’ Workshoppe.    Everyone who knows me knows I have been a frustrated writer for at least the past twenty years.   I have an entire “Totes” box full of hand-written journals with fancy covers.   If the storage shed was on fire, that is the box I would grab first.  So imagine the stone cold paralysis that hit me when I read the mission for the little Imprint Books and Writers’ Workshoppes:

“This shop is for anyone who wants to write, has to write, aches to write, can’t write, wishes they could write, is scared to write. It’s for those who don’t know where to start. Or where to end. It’s for anyone interested in developing the craft of writing.”

I would grow roots in this town for that statement alone.

In the back of Imprint Books is a wall of motivation, so to speak.  A cork board full of “Writing Tips,” handwritten notes of encouragement to frustrated writers just like me.   So there I stood, looking like a tourist, Nikon around my neck, welling up with emotion, wondering how I can ever leave such a place…IMG_0239IMG_0241

Who can't be happy writing with a crayon?  Problem solved.

Who can’t be happy writing with a crayon? Problem solved.

And then there were the Brews, Baby!  My first introduction to the Port Townsend Brewery came to sound of bagpipes across the boatyard.   I was out for a sunset stroll, cruising the wooden boats when I hear Celtic music, so I follow the sound of the bagpipes like the Pied Piper until I come upon the lovely outdoor beer garden full of Blarney Tales and Pale Ales.DSC_0293 DSC_0294 DSC_0292

My second brew stop, The Pourhouse, came on recommendation from the waitress at Sea J’s Café, the seafood shack voted “Port Townsend’s Best Fish & Chips 10 years in a row.”  She must have seen the look of disappointment on my face when she broke the news that they had no liquor license, and therefore I would not be chasing down my fried Cod with a cold one.   “Why don’t I just pack it up for you to go, and you can take it two doors down to the PourHouse, and enjoy it with your beverage of choice on the picnic tables out back.”    Now that’s service!

But I think of all the unique “brews,” the one I enjoyed the most was of the bean variety.  The Point Harbor Marina was just a half a block from the Velocity Coffee Shop, located inside the Northwest Maritime Center.   I don’t typically venture too far from the rig on a work day.  Perceptual narrowing.  But something about the lure of those boats had me packing up the Thinkpad every morning, and taking the short walk over to work in the vibrant energy and aromas of the roasting beans while looking out over Puget Sound.

My usual for the week was an “Arancia,” a smooth mocha with a twist of fresh orange peel.  It was the perfect accompaniment to the Morning Glory muffin, filled with enough fruits, nuts and seeds to fool me into thinking it was a healthy choice.IMG_0218

So there’s something evocative here.  I am not sure I can explain it, unless you have felt that same sort of brooding, moody feeling in your gut that makes you want to get to the nearest coffee house and crank out the next Great American Novel.  Or the next chart topper.  Between the wooden boats, the artist vibe, the coffee houses, the Victorian architecture, live music and the aging hippies, it suits my fairytale…  A place deserving of a “Part Three.”  To be continued…

This is How I Roll…

After a very brief overnight stop at the 7 Cedars Casino along Hwy 101, I roll into Port Townsend on a brilliant sunny Monday.  I have reservations to stay at the Point Hudson Marina, yet another find that I lifted from the Wheelingit blog.   I arrive during the midday heat, the marina smells of low tide, and there are enough laughing gulls to make a Hitchcock fan think they have arrived in the midst of a remake.  Continue reading

Highway 101…Eastbound

I’ve now driven just about all of Highway 101 from south to north through three states, starting in Arcata, California in mid-May all the way to Forks, Washington, where the highway soon begins to turn eastward.   This feels like a significant milestone after traveling in a northwesterly direction for so many months. Continue reading

I’ve Gone About as Far as I Can Go…

Cape Flattery is the northwestern-most point in the Continental United States. It is at the end of the tiny tip that protrudes off the upper left corner of Washington State, seperating the Strait of Juan de Fuca from the Pacific Ocean. This point was named by one of my heroes of discovery, Captain James Cook, who wrote in his ships log, “there appeared to be a small opening which flattered us with the hopes of finding an harbour … On this account I called the point of land to the north of it Cape Flattery.” I am fascinated by the courageous exploration of Captain Cook and his accuracy for navigational charting. In fact, one of my favorite books was “Blue Latitudes,” where the author, Tony Horowitz humorously retraces the voyages of Cook in attempt to honor his legacy, (syphilis and murderous ending withstanding, of course.) Continue reading

What’s UP in the OP NP

My original intent in working my way around the OP NP (Olympic Peninsula National Park) was to make South Beach Campground my first stop.  Several people suggested it was a “must do” because of its proximity to the beach.  But I take one look at the RVs lined up bumper to bumper, jockeying for beachside real estate and realize I am still traumatized by Camp Agoraphobia.   I just can’t do it.   So I keep driving toward my next planned stop, Continue reading

Having My Way in Westport

I leave Camp Granada feeling a bit traumatized.  As if my week of campground chaos has not been enough, as I am trying to make a fast and clean getaway, a nice young couple in an 800-4-RENT rig pulls in behind me at the dump station, just as I am gloving up.  The man approaches with some trepidation, and in a heavy British accent asks, “Mind if I watch?  This is my first time at this, and I don’t know how.   I am hoping you don’t mind if I look on?” Continue reading

Seattle is a SEA of People!

I gave some thought to cutting my losses at Camp Granada and moving on.  After all, it wasn’t about the money.  But to do so would have negated the very reason I had driven 125 miles, waited in line for 45 minutes for a $71 ferry, only to give up and drive all the way around via Tacoma to get to Bellevue.   To give up would have meant departing sunny Sequim to spend time with my friends Deb and Amy in Seattle, only to leave before I even had the chance to see them. Continue reading

Camp Granada

“Hello Muddah. Hello Faddah. Just arrived in Camp Granada,” one of the more memorable songs from my youth where Allan Sherman sings about the summer camp from hell. Whenever I hear it, just the tone of his voice conjures up thoughts of misery, stuck in a place designed around enforced fun, with no hope for escape until the week is done. Such was the nature of Vasa Park “Resort.”

Continue reading