Friday, February 7, 2014

How to get to Lopez Island, WA.

At it again.
And again.
And again.

I'm back to the old patterns and rhythms I started kicking around in a few years ago. I thought I would settle for more than a few months in Alaska but life started pulling me and I'm back running back and forth around Cascadia with a chief desire for connection and a craving for waves and wind.


My days are getting all flipped about. Was it last week I was in Portland? Then, I know I had the Accidental Dance Exchange which kept my toes satisfied and moving till 3-4 AM each morning. After that, Camp Tobbit as I tried to incenticize myself to be comfortable driving an automobile. Even with Tobbit's old '81 manual system keeping me on my toes and rumbling away, it still doesn't quite have the same tangible rush that I get from my bike or long ferry trips or the settling feeling I get each time I climb aboard a train.

On Wednesday it occurred to me that I should be elsewhere, farewell Seattle, and so I shot a message off to Lopez Island and bought my train ticket to Mount Vernon. It was going to be a 10 hour travel day for a trip that would take only 3 hours by automobile.

I packed up my rucksack, my quilt included, and a small bag that held a dress, my hole-infested orange skull and motocross shirt that's followed me around for the past six years after that one day where I bought it with Monica in the little boys section of Fred Meyer. I like to sleep in it every night. I like the holes in the armpit. I like the skulls with teal eyeballs.

In the morning, I hopped in the automobile of my father (hooray for visiting parents!) who managed to drop me off at the train station, just a few miles from his work. As my mother had told me the night before, my dad was a soft spot in his heart for dropping of his daughter. On the ride, we talked about the first time he had to say good-bye to me. I was his 16-year-old daughter and would be in Switzerland for the next year. He told me how he spent a lot of time crying in the shower after that.

Things had changed with the train and at the station, they put me on a bus instead where a man sat behind me and laid out stories, for me, about his daughter's cat. Before we left the station, one of the workers boarded, asking, "Did anyone drop an Alaskan ID?" I immediately shot up my hand and heaped on the gratitude.


In Everett, we hopped from bus to train and that's where I started to finally feel settled in the way some folks people do, I suspect, when they get home after a long day of work and numb their brains with the television. The train is one of the most comfortable places for me on the planet (alongside the forest, ferries, and other words that start "f" like fields and fjords). My jacket was hung and I pulled out a new book I had found at the library.

It was not an incredible book and there were many a number of better books I could've read, but it suited the moment fine.It was the fluffy sort of reading that you don't need much attention to process through. I split my time between staring out the window, reading, and observing the beautiful family in the seats next to me (two tots and two adults off for a weekend in Vancouver, BC). I spent much of the trip getting all cozied-up-nostalgic for last March when I had taken the train from the west to east coast, Seattle to New York. I'd do that again next week were I in a position to do so. I guess I could - but I'd just have to clamber back immediately with my upcoming February 19 deadline (next destination? Bowen Island).

Reaching Mount Vernon was a bit of a bummer. I hadn't even had a chance to be on the train long enough to feel an inclination to engage in the process of getting to know other folks. I had barely nestled down. I wasn't ready to be instructed to detrain the train.

Zum gluck, Mount Vernon is a gentle town where you can spend an hour at the co-op and then another one at the bookshop. I stepped off my train and inhaled. Mount Vernon has a different feel to it than what I'm accustomed to, but it's the sort of feeling that you quickly fall into rhythm with. I walked over to the Skagit Valley Food Co-op, one of my favourite Co-ops in the world, known, in my books, for being one of the last stops before driving or ferrying up to Alaska.

I picked up some breakfast (salmon hash + eggplant something) and then strolled the aisles before picking out some lunch. While standing in line, they made an announcement for another cashier. As soon as that was said, a lady pushed past me, semi-aggressively, to the place where the new cashier would be. You could feel her abruptness - it was not something I had been expecting in this environment. The older man next to me made a comment to me about her. I forget exactly what he said - something about how she must be in a hurry. The cashier I was waiting for then told the lady that it might be a few minutes. She gave a sort of huff and then got behind me and the man in line. He gave her advice on being patient which she definitely wasn't too thrilled about. I couldn't help but grin at their interaction.

"Are you in a hurry?" I asked her. "If so, you can definitely go in front of me."
"No. I'm fine." she said.
"You sure? I'm not in any rush. I just have a bus to catch, but I should make it just fine."

The next cashier came, she scooted over there, and then the man asked if I wanted to go in front of him. I said I was ok but he insisted.

Somewhere between both stops to the Co-op, I came upon a used-bookstore - the sort where the books are flowing off the shelf and fill every corner haphazardly. I spent 1-2 hours there and walked away with Blue Highways.

I caught my bus with a few minutes to spare.

My favourite public transportation busses in the United States to ride are those of Skagit Valley. Many folks never get the opportunity to ride public transportation in rural America. It is such a treat. It's on these bus rides where everyone knows everyone and, if they don't know you, they want to get to know you too. The bus driver greets folks by name and as folks board, they shout out greetings to the other passengers. I love it.

The bus ride from Mount Vernon to March's point, via La Conner, is also exceptionally beautiful and windy. It was one of the reasons why I don't mind a 10 hour travel day to get somewhere that should take 3 hours, tops.

On the bus I met a young man who had been living in Anacortes for three years after a life in San Francisco. We filtered through a few memories. His thought construction wasn't always coherent, but he kept us on the same page.

Arriving in Anacortes, I dashed for the terminal to buy my ticket for the already-boarded ferry. $12 would be my fare for over and back and any inter-island traveling I wanted to do. I caught an early ferry that would take me to the main island, San Juan Island. From there, I could catch another ferry that would take me to Lopez Island.

Automobile to bus to train to bus to bus to ferry to ferry to automobile.
All forms of transportation lead to Lopez Island, Washington.

The ferry ride was exhilarating. This is where I'll break out my notes that I took while on the ferry to Lopez. I'm just going to quote myself. This is where my sketchiest writing occurs...

"In love w/ WA state ferries : Yakima.
You know how you just want to be close to certain people? On ferries an trains, I feel that way.
Satisfying feeling of resolution.
Short trips are ok - but it's like someone making you a sandwich without bread. You can eat it. It works, but it isn't quite right. I like to spend days on my ferries & trains. I prefer evening on trains, nights on ferries. I like to imagine my ferry in WA sets out to the middle of the ocean & I get to know all the people around me. Long enough where we're done reading and decompressing from the constant need to 'be there.' Every bit of the ferry is beautiful. It makes me want to write an ode..."

And that's where things got a bit weird so I'm going to end it right there.

I broke out Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon. It was a book recommended to me by my friend Tucker and it zapped me up in a way you always want a book to zap you (by "you" I imply "me"). I sat all comfy-crosslegged out on deck and breathed and read. I know I would be breathing if I was inside, but it wasn't the same sort of breathing. This was the breathing that takes over your mind and makes you want to nestle and then burst out of every corner (once again, "you" means "me").


It was too short before we reached Friday Harbor of San Juan Island. I hopped off the ferry and found a coffee shop to pass the time in. I was to re-board the ferry I had just gotten off of and it was leaving pretty soon. The woman sold me a short beverage and a Jewish treat. I don't remember the name. I just remember that it was awesome. Ope! I just did research. What I had consumed was rugelach.


We boarded again. More blue skies. Content in the wind.
And then I was on Lopez Island, like nothing had changed in the year since I was there last January.

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