Whidbey to Neah Bay - the most Northern and Westerly point of Continental America
You could be forgiven for thinking MPJ is a bit of a nutter. Fancy getting all excited about seeing a point of land? Whatever... (whoops, teenage Valley-girl voice escapes unbidden, I usually speak with such a proper English accent)
From Whidbey by ferry to Port Townsend, along Hwy 112 to Neah Bay - travel time: 5 hours
Well, for what it's worth MPJ is like a little kid today, all ants-in-her-pants about getting out to the edge of America. I guess, when you think about it, it is actually kind of cool. By time we finish our Charity Drive, chances are we will have stood on the most North Westerly, most South Westerly, most South Easterly and most North Easterly, ALL 4 corners of continental America. Hmmh, thinking about it, this is actually pretty cool.
The day started with a misty grey crossing from Whidbey to Port Townsend, but MPJ was so fired up about getting to Neah Bay that we stupidly decided to by-pass historic Port Townsend, Mistake #1 of this day, as we missed out on seeing this interesting slice of history perched on the corner of the Olympic Peninsula.
We did however crack up over the huge wooden sculptures outside of 'Fat Smitty's' cafe. Pure Americana. Mistake #2 was all Jani's, as she ordered 'The Last Legal High' and suffered through an undrinkable cup of java that should more rightfully have been called 'Rocket Fuel'. Shakes aside, she seemed to manage the drive well enough, though she was talking a mile-a-minute and driving me nuts with the fall-out of her caffeine rush.
Finally! About halfway, and we stop for a much needed run on this sand and shingle beach. Even though it was a cloudy day, it was just lovely to be beside the seaside, feeling the wind riffling through our hair, with the whoosh whoosh of the sea shedding the hours of travel out of our bones.
These pictures can't do justice to the dimensions of this Monster Log washed up on Clallam Bay Spit. We had just driven through miles and miles of coast road, wending our way through the edges of the Olympic National Park.
Picture constantly winding roads, originally logging roads built for bringing out timber, swinging and sashaying through old growth forest in an unending tunnel of green. Something like this...
From Clallum Bay it felt like a short hop to bring us, at last, into Neah Bay. As we rounded the last turn of the coast Highway we came rolling in to the town, which is actually the First Nations Reservation of the Makah Tribe. As we were coming in to town almost the first thing we passed was the Makah Cultural & Research Center which, of course, MPJ just HAD to stop and see.
Oh joy, another outing in the Snoozer. Whoop-dee-doo. But, eat my words, it was actually fascinating, and I'm glad we had the chance to see and understand more fully the deep history of this place.
3 decades ago they uncovered a Makah village that was over 500 years old. Really! An ancient mud slide had perfectly preserved a whole village. A team of expert scientists from all over the States worked together with the Native tribe for over 11 years, and they have uncovered and re-discovered a culture that existed long before the first white settlers had ever reached these shores. The museum is so well done, and by time we came through it, I have to confess, even I was getting excited about going out to Cape Flattery, on the sacred native lands, to stand on the edge of America.
Luckily, MPJ had the forethought to book us into a motel, so we arrived with somewhere to stay. It's kind of bonkers, we're in a suite up above Linda's Wood Fired Kitchen. Who knew. It's only been 3 days, but already I'm learning to not be surprised by anything in America. It's definitely nothing like the UK.
I must confess though, I am liking the vibe of the friendliness and helpfulness that we are finding everywhere we go. People are so kind, always willing to have a chat, ever willing to offer advise, directions, top tips of what to see and do. They immediately clock that we are visitors and cannot seem to do enough to help make our stay in America as wonderful as it can be. I like it here.
As the sun set over Neah Bay, MPJ sat down to what, she claims, is one of the best fish meals she has EVER eaten. In her words "It rivals anything I ever ate in any of the finest restaurants in London. This is as good as it gets". (and she's sure has eaten in a lot of Good restaurants!)
Picture a fresh piece of Ling Cod, caught this morning, placed on a full cross slice of large onion, lightly seasoned with fresh herbs and the perfect sprinkling of salt and pepper. Then imagine this fish going into the wood fired oven and cooking to perfection, moist and flaking, tasting of the sea, herb and pepper crusted above, the onion now burnt to a consummate blackened crisp beneath. Picture the juxtaposition of the bright melt of white flesh against the perfect accompaniment of charred crispy onion. MPJ's eyes were practically rolling back in her head. Luckily, I love her enough to feel happy for her when she is this transported, and to forgive her for being her usual over-the-top-ness.
The whole time we were sitting there (they let me sit on the banquet without being in the Snoozer - Yay!), it seemed like the whole town passed through, a real local hub, as people came to get their pizzas and to visit and to catch up on the latest news and to shoot the breeze. There sure did seem to be a lot of fishing stories.
Sunset was pretty spectacular, and looking out over the dusk-lit water to the mountains in the distance, it was weird to realise that we could see the mountains of Vancouver Island, just south of Tofino, and that we have driven nearly 750 km in a great loop, swooping south, then West and up North again.
I am now actually really excited about standing on that most North Westerly tip. Roll on morning, we're going to Cape Flattery!