Monday, July 20, 2009

Island Fun

Our friends the Weeds were here for some time and gave us a great excuse to venture out to San Juan island. Traci had been trying to work this trip in for several weeks and things never seemed to come together. We made plans when Grandpa and Grandma were here but the time it would take to get to the ferry, then the ferry ride to the island would have left us shirt on time for exploring the island.

We drove across the San Juan island after landing in the ferry and quickly realized everything was no more than ten miles from anything else. A short twenty minute drive was between one shore and another.

We left in haste from our home with two families consisting of four parents and five children. Our custom on the Miller Big Trip has been to leave at the latest time possible to make each arrival to our destination an adventure, trying to beat the clock to make it on time. This occurs mostly either due to being unorganized or thrilled by the challenge or a little of both. We left our home with enough gas to get us to Anacortes where the ferry launched and enough time to severely limit our opportunity to fill our tank. I thought there would be gas at Anacortes and we could fill up there. We drove into the ferry parking about fifteen minutes before the boat would leave, no time for gas.

We loaded on to the ferry, jumped out of our cars and explored the Yakima. The reviews of this ferry ride had been recited several times by our San Juan tour guide Traci as one of the best ferry rides in the world. We passed islands and found Mt. Baker in rare beauty. We were hoping to impress the Weeds on our new surroundings but they fell in love with the area before they even arrived at the hotel in Edmonds. They vowed to move there soon, checking housing prices on our many walks down to the beach and around town. The ferry ride to San Juan was just making their determination to live in the Puget Sound area solid. We joked if we could only afford an apartment in the area it would be nice. Then the cost of groceries...

We landed on San Juan and drove right past the sign directing us to the gas station at Friday Harbor. We had sights to see. There would be time and gas at one of our stops across the island.

Our first stop was Roche Harbor for lunch. I ate this seafood cobb salad with dungeness crab and shrimp. The restaurant looked on garden on one side and the marina on the other side. The fourth of July holiday was nearing so the place was decked in American and Canadian flags with red, white and blue sashes hung along the railings. The old hotels and shops surrounded the harbor and people were outside enjoying the sunshine. we explored the marina and talked to some of the boaters as they lounged on the decks of their boats or made preparations for the holidays. The place was busy but not crowded.

We left the harbor and went to the English camp where the British occupied part of the island from the 1850's to the 1870's. There had been some dispute over which country would take the island the United States or Britain nearly setting off a war on the western side of the country. The two sides lived peacefully and cordially on the island together until in the 1870's when Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany settled the dispute in peaceful arbitration. The English left their camp and some buildings remain. Most of the buildings were sold off and transported elsewhere on the island. Once the English left the family living on the property tried to lay claim to the property and after much fighting between the family and other claims to the land the family won out. They promptly sold off nearly every building on the property. There are efforts now to return some of the buildings to their original locations. The largest Union Jack I have ever seen on American soil flies at this location and was donated from England as a token of friendship between the two countries. Traci and I think they may return one day and reclaim their island.

We left the English camp, debated about a stop at the seafood farm, noticed the light on the dashboard reading we should have gotten gas already was on and decided to go on to Lime Kiln point to see if there were any Orcas. The area was one of the few places Orcas could be viewed from the shore. I checked the map for directions and discovered a sentence I hadn't seen before.

The map was a little tourist guide for the island explaining the different sites and where they could be found. The sentence at the bottom of the map clearly stated there was only gas in Friday Harbor.

I tried to comfort Traci with a little math. She was driving. I told her the gas light comes on when the computer figures you have enough gas to go about thirty miles. Each site was only 10-11 miles from each other. We had visited two sites and were on to out third site. we would only need two thirds of the remaining gas to get to Friday harbor. One third would take us to Lime Kiln Point, the second third would take us to Friday Harbor and we would have gas and all would be well. The one bug in my math was we could not remember when that pesky little buzz kill of a light had come on. If it came on before Roche Harbor we may have had to walk a little and beg for gasoline. I figured with five kids we could pull at some sympathies and get some gas. Traci just said I would have to walk and with everything only ten mile away I would need to only walk twenty miles, ten to get the gas and ten to get back to the car. I was hoping my math was more relevant than hers.

As we coasted downhill along the shoreline(to conserve precious fuel) Traci watched the surface of the water closely. We had switched positions so I could drive and assume all responsibility for the catastrophe surely awaiting us. She shouted "there they are!" and I nearly wrecked. I couldn't see anything in the water, the road was narrow and busy so we pulled off and climbed out of the car.

"Pshht", the orca broke water and we were all excited. We spent the next forty minutes with our eyes glued to the ocean and waited for the next black spot to arc across the surface. The sound of them breathing drew our attention to their location. I think there were at least ten orcas gently swimming near the shore. Boats lined up around the orcas. People were stopping in cars. We climbed down the rocks to the water to see the creatures closer.

After the orca show we headed back to Friday Harbor with the nagging light to remind us each mile was a mile closer to fueling up the car and two fewer miles I would have to walk to get gas. We pulled in to the gas station and my negligence was costly. I didn't have to walk across the island but I was forced to pay 75 cents a gallon more on the island than I would have paid in Anacortes.

We ate some ice cream and bought sandwich meat, bread and chips for the ferry ride back. The day had been everything Traci had been hoping for a beautiful ferry ride, a visit with orcas and a nice time on a quaint island. Traci made plans to buy a business on the island so we could move there. If only we could afford an apartment.

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