Take me home,  country roads

<p>A shot from the White Pass highway, where, road warriors beware, there are hour-long delays for roadwork.</p>

    I had a week of two-lane highways, most running through farm land with broken down barns and llamas, horses, cows or goats in fields bordered by pines. I even saw an enormous pig sunning itself just outside of Chimacum.

    My country roads skirted Discovery Bay, Puget Sound and Hood Canal with a single boater out in the distant blue. Or I rode inside ferries whisked over bodies of water while napping in the car to the sounds of an engine grinding away deep inside a metal chamber somewhere.

    I loop-dee-looped over, around, up, under and through the inner workings of our state from the Jiggle Foot machines at the Central Washington State Fair; to stunning Mount Rainier; to firemen holding out their boot outside of Hoodsport; to the Skokomish Lucky Dog Casino and $3.70-a-gallon gas.

    Driving country roads gives you time to — well, not really think, that sounds too directed — muse and wander the inroads of your mind.


Central Washington State Fair

    Thank goodness there are still old-fashioned state fairs where you can glean advice about how to walk your horse backwards and tips on the right rabbit for you. Places that provide foot-long dippy dogs, cinnamon sugar elephant ears and ice cream on a stick.

    My sis and I entered the Central Washington State Fair on my mother’s lifetime guest pass. Virginia was the first Queen of the Kitchen in 1959 and for 20 years after was the head judge for cakes, cookies, pies and canning. (Once after judging a weekend cake competition, she announced, “I never want to see another piece of chocolate cake in my life.”)

    People watching is the best activity at the fair, particularly if you’re on a budget. The Yakima Herald noted that some folks save all year to purchase their favorites treats at the fair. I can’t imagine what would require breaking the piggy bank, though I did see some awfully lovely tractors.

    We felt the best bargain was the Jiggle Foot, a device that costs one hot quarter. You sit down, place your shod-feet on a ridged metal disk and the jiggling commences. It really did energize us; we could feel the blood pumping all the way up to our armpits.

    My greatest disappointment was that halfway through the fair they switch out the bunnies for chickens. No offense, but I would so much rather have seen little calmly munching rabbits with their ears flopped back than the cacophony of ducks, chickens, pheasants and guinea hens strutting around the small animal barn.


Kinetic Port Townsend

    Picturesque Port Townsend couldn’t have provided more of a contrast to the rolling fields and orchards of Central Washington. Perched on a bluff overlooking the watery entrance to our urban harbors, PT has accumulated an idiosyncratic population of citizens that spans old-timey boat builders and shed boys, to new-agey herbalists.

    But perhaps the biggest buzz this weekend in PT was the Kinetic Sculpture festival, race and ball. Not having packed my tutu, I had to forgo the ball, but I did walk around town with a friend and wander into the lives of a couple fascinating characters.

    Holly Stone-Cabe runs an amazingly outfitted antique and what-not store called April Fool & Penny Too (725 Water Street). Ellen Poitevin (now deceased) and Penny Varteresian started it in a huge brick warehouse which, according to Holly, “has been a variety of things overtime. It’s the Clapp Building, built in 1885. It was a bank — we still have a walk-in vault in the back that’s an art gallery — a tavern, and a bookshop.”

    “In fact, one 92-year-old fellow walked in the other day and said ‘You know, there used to be fights in here.’ I guess when he was 13 or 14, they had a boxing ring in the tavern and he would come in and fight. He remembered people throwing coins into the ring and they’d dive for them.”

    Holly calls her inventory “artisanal eclectica” but, on this visit, what caught our attention were the silk and wool felted garments handmade by Catherine Ault. Nuno felting (not to be confused with nuno, the small dwarflike bearded man in Philippine mythology) was developed by an Australian felting artist Polly Stirling in 1992. The process incorporates loose fibers layered to build up color and textural elements into a soft, dimensional fabric; the result is exquisite to the senses.

    Holly, it turns out, used to live in South Bend and stirred up the waters there with her special brand of innovative ideas before landing back on the upper coast.

    A couple blocks away we met Harvey Windle and entered his magical shop Forest Gems (807 Washington Street). Harvey plied us with slab after gorgeous slab of quilted, fiddled, curly, burled or quiddled (a combo) Western maple, myrtle and redwood. Mantels and bookshelves danced in my head.


Worldwide Photographers walk

    Then to cap it off, we entered the cool underground coffee shop and café, the UnderTown, to find a pod of photographers in town for Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photographers Day.

    The idea is that photographers from all over the world gather for a day of photos in specific locations; then submitted photos are awarded prizes. Last year there were over 1,100 locations and 33,000 participants. As Kelby says, “Photo Walks are limited to 50 photographers [per location]. If that doesn’t sound like a lot, you haven’t seen 50 photographers coming down the sidewalk at the same time, or converging on a restaurant. It’s more like a scary bike gang.”

    I have to agree. We found one UnderTown table completely covered with massive lens, each being fondled by its camera tender. It reminded me instantly of that erotic Japanese tradition: a parade of penises so large that they must be carried on carts. (Kanamara Matsuri, the “Festival of the Steel Penis,” takes place in Komaki City. Don’t feel left out ladies — there’s a vaginal festival a couple weeks before.)

    Anyway, each photographer, hoping to win a spot in this years best-of, were comparing shots in their viewfinders, or taking photos of their foamed lattes.

    The PT organizer, Ray Ketcham, said of his band of 27 photo-hounds, “I’m wore out. I’ve had all the fun I can handle for a while.” Seattle photo-hopeful David Drake, noted, “The last couple years winners have all had birds in them, so I’ve got some good photos with birds.”


Take Me Home

    My trusty Volvo wagon — with nigh onto 350,000 miles on the odometer — stood the test again, bringing me back to a foggy evening in Nahcotta. The winter clematis is abloom and my bunny was thrilled to see me. I’ve tasted the world and I’m glad to be sleeping in my own bed tonight.










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