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Archive for May, 2004

If I were to be asked where, during ten years of cross-country travel, I’d had the very best meal of my entire traveling history, I wouldn’t need to hesitate before answering. I’d explain – and I have, many times – that it was out in the middle of nowhere, at the end of a road bordered by vacant fields, far from any town or city activity and way off the radar of most discriminating diners.

Years from now, I’ll be able to describe the salad of fresh greens, cucumber, tomato, radish and carrots that was nestled under an orange-ginger vinaigrette dressing. I won’t have any trouble remembering the ½ artichoke that was served as an appetizer or the warmth of the freshly baked bread sticks against my fingers. There’ll be no problem reminiscing about the Pine Nut Crusted Halibut that was served with wild rice, asparagus, fresh fruit salsa and a port-butter wine sauce. Nor will I forget that, after wistfully passing on dessert, a petite sorbet with strawberry and flower garnish was softly placed on my table.

But let’s backtrack to my prior research, when I learned only of an historic hot springs spa located south of Livingston, MT and north of Yellowstone National Park. With extremely affordable rooms in the older section of the resort, it was just the type of place I look for on the road. I booked a room and, on a sunny spring day, landed in Pray, Montana.

Chico Hot Springs Resort and Spa came into existence in 1900, when the main lodge was built to accommodate the many travelers who came to the area to soak up the healing mineral spring waters. The three-story Victorian building is the center of most of the onsite activity, with a variety of guest rooms upstairs, a dining room downstairs, a saloon adjacent to one side of the building and the large mineral pool just outside the saloon.

Though newer guest rooms and cabins are scattered around the property, I welcomed the chance to stay on the top floor of the historic main building, which still offers a few original, economy rooms with bath down the hall for an amazingly low fee. Honeymooners, families and upscale vacationers would most likely opt for other accommodations. But for me, traveling alone and on a budget, the cozy rooms were just perfect.

I dragged my overnight bag up two flights of stairs and decided to start right off with the resorts primary attraction – a soak in the large, outdoor pool, which I reached through a hallway inside the lodge. Popular with both overnight guests and locals who attend with day passes, the pool was crowded, but not uncomfortably so. A smaller, shaded pool was also an option, offering slightly hotter mineral water than the main pool.

When hunger strikes, it’s not necessary to wait for the main dining to open. Casual fare is available in the Poolside Grille, located on the far side of the pool area – convenient for enjoying a burger between soaks in the pool. The same menu can be ordered inside the saloon, where guests can also play a game of pool or foosball. If it’s a Friday or Saturday night, guests have the added bonus of live music.

If the mineral pool soaks, saloon activities, casual and fine dining aren’t enough to entertain guests, a day spa is available for tempting massages and The Chico Horse Barn offers trail rides. Yellowstone National Park is not too far away for a day trip, either. Personally, I was headed to the park the following day, so I stayed at Chico and just enjoyed the atmosphere.

Before leaving, I picked up a copy of A Montana Table. I couldn’t resist the chance to take some of Chico Hot Springs’ recipes with me.

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When I arrived in Philipsburg, MT – “P’Burg” by local idiom – it was by complete happenstance. I was headed south from Bigfork and not at all sure of my destination. I simply saw the Philipsburg sign and impulsively veered off the highway.

As I cruised into town, I soon realized I had stepped into small town America, complete with old brick buildings, quaint storefronts and an old-fashioned ice cream parlor. I was instantly intrigued and decided to seek out lodging.

When I spied The Broadway Hotel, it appeared at first to be just one of several older buildings on the main drag. I poked around and knocked on a few doors – the front and rear of the building – and a few windows, just for good measure. My perseverance paid off, as Jim and Sue Jensen, the owners/innkeepers, came to my rescue and invited me in.

What I found inside was exquisite, the result of an extensive 2003 restoration of the original 1890 building. An inviting, central room housed common seating areas, with additional tables and chairs tucked into cozy reading nooks, books provided. Hallways around the main area led to an assortment of themed rooms, each one more outstanding than the one before. It was impressive. Care had clearly been taking to make sure the renovation was both authentic and exceptionally appealing.

The Andes Suite, for example, featured the rich colors and crafts of Ecuador, while The Route 66 Suite paid tribute to the well-known byway. The Las Palomas Suite was sweet and soft, dedicated to doves and pigeons – the subject of several of Jim’s award-winning film documentaries. Additional rooms spotlight different aspects of western heritage and outdoor adventures.

With only one other guest booked in for the night, I had my choice of rooms. Though not easy to decide, I chose The Brittania Suite, conveniently located near the open kitchen area – and morning coffee. As with all the rooms, it was strikingly beautiful, with English décor, luxurious bedding, a private bath and a separate sitting room. I had fallen off the road and right into the lap of luxury.

At Jim and Sue’s recommendation, I stepped across the street to the Club Bar, a combination bar and café, where I order a Philly Chicken Sandwich took in the scene. A “Proud to be an American” banner hung on one wall, accompanied by photos of service men and women. A game started up at a nearby pool table. Music kicked in – I Love this Bar, by Toby Keith – and animated chatter rose and fell, as locals stopped by to grace the bar stools.

It didn’t take long to realize I’d need more than a quick overnight stop in order to soak up all the ambiance and history Philipsburg had to offer. I returned to the hotel for a good night’s sleep, woke up to fresh brewed coffee and bluegrass music and booked myself in for another night. Cleared for a longer visit, I set out to explore the town.

Philipsburg, through community commitment and the hard work of many local individuals, has created a town environment that is immensely visitor-friendly. The streets are clean, the buildings beautifully restored and the various shops along the main street full of interesting treasures, both tangible and educational.

The Sapphire Gallery showcases gorgeous pieces of custom designed jewelry, but also offers a chance for visitors to mine their own sapphires. Twenty-five dollars will buy a bag of stones that guests can sift and sort on their own. The knowledgeable staff will evaluate any treasures you find in your batch. For additional fees, they can heat treat and facet any sapphires that are found, as well. I had to try it myself and was glad I did. Not only did I emerge with a few tiny, rough sapphires, but going through the process of sifting and sorting let me learn a little about sapphire mining.

After my mining adventure, I wandered along to The Sweet Palace, a candy store loaded with barrels of every type of candy imaginable. In addition, a viewing area allows customers to watch fudge, saltwater taffy and caramel being produced. Nostalgia buffs can count on finding their favorite childhood candies. I watched a batch of taffy twist its way into existence, tasted a few samples and packed up a bag of assorted goodies for the road.

It was time for some non-sugary sustenance, which I found in the 1887 building that houses Doe Brothers Restaurant & Soda Fountain. While enjoying a cup of Prospector Chili, I watched school-aged children enter and sit at the counter, legs dangling above the floor. One boy perused the choices and ordered two homemade cookies. A girl popped though the front door just long enough to buy a gumball from a machine in the front window. Just as it was with the other shops I visited, it was a slice of old-fashioned America.

Innkeepers often have the best inside advice about local attractions. This proved true with my stay at The Broadway Hotel, as Jim insisted on whisking me down the street to see the Granite County Museum and Cultural Center. Along with displays of Montana pioneer life and ghost town history, the museum houses an amazing 4,000 square foot underground mining tour, which offers a literal inside look at the area’s rich mining history.

Credit also goes to Jim for getting me inside the Opera House Theatre, built in 1891 and the oldest continuously operating theatre in Montana. This historic red brick building has seen much renovation over the last decade, with more planned for the future. Amidst these efforts, live theatre productions are held during summer months. Just one more reason for a visit to this town.

I left Philipsburg in awe of the community’s accomplishments. Some small towns are entertaining, some are aesthetically pleasing and yet others are educational. Philipsburg is all three and well worth a stop for anyone traveling through Montana.

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From Kalispell, I drove south, passing through Bigfork, MT, and continuing on through Flathead Valley until I reached Yellow Bay, fifteen miles south, I turned off the highway and pulled up to my destination, an authentic hand-hewn log cabin overlooking Flathead Lake.

The log cabin that I would call home that night was originally built in 1932 as a homesteader’s cabin, using local wood from nearby cherry orchards. Used first as a home and later as a cherry picker’s cabin, it grew weathered with time and was ultimately restored in 1996. With electricity and running water as part of the remodeled structure, a kitchen and bath were added, as well as a large front deck, allowing a spectacular view of Flathead Lake.

The cabin’s historical ambiance and antique furnishings were exactly my style. There was no television, which made it even more appealing as a place to escape for the night. Though a drive back to Bigfork would have offered me choices of excellent restaurants for dinner and unique shops for browsing, I knew I was staying put.

With all the amenities of modern times, yet the peacefulness of a secluded retreat, I settled into a quiet evening. I fixed tortellini in the kitchen and built a fire in the wood stove. Set up coffee for the morning and spent hours quietly writing. By midnight the wind had wound itself up into a fury. Tiny scratches on the roof indicated the pawsteps of a visiting local critter. A sense of backwoods adventure mixed with the security of the cozy cabin’s warm interior.

The morning air was brisk, but I poured a mug of coffee and donned my jacket, determined to sit out on the deck, anyway, in spite of the chill. The view of the lake was breathtaking. Deer grazed not far from the cabin and tiny pink wildflowers dotted the hillside. Mountain peaks across the water were covered with snow. Wire mesh encircled nearby cherry trees, to keep the deer from indulging.

So drawn was I to this particular cabin that lingered a second night. I stayed to hear the howling of the wind and to watch the fog roll across the lake. To absorb the warmth of the wood stove and to listen to the crackle of the flames. I stayed close to the cabin, taking short walks on the five acre property and simply sitting on the deck to soak up the view.

Flathead Lake itself is impressive, being the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. Summer weather brings locals and visitors alike to the lake to enjoy boating, water-skiing and sailing. Winter has its own share of activity to offer, including skiing, snowmobiling and ice fishing. An added bonus: Yellow Bay State Park is only a short drive or leisurely walk away.

Well-rested from my Yellow Bay retreat, I reluctantly packed my car and continued south.

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It took all of five minutes being in Montana for the first time and I was in love. I had driven in from Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, heading north to Sandpoint and then east along Rte 200. Winding along the edge of Lake Pend Oreille, the route took me through breathtaking scenery, past tiny lakeside towns and finally into the state of Montana.

My immediate destination was Kalispell, where I had a reservation at the 1912 Kalispell Grand Hotel. Like other fortunate historic hotels, it had been restored completely and offered surprisingly affordable lodging, made even nicer by sliding in at a business rate.

My room was immaculately clean and very comfortable, not cluttered up with a stash of luxurious furnishings that could have raised the lodging fee substantially. It had everything I needed, including high-speed Internet access. I decided to stay two nights.

I slid into the Painted Horse Grill, located off the main lobby. A salad of greens, tomatoes, asiago cheese and balsamic vinaigrette served as the starter for my main entrée of Mediterranean Pasta, an excellent mix of penne, chicken, olives, capers and pimento in a tomato-marsala sauce. With a side order of asparagus, I was set for the evening.

To background music by John Denver, I felt myself falling into the Rocky Mountain spirit. A sense of comfort came over me, brought on my time, space, place or a combination of all three.

This is it, the turning point of this trip. Like Cashiers was in North Carolina, like St. Francisville was in Louisiana, like Mendocino always is for me in California. I feel like I’ve come home.

I brought breakfast and coffee up to my room in the morning, hiding away to hover over writing details – notes, photos, brochures, drafts, etc. Eventually, I knew it was time to set it aside and venture out to explore the area.

One of the draws of Kalispell is its proximity to Glacier National Park. My visit didn’t coincide with the park’s open season, yet my curiosity still pulled me in that direction. I knew I would not be able to get up to the park’s lodge or over to the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road, but I figured it was worth seeing what little I could.

Thirty-two miles north of Kalispell, I arrived at the west entrance. As I had known, the park had not yet opened for the season, but a portion of the road was open. I ventured as far as I could without either getting stuck in remaining snow banks or reprimanded by a park ranger. The scenery was outstanding and I promised myself a return visit someday when I’d have access to more of the park.

I backtracked to the town of Whitefish, a community that offers something for every season of the year. Nestled up against Big Mountain, it is a paradise for winter skiers, as well as a summer playground for hikers, fly-fisherman, river rafters and anyone else seeking outdoor adventure. The presence of art is substantial, as well, indicated by the theatre, music and dance events about town, as well as the many diverse art galleries.

I found my own little personal Whitefish heaven at Loula’s Café, located at 300 Second St. in the basement of the former Masonic Lodge. Descending into Loula’s was like stepping into a cave of color, though high windows allowed in plenty of light. A giant, brightly colored butterfly kite hung above the counter. Two of the windows featured brilliant stained glass panels. Artwork was displayed throughout – paintings, photograph, rag rugs and other creations by local artists.

I managed to resist the fresh baked pies that Loula’s serves, but it wasn’t easy. Choices for the day included Key Lime, Huckleberry, Blackberry, Raspberry-Peach and Lemon Meringue. I was saved from any potential sugary fate by having a cup of black coffee, which I sipped while enjoying the higher-calorie aromas that surrounded me.

As I sometimes do, I had lingered a second night in Kalispell because of the comfortable ambiance of the hotel, combined with the multitude of local areas to explore. I passed the second night jotting down notes and editing new photos.

I would stumble into one more interesting find before leaving the area. After checking out of the hotel, I came across the Central School Café, a cute little place housed in the former principal’s office of the 1894 Central School. Now operating as The Museum at Central School, this previously dilapidated structure has been beautifully restored by the City of Kalispell and now offers museum exhibits and events thanks to the efforts of the Northwest Montana Historical Society.

I ordered an unusual, but delicious “Hot Salad,” which combined steamed red and white cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and carrots with cheddar cheese, sunflower seeds and sprouts. I vowed to recreate it once I returned home.

Armed with travel suggestions from local conversations, I left Kalispell and headed south.

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At the end of a quiet road, just a few miles outside the town of Leavenworth, WA, I turned into a small driveway. A drizzle of rain had started to fall and I knew I needed to be in Idaho later that day. But I trust the recommendations of locals and Leroy had insisted this was a side trip worth taking before leaving the area.

Sleeping Lady is tucked into a canyon in the Cascade Mountains. It’s one of those secrets that isn’t likely to be found through regular advertising channels. Nestled alongside Icicle Creek, this eco-friendly conference and retreat center offers a peaceful escape from the hectic pace of modern life, providing groups and individuals with time for regrouping and meditation.

Native Americans were the first inhabitants of the grounds, followed in the 1800’s by early settlers. Stepping along the timeline, the Civilian Conservation Corps began construction buildings on the property in the 1930’s and, for many years, it existed as Camp Icicle. In 1946 it became a private dude ranch, operating under the name of Icicle River Ranch. Former CCC barracks were dismantled and turned into smaller cabin units.

The ranch provided families with accommodations until 1957, when it became a youth camp, owned and run by the Yakima Diocese of the Catholic Church. With the import of a progressive-minded priest from the Spokane area, it soon became a thriving center for children. Father Joseph O’Grady, originally from Boston, was well-loved by the community. He encouraged free-thinking and musical creativity. Services were held in a newly-built chapel, as well as around an outdoor campfire.

In 1991, local resident Harriet Bullitt purchased the 67-acre property and Sleeping Lady, as it stands today, began. After several years of planning and construction, it opened in 1995.

Not for the budget-minded, individual accommodations start at $170., though off-season prices are sometimes available. Making these rates more reasonable, however, is the fact that three meals are included in the price, a value that seasoned travelers will quickly recognize. Use of the fitness center, sauna, pool, library and recreation facilities is also included.

From the beginning, Sleeping Lady was formed with a focus on environmental awareness. The tables and bar counter in the cozy Grotto bar are made from recycled glass plates. The bar’s flooring uses salvaged heartwood yellow pine beams from the original Sears in Chicago. Additional wood on the property was obtained from the old city hall and library in town. Decks are made from hard wood chips and recycled plastic grocery bags. Food service waste is used for compost. The cellulose insulation in many of the walls is made from recycled paper products.

I decided it was worth a rain-drenched jacket and late Idaho arrival to take the time to walk the grounds. Calming pathways meandered between cabins and activity centers, surrounded by clusters of pine trees, meadows of wildflowers and whimsical, modern statues. An almost overwhelming sense of relaxation and renewal floated in the air. Occasionally conference attendees passed me on the trails, smiling and nodding as they walked by. It was evident that a community spirit had replaced the typical, tunnel-visioned daily lifestyle of the modern world.

I sauntered through the chapel building, browsed the gift shop, gazed longingly at the sauna and dance facilities. I picked up an information folder in the lobby area and chatted briefly with the front desk attendant about the various programs offered, which include concerts and workshops in partnership with the on-site Icicle Creek Music Center.

I was tremendously impressed with Sleeping Lady and would have splurged for the chance to stay for a night, just to soak up the sense of renewal that hovered on the grounds. But with an appointment down the road – something I try to avoid on these trips, for exactly this reason – I knew I had to move on. I departed very reluctantly and, after one more detour through the town of Leavenworth, I headed for the Washington/Idaho state border.

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I usually have some idea what awaits me on a particular road, mostly from pre-trip research. But I had not expected to head across Washington on Rte 2, so I hadn’t run the usual google searches on lodging, small towns and local history that I would have, had I known I would be traveling on this route. Imagine my surprise when I found that I had left the quaint seaside atmosphere of Puget Sound and landed in, of all places, Bavaria.

Lights twinkled in the distance as I descended Stevens Pass. I’d made a call to an inn about an hour back, having pulled over to the side of the road and searched my map and AAA book. I knew I had a place to stay, so I took the time to cruise into town. It didn’t take long to realize I had fallen into a gingerbread storybook scene. Tiny white lights outlined an Alpine-style village. I rolled down the window and took a deep breath of the brisk mountain air. It was late enough that the shops were all closed and the streets deserted, leaving the surreal impression of having landed on a movie set.

Leavenworth, WA, was not always a Bavarian Village. This is not an immigrant-settled village, such as the Danish hamlet of Solvang, CA or the German town of Fredericksburg, TX. One of the most interesting aspects of Leavenworth is the fact that a carefully-planned community renewal was created and implemented by wise and semi-desperate townfolk. This effort has proven extremely successful, as evidenced by the two million visitors seen by the town each year.

Leavenworth occupies a small valley known originally as Icicle Flats, located along the scenic Cascade Loop, about two hours east of Seattle. Originally inhabited by the Yakima, Chinook and Wenatchi tribes, it was later settled by pioneers seeking agricultural land, furs and gold. The town grew steadily once The Great Northern Railway Company laid tracks through the area, but just as quickly plummeted when the railroad pulled out. What had grown into a successful logging town over the years became a failing community, without commerce or jobs.

Determined to save their town, the people of Leavenworth took on an immense project in the early 1960’s. They designed and created a realistic Alpine village, remodeling storefronts in Bavarian style and establishing festivals and other local activities to draw visitors to the area. Restaurants offer German cuisine and many shops sell handmade crafts. Though admittedly a little touristy in appearance, the town clearly shows that dedicated, grass-roots efforts of townspeople can work.

Having arrived completely by chance, I stayed at the first inn to answer my last-minute evening phone call. The Alpen Rose Inn is not a historic building, but is peaceful and quiet and filled with Bavarian charm. Shirley, the innkeeper, was extremely helpful, having stayed late in order to accommodate my late (and impulsive) arrival. I was given an immaculately clean, upstairs room with a sitting area, gas fireplace and TV/VCR. Video tapes were available in the downstairs lobby. I settled in comfortably for the night.

Coffee was waiting outside my door in the morning. I inhaled a little, then ventured downstairs for breakfast. Surrounded by lace curtains, shelves of colorful beer steins and stately nutcrackers of every possible style, I was served french toast, sausage, fruit and juice. Details, such as a garnish of mint leaves and a small flower, made the meal even more appealing. It was one of those unexpected surprises that I seem to find on the road. And, let’s face it, how often does the opportunity come along to eat breakfast while listening to yodeling?

I headed into town after checking out of the inn. The quiet, sparkling scene from the evening before had been replaced with the busy activity of daylight hours. Shopkeepers propped their doors open. Restaurants displayed lunch specials.

There’s far too much in this town to adequately explore in just an hour or two. But I managed to park and do a little wandering, buying some glass figurines at an outdoor crafts fair and browsing the selections at A Book for All Seasons. I was especially taken with the sculptures at The Metal Waterfall Gallery, a shop featuring the hand-crafted metal work of Ron Orcutt and his daughter, Bonnie, as well as jewelry designed by his wife, Christine Ann. I purchased a few sculpted metal leaves and enjoyed the chance to talk with Ron and Christine, who were at work creating new wares.

After enough walking to work off my breakfast, I decided to stop into one of the many German restaurants and have a bite to eat, while taking time to write up my notes. Over sauerbraten, red cabbage and spatzle, I visited with Leroy, a longtime worker of King Ludwig’s Restaurant. It was here, by complete happenstance, that I was directed to my next adventure.

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I woke up to the glimmer of water reflecting against my windows. Dramatic lighting filtered through the clouds and across Penn Cove, a secluded inlet on the east side of Whidbey Island, Washington. I flipped the switch on the room’s coffeemaker and settled back against the pillows of my featherbed to enjoy the view.

I had made it to another historic lodging that has long been on my “wish list,” The Captain Whidbey Inn. This rustic, 1907 inn was originally opened as The Whid-Isle Inn, to serve as a resort for visiting tourists from nearby Seattle and Tacoma. Built from local madrona logs, this two-story lodging sits on peaceful, park-like grounds and offers rooms in the original building, as well as more recently constructed lagoon rooms, cabins and cottages.

Because I arrived mid-week and the inn was fairly empty, I was upgraded from the usual small room I reserve on these trips to the waterview suite (Room 4) where I now poured myself a cup of coffee. A typical set-up for historic buildings, the room offered a sink, while the bathroom was located across the hall. The accommodations were wonderful, a perfect combination of rustic and luxurious. The view of the cove was amazing and, with the exception of occasional sound from happy guests in the first floor dining room, this was a peaceful haven for the night.

As opposed to the first guests of the early 1900’s, I had not arrived by paddlewheel steamer. Todays visitors have the option of reaching Whidbey Island by either ferry or roadway. I had chosen to take Highway 20 west from the mainland, crossing over onto the island by way of the Deception Pass Bridge.

The extraordinary view of Deception Pass – so named because it was originally mistaken for a peninsula, rather than an island – would have been worth the trip itself, even without adding island exploration to the journey. Deception Pass State Park offers camping, hiking, boating, picnicking and fishing – both saltwater and freshwater, as well as other outdoor activities. Birdwatchers are likely to be especially busy, in view of the 174 different species in the area.

My interest, though, was to check out the inn and to breathe in a little island atmosphere. I followed the highway south through Oak Harbor and along the water’s edge of Penn Cove. With a left turn onto Madrona Way, followed by another left onto Captain Whidbey Inn Road, I arrived at the inn.

I was greeted by owner and innkeeper Capt. John Colby Stone, a friendly and knowledgeable host. We chatted for a bit about the history of the inn and attractions of the area and I then climbed the narrow staircase to my room. I settled in and then turned my thoughts to dinner. The inn has an excellent dining option in-house, The Cove Restaurant, which features the gourmet cuisine of Chef James Roberts. But I was in the mood for something casual and was feeling my usual post-arrival urge to explore the local area. I decided to head into town, in search of photo opportunities and food.

Coupeville was established in 1852, making it one of the oldest towns in the state of Washington. It has that wonderful, quaint atmosphere that I adore, filled as it is with restored historic houses, shops and restaurants. The view of Puget Sound is wonderful. Visitors can get a dose of both small town America and coastal sea village all wrapped up in one. Situated within the boundaries of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, residents and merchants of this town are dedicated to preserving its heritage.

I took a few minutes to wander along the sidewalk, the late afternoon sun resting against the weathered storefronts. I stopped in at Great Times, a coffee house that also sells used mystery books. They were just closing for the day, but I had a chance to browse a little and admire the water view.

I found dinner at The Mad Crab, one of many eateries along the main drag. I grabbed a window table and ordered (of all things) lasagna, on which I carb-feasted while looking out across the sound. A snow-capped Mt. Baker hovered on the horizon. The motion of the water gave the impression of dining on a boat. As I finished my meal, the sun dropped behind the trees, leaving the clouds backlit and glowing. I watched as the last bit of light disappeared beyond the Coupeville Wharf. I was later told by Capt. Stone that there were many other restaurants he would have recommended, but this was a good, easy choice for me for that day.

With the sun down and the shops now closed, I returned to the inn to enjoy the fireplace in the downstairs lobby. Capt. Stone was kind enough to allow me to run a phone line into his office for Internet access. Since I carry 50-100 feet of phone cord with me on the road (just makes you want to pretend you don’t know me, doesn’t it?), I positioned it along the side of the wall, making it reach my cozy, overstuffed seat near the fire. (I’m referring to the sofa, not my lasagna intake.)

The captain is not just a captain in nickname. A world sailor, Capt. Stone spends much of his time offering day tours and island-hopping charter trips about the Cutty Sark, a sleek teak ketch – try saying that three times rapidly. In conversation with him, his passion for sailing is more than evident. He plans this year (2005) to retrace the route of General George Vancouver’s voyage of 1792. This particular trip will not be open to guests, but regular tours and trips will again be offered in 2006.

The inn serves a full breakfast, but also gives guests the option of booking lodging without breakfast included. I chose this, both to save money and in order to make up for the abundant food I had managed to scarf up during the prior week of traveling with my father.

This was not my first visit to Whidbey Island. I was there five years ago, when I stayed at the Guest House Log Cottages (which I recommend highly for a romantic retreat, honeymoon, or pre-travel-writer’s-budget indulgence.) On that trip, I was able to also explore the town of Langley, a bit south of Coupeville and also on the eastern side of the island. A paradise for shoppers, Langley is also a keen center for visual and performing arts.

On this trip, however, I didn’t feel I had the time to continue south. I packed my things, said my thank yous and checked out of the inn. With an hour detour in Oak Harbor’s Office Max to try to resolve my laptop issues, I drove back over Deception Pass and onto the mainland, working my way south until I turned east on Rte. 2. I still had one night free before I had to be in Idaho. I headed up over Stevens Pass, wondering where the road would take me next.

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