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Sunday, August 16, 2015

O Captain! My Captain!

Stylish, understated gift shop in Ocean Shores, Washington

It's been an unusual week for me in some respects. I'd never in my life had to make a phone call to emergency services, but this past week I've had to call 9-1-1 twice. The first time was on Monday, when I noticed a man lying unconscious near the road. A closer look showed there was blood from a cut on the back of his neck...and a beer can in a paper bag nearby, suggesting a drunken fall. The paramedics who arrived on the scene knew him by name, and fortunately he didn't appear to be seriously hurt.

The second occasion happened this afternoon while I was walking with my daughter in the Illahee Preserve. Passing by a man sitting on the ground, leaning against a tree, I casually greeted him with a "How's it going?" as we walked by. For some reason this seemed to antagonize him, and I quickly realized he wasn't a hiker but one of the homeless who lives in the woods. He began swearing and making threats while calling me the N-word (go figure that one), before getting up and walking away in the opposite direction. I had the impression he was scared and didn't want to be disturbed, hence the aggressive front, but with Amber by my side I didn't want to take any chances, so I called 9-1-1 again and gave a description of the man. We didn't see him again as we made our way back to our car, but I did warn several other people out enjoying the fresh air of his presence in the area. I was very impressed by my daughter, who remained calm throughout the experience and didn't seem flustered by it at all.

Fortunately, these two experiences were just bookends for an otherwise good week, with most of it being spent with my sister and her granddaughter in the coastal resort town of Ocean Shores. Probably the highlight of our visit was on Thursday morning when we had the opportunity to pilot an electric boat through a section of the canals that run through the area. After a five-minute crash course given by Tom Kimzey, the owner of Oceans Shores Electric Boat Company, I was ready to take the wheel:

The canals are lined with homes, many with their own boat launches:

Passing under bridges and avoiding the shallow parts of the waterways required total concentration:

Several deer were spotted during our one-hour cruise:

At times it felt like we were on the bayous of the deep South, minus the magnolias and the humidity...and the gators:

I may have been the captain, but I was no William Bligh. Everyone had a turn at piloting the boat, even our two youngest crew members, on a section of water called Duck Lake: 

I've seen the future, and it could involve a home by the water and an electric boat of my own to putter about in when I retire. In any case, it was a lot of fun:

After lunch at a Mexican restaurant, followed by shopping and a round of miniature golf, we dropped Karen and Kloe off at the hotel. Amber, Pamela and I then drove down to the beach hoping to go on a horse ride before dinner, but we arrived too late. Storms were brewing far out to sea, meaning it was unlikely there would be a spectacular sunset:

Amber nonetheless enjoyed playing in the surf:

We also took a walk through the dunes, amid beach scenery quite different from what I remember as a kid growing up in southern California:

Driving on the beaches in Washington goes back to the days when there were few roads and the sand was considered part of the state's highway system:

Our day ended with a dip in the hotel pool and dinner at a nearby seafood restaurant. Drizzle and cooler temperatures meant we couldn't go horseback riding the next morning, but I still took a walk along the beach:

We spotted more deer as we drove through the quiet back roads of Ocean Shores. The deer outnumber the human residents (the latter around 5000) and show no fear of people, but coyotes and bobcats help to keep their numbers in check:

Is it a lighthouse? A Bed-and-Breakfast? A private residence? No, it turned out to be a storage facility:

We eventually arrived at the Ocean Shores Interpretive Center, an excellent educational facility that provided plenty of hands-on opportunities for the girls:

In addition to the fauna, there were historical displays, including pieces of wreckage from some noted local shipwrecks:

There was also an exhibit on flotsam that had been carried from Asia on Pacific Ocean currents to Washington shores, much of it the result of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami 東北地方太平洋沖地震:

A final seafood lunch, and then it was time to leave Ocean Shores. As we made our way inland, the rain started to come down hard, a much-needed downpour in what has been an extremely dry spring and summer in the Pacific Northwest. On the way back to Bremerton we stopped off in Aberdeen, a gritty lumber town where Nirvana's Kurt Cobain grew up. Approaching from the wrong direction, we weren't able to get a photo of the Welcome to Aberdeen: Come As You Are sign, but we did drive by his childhood home. Although the house has an assessed value of $67,000 (no surprise considering the surrounding neighborhood), the musician's mother has put it on the market with an asking price of $400,000:

If this is what passes for a "scenic view" (that's what the sign said) in Aberdeen, then it becomes easy to understand why Cobain was so desperate to leave as he was:

Today is Saturday, and we're back in our temporary home in Bremerton. I took Amber to the Poulsbo Marine Science Center this morning, but it was "closed for maintenance." My daughter didn't seem to mind, however, and instead we had lunch at the retro-chic Green Light Diner, where we were happy to discover they carried Cheerwine: 

Later we drove out to the Illahee Preserve, where the aforementioned encounter with the cranky homeless denizen occurred. Despite that unpleasantness, it was still a interesting walk through the woods:

As we didn't have a map with us, I took pictures of Amber pointing the way back at every numbered post, which came in useful when it was determined that our best course of action was to leave. Considering the risks, I won't be taking my daughter out on these particular trails again. It's a shame, but there lots of other walking trains in the region to explore:

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