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The Twilight Zone






-----Mercifully, for the first time since Minot, we awoke with cell phone reception. It’s a minor miracle, and it meant that we no longer had to calculate our phone’s morning alarms from central time backwards, which was a great annoyance. Texts from Alaska’s 511 service poured through to my mom's phone, which proved a hassle as updates on the Glenn Highway popped up periodically with no obvious way to unsubscribe. (We eventually were able to do so, though not without significant hassle.)


-----The Malaspina was running slightly behind schedule to Bellingham, and we watched as the captain, aided by his crew on the back deck, guided the mighty vessel backwards into the port. As the crew radioed in and hooked the Malaspina into the dock, we grabbed the last of our things and went down to the car deck to drive out, once again on dry land under our wheels. As nice as it was to be able to give the car a break, another day on the boat would have made us stir-crazy.


-----Bellingham is a wetter and smaller version of San Francisco, with houses and streets carved up precipitous hills. It led to Interstate 5, and it was incredible how much of that road seemed familiar from what we traveled four years ago, when we had to detour around a recently collapsed bridge. But we did not get so far this time, as we exited into verdant farmland on Route 20 towards Whidbey Island, the largest island in the state, which snakes south into Puget Sound. It’s the Pacific Northwest, and so it constantly rains, and our route was no different, and the route went under truly enormous trees that fold into a canopy over the road.


-----The communities of Whidbey Island are spread out, and Route 20 took us to Coupeville, where we got in line for the ferry to Port Townsend. As little as we thought of once again sailing the seven seas in any capacity, our only other option would have taken us through Seattle and added many, many more hours to our day. We had reservations for 2:00, as we made them without knowledge of whether the Alaska Marine Highway would be on time, but we got there at around 10:00. Nonetheless, the nonchalant fellow at the toll booth scanned our reservation anyway, and we managed to be amongst the last to squeak into the tightly packed ferry.


-----The ferry was quite large, and we walked around the ship for almost all of the ostensibly 40-minute ride as the ship sailed to Port Townsend, a place known—at least, by their local tourism industry—as “the Paris of the Pacific Northwest.” I don’t know how true any of that really is, but it was a cute little place from what we could see. Looking on a map, these places look downright deserted next to the megalopolis of Seattle and its satellites, but it was really hopping.


-----We pressed on along US 101, whose route draws an enormous arc around the Olympic Peninsula, so named for Olympic National Park—the very reason for our western jaunt before making the trek back east. Others might regard it as sparsely populated, but after tackling the desolation of Alaska and the Yukon, these places seem like big cities.


-----Lunch was a quick stop in Port Angeles at a Jimmy John’s. From there, the road became hillier and curvier, and especially beautiful as we dipped to circle around Lake Crescent. The immensity of the ferns can’t quite be captured, and the mountains—which are covered in them—contrast starkly with the snowcapped peaks of the true northwest.


-----It was not long before we made it to Forks, a small town made famous by its inclusion in the Twilight novels. Whether such fame is desirable might be a point of contention, but suffice it to say that Forks hasn’t gone crazy with it. The motel we are at does, however, include such a thing as a “Twilight room,” which vaguely disgusts me and I'm just pleased that we're not in it. At least there are no giant cardboard character cutouts. Being on solid ground for so long is as disorienting as getting on a ship for the first time; I’d become so accustomed to the gentle rocking that I’ve found myself swaying back and forth to accommodate a nonexistent tilt.


-----Forks is one of those places that seems to lack an outer sense of civic pride. I’m almost certain that the only reason that the place is clean is because it constantly rains. When you look up the best place to eat in Forks, it tries to send you to a place thirty-odd miles away. Thus it was with trepidation that, after laundry, we went to eat at a local pizza place. Much like Haines, though their economy depends on tourism, they don’t seem particularly friendly as a group. Our pizza, when it arrived, was average. It was cooked all the way through, but the tomatoes tasted highly canned. As the locals poured in and the babies began to scream, we left for the next-door supermarket/hardware store for a replenishment of our water and Gatorade supplies, and we even found some of my dad's lovely favorite maple cookies, which we figured would only be found north of the border. (We got three boxes and have consumed one already.)


-----Tomorrow: the Hoh Rainforest, one of the oldest in America, before making our way east to the state capital of Olympia.

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