Today is a travel day where we start our ferry experiences. We're taking the ferry from Port Townsend to Keystone, which is on Whidby Island across the bay from Port Townsend. Then we drive north through Whidby Island to Anacortes where we take the ferry to Friday Harbor, San Juan Island.
We were scheduled for the 11:00 ferry from Port Townsend, but we got up and out so early that we were able to catch the 9:30 am ferry. This turned out to be fortuitous as it sped up our trip later down the line. As we left Port Townsend we enjoyed a look back to the city and the bluff above it where James House shares the podium with the Post Office next door. Port Townsend is definitely one of the more picturesque towns on the northern Olympic coast.
The trip across to Keystone was pretty short as ferry rides go. Compared to some of the other facilities we saw, Keystone was fairly primitive. Of most interest to us was the RV Park that sprawled just to the left of the ferry landing on the rocky beach.
The ferries themselves are big enough to handle large trucks and RVs, even our Dragon Wagon. WE can see the possibilities for coming up here in our RV and staying in the nice RV parks near the water and using the ferries to go from place to place. The ferries are expensive, especially for a big RV, but the savings in diesel at today's prices by not having to go around pretty much offsets the cost. But that is for the future.
We drove up through a largely rural Whidby island. WE did stop briefly in Coupeville for some gas (we had been told to gas up before going to Canada because their prices were higher (about $5.03 a gallon US) and we saw our chance)
One phenomenon up here that was new to us is the AM-PM convenience store/gas station. Their approach to selling gas is to do it for cash—either cash cash or a debit card. No credit cards. If you want to fill up, you pay the clerk more cash than you think you will use and come back for your change. Or you can feed bills into the ATM-like machine at the pump and put in that amount or get change from the clerk inside if you don't use it all. It is more work for the customer, but AM-PM's prices are significantly lower than those around them--$3.99 vs $4.21 at other places.
WE worked our way up to Anacortes and got in line for our 3:50 ferry. We got to the line about 11:00, so we were plenty early. A ferry had just arrived and was loading as we pulled into the line. We were told that it was full, but some of the cars in front of us in the same line made it on—we were two cars short of making that 11:00 ferry. (Getting the gas cost us an early trip). Susan and I left our car parked in line and went to the small deli at the ferry pier for some lunch, then settled in for a long wait. I did some walking to work off the lunch and several other meals and glasses of wine I had indulged in. The we got a surprise: because an earlier ferry had been cancelled, they ran in an unscheduled ferry to Lopez Island and Friday Harbor that left about 1:30. We loaded up and were on our way 2 hours early.
We made a brief stop at Lopez Island, a smaller island to the south and east of San Juan Island. Quite a few people got off there, including some contractors and trucks. As we traveled along the shore we could see several very nice houses on the waterfront. It is hard to imagine how they managed to get built when all of the materials, supplies, and probably labor had to come over on ferries. But I guess it is like any other house that gets built—very little is right there for you to use to put it together. It all has to come in somehow—it just seems a little slower and more costly using the ferry.
After Lopez Island the ferry took us to our destination, Friday Harbor. Our little GPS unit has had no trouble at all using the ferry system. When we ask directions to a place that can use a ferry, it knows to take us to the ferry and knows how long the ferry should take. When we got to Friday Harbor it was ready to navigate, and we took a right, a left, drove a little way and we were at our place for the next two nights, Elements Hotel and Spa.
To imagine the Elements Hotel and Spa, you have to realize its origins. It used to be a little cheapy prebuilt box motel. To see it now think a Best Western hotel room re-imagined by the black t-shirt "W-hotel" crowd. The king-size no poster bed has been replaced by a king size dark wood platform bed with dark headboard and lots of pillows. (Actually proved to be one of the most comfortable beds for me the whole trip).
It had a little bar top with two no-back stools that provided the desk area for the room. The room had a microwave and a small refrigerator. It had a small bathroom with a shower with a fancy shower head. The armoire wasn't the cheap oak type normally provided but a dark wood cabinet that held the TV and a few drawers, It was definitely an upgrade, but it hadn't lost its motel roots.
In the area near the pool was a little expresso bar where we could get a morning coffee hit. In fact, my impression of Friday Harbor was that you were never more than a block from an expresso bar. We were only a few steps out our door to the hotel expresso bar.
We had a chance to walk around. Susan found a gallery where she located a couple of pieces to send home. WE walked down further into Friday harbor to see what they had to offer. While we were down there we signed up for a sea kayaking trip the next day. (We already had our whale watching trip confirmed). I surveyed the various places that we might go for dinner while Susan worked on the stores. We settled on having drinks and appetizers at the Downrigger Restaurant, which overlooked the Marina. We looked at many of the sail boats there and fantasized about having our own sailboat and touring the northwest.
Then we moved to the Steps restaurant, which I located in an alleyway near the marina. This was a fancy bistro style restaurant that was completely enclosed. I was all about being able to see the ocean or the bay if we could. I didn't know this when I made the reservation, but the Steps restaurant solved this problem by having a big screeh high-def TV featuring a live cam of the ferry area and marina. So even though we didn't have the ocean breeze, we sure could see what was happening in the bay.
I am not sure that what we had was the best meal we had, but it was definitely the most different. It was a great end to a long day.