Camaraderie on the Coastline
The eerie specter of Humptulips rapidly transmutes to renewed cheer as we wheel into a blink of town called Copalis Crossing.
A sandwich board advertising broccoli draws us to Voss Acres Produce Market (www.vossacres.com), a homespun operation run out of a garage.
Sharon Voss comes out to greet us and, though the store is closed, offers us a “sidedoor shop” as she slides open the glass door and pulls the till out of the safe.
Z and I browse the fresh produce, much of which came from the Voss’ 6,000 square-foot garden just out the window, as Sharon relates the history of the place.
The house that she shares with her husband, Steve, was originally built in Tumwater, Washington – 60 some miles to the east – as a bunk unit for rail workers building lines to accommodate timber harvest in the late 1800s.
As the rail was built, the house traveled along behind it, eventually settling right here in nothing-doin Copalis Crossing. It served as a train depot and then a post office before falling into disrepair many years later.
Steve has since done an amazing job of refurbishing the place.
Sharon takes joy in sharing regional artifacts with us – ceramic model T spark plugs dug up in the yard, an antique olive pitter, old photos of the nearby Aloha Lumber Company mill owned by the Dole (of pineapple fame) brothers, who were raised in Hawaii and crafted primitive finless surfboards from pungent Washington cedar wood starting around 1902.
We enjoy Sharon’s stories and simple cheer, and roll into Copalis Beach at sunset feeling careless and enchanted and ready for drink.
There’s only one place to drink in Copalis Beach. The river winds through a short slough to the ocean and, just south, as just south as it could be, sits Green Lantern Tavern.
(View from the tavern next morning at breakfast.)
The nondescript bar is empty but for two patrons.
“San Diego!” exclaims Bob, a rounded country man perched with his apologetic but not surprised blonde wife or girlfriend at the end of the bar. “Well, all I got to say is that it’s nice to meet some folks from San Diego who ain’t queer.”
It becomes Bob’s mantra for the evening: “You San Diego folks are welcome here as long as you ain’t queer,” cheerily, even long after the bartender suggests that perhaps it's San Francisco he's thinking of, the queers and all.
Bob orders us two shots of a rather Yuletidely liqueur and, drunk now, says, “yall throw your bikes in the back of my truck now and you can camp out on my property.”
He offers it several times throughout the night, and when we eventually decline, he erupts, saying, “you turn down old Billy Bob’s hospitality? Weeeeelll! That’s on YOU now! That’s YOUR karma now. And that’s BAD karma!”
“Are you doing hoojoo on us?” Z asks with her adorably amused grin.
“Yes I am!” he declares, beaming with self-satisfaction. “That’s YOUR bad karma now!”
We entertain the validity of ole Billy Bob’s voodoo, briefly, but soon take up Pebbles’ offer to stay in her trailer just a block away at a campground.
Pebbles is a beautiful, nervous, open-hearted woman who dearly wants to take us out of the rain for the night. So we sip wine in her RV listening to a Luke Redfield album as she tells us about the abusive alcoholic man she is on the run from. He’s hit her for the last time. If she sees him, she’ll kill him. If he comes tonight, we’ll help.
Next morning we ride a few miles south to Ocean Shores and spend a few days waiting out rain and concocting some articles for work. The beaches are surreal and everything feels like a simulation.
The feeling is amplified as we bus into Westport, a fisherman’s foggy painted-by-memory town on a peninsula across the water from Aberdeen.
We park our bikes at the Knotty Pine Tavern, the surliest dive on the West Coast, and meet a vacationing young couple from Puyallup who teach us how to gamble on the state-issue punch boards.
“It’s like this,” Anna says as she jabs away heedlessly at the bacon board like a blind dowser probing for groundwater.
She wins two pounds of bacon in about ten minutes, and we hope it isn’t just drunken camaraderie when she and Jordan invite us over to their hotel tomorrow for oysters and crab and beer all day as they lurch out of the bar in a lusty embrace.
Z and I spend the night in the bow of this crab boat, owned by a fisherman named Mike who we met at the Pine earlier.
We spend the next day sipping Rainiers and barbecuing ribs and seafood.
Here are a couple shots of Z modeling with some oysters in Bay Center, WA.
A few days later we roll into Ilwaco, a former fishing mecca on the mouth of the Columbia River that died off with the salmon and now retains the haunting infrastructure of what-once-was – vacant seafood restaurants, under-priced houses, barnacled boats moaning in the harbor, nautical waste, and the dive bar at the end of the universe, the Sea Hag, spewing drafts to the echoes of near-extinct commerce collapsing all around.
Everyone is confused as to why we are even here in the first place, but it feels right and we end up crashing with some local kids who work as occasional dockhands and, far more lucratively, clerks at the waterfront indoor gardening shop.
Next day, we bike over the Astoria-Megler Bridge, which is supposed to be terrifying, except it’s been undergoing a four-year painting process since March, so we breeze over with no cars in sight for much of the 4 mile stretch, feeling immense gratitude for the fates and a warm ambivalence to the natural laws of physics, the rules of reality, and even ole Billy Bob’s well-meaning, cross-eyed, dumbass back-country hoodoo.
on June 17, 2012
from the travel blog:
Two-Wheel Heart Attack Fuck the World West Coast Bicycle Ride-A-Thon of the Millenium
Send a Compliment
Great blog describing some very interesting (!) people you met!
Really enjoyed the photos, too!
Looks like you and Andrea are having fun and experiencing a lot!
Love and safe travels, Mom
written by Viki Deal on June 20, 2012
"the dive bar at the end of the universe, the Sea Hag, spewing drafts to the echoes of near-extinct
collapsing all around." - now that paints a picture! Love, Dad
on June 23, 2012
Wonderful description of Voss Acres and the Wa. coast. Loved the inimate details of your
, especialy " Queer Bob " Almost like I could put a face to him . Thank god I cant ! I enjoyed reading and viewing the photos , Thank you !
written by Dave Clutts on June 24, 2012
comment on this...
Previous: Fortune Is a Stranger
Expat Software Consulting Services