Is Port Townsend For Real?

Posted November 19, 2018 – Narrated by Carmen
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Jim’s the surprise guy.

A curio shop window at Port Townsend

Ever since we were kids he’s managed to pull off these elaborately staged “drum roll please” surprises – and after forty-three years he still knows how to “wow” me. But, last year he gave me Savannah, Georgia for my birthday. How could he possibly top that?

His style is incremental disclosure – dropping hints while drawing the curtain back in slow motion, building the anticipation. Jim’s  a professional at surprises.

He knows it’s all about the journey not the destination. These guessing games can take minutes, hours, days, or even weeks depending on the magnitude of the surprise.

Detail of a door at Port Townsend

The clue game started when we crossed the Peace Arch-Douglas border from Canada into the US. We passed squeaky clean because for two weeks we planned our meals carefully so we’d be contraband-free of fresh dairy, meat and produce.

As we pulled out of the inspection station, Jim said, “Now, where are we going to find something to eat?” Strange, the way he said that … as if maybe restaurants and grocery stores had been banned from the state of Washington …?

Aha! Here we go.

He’s cooking up a surprise.

Then, as we drove by a pumpkin patch, he gave me another hint. Taking a pill out of his pocket, he said, “Here’s a Dramamine.”

“What? Are we taking a …?!” I clamped my hand over my mouth. The word that rhymes with “faerie” but carries people and cars, not magic dust – makes me ill. I don’t even have to ride one. Just imagining a ‘you-know-what’ triggers an involuntary and unpleasant physical response.

So, I swallowed the motion sickness pill and within, oh, twenty minutes or so, I slipped deep into a soft hazy trance.

But, the last thing I remember is that pumpkin patch …

… before waking up at the turn of the 20th century.

As Jim drove off the unmentionable thing …

… and turned right on the main drag, I rubbed my eyes.

Was this a drug-induced fantasy?

Jim said, “Cool. It’s like a time warp.”

Port Townsend, The City of Dreams (“where your neighbors don’t mind if you wear corsets or jeans”) is a cozy yester-year fishing villiage, perched on the proud tip of the densely wooded Olympic Peninsula and embraced by the protective waters of Admiralty Inlet.

Though it’s less than a two-hour drive to Seattle, Port Townsend lies in the rain shadow and only receives about twenty inches of precipitation annually.

It’s a haven for kayakers and wooden boat enthusiasts.

“The best view in town” according to the locals, is from the historic post office where Jim mailed our mid-term election ballots.

The impressive Romanesque building is a sobering message from the past that the founders’ dreams of grandeur came to a screeching halt. But, generations of dedicated residents have prevented the village from any sign of decay.

Here, restoration is an act of love.

This is a film-friendly location. With a few small vintage props, the main street could be a set for an 1890 boomtown.

Friendly, layback, easygoing Port Townsend is a writer’s haven and a seaside bastion for bibliophiles. The last time we saw that many bookstores we were in Paris.

That last week of our October birthday was spent walking and browsing the galleries and upscale consignment shops and sipping coffee and cocoa on the bay … dreaming about the next time we will return to Port Townsend for the Fiddle Festival or the Wooden Boat Festival or a guided birding expedition and what a hoot to be here for Halloween costumed as StarTrek characters with tricorders!

Dinner and a movie in Port Townsend is not the average date night. A sumptuous salmon dinner on the deck of Quench followed by A Star Is Born made us feel like kids – kids in the 1930’s.

The Rose Theatre

The Rose Theatre is a charming vintage cinema with an eclectic selection of mainstream, art and foreign films as well as live simulcasts featuring the Bolshoi Ballet and the Metropolitan Opera.

Daytime excursions were right in our wheelhouse –  kayaking, well-maintained cycling trails, hiking trails, beach walks, sea glass hunting and strolls in the little parks tucked within the tranquil suburban neighborhoods where deer pasture on manicured lawns.

It’s easy to understand why a quarter of the population of Port Townsend is 65 or older. It’d be a nightmare to wake up every day in this place and have to go to work.

Point Hudson Marina and RV Park

On short notice, Jim was lucky to secure a great camp spot on the bay at Point Hudson Marina RV Park. Right on the beach – full-hookups and only a few paces from Doc’s Marina Grill and Tavern, and Point Hudson Cafe – felt like we were in a resort. Everything was within walking and cycling distance. No driving necessary!  

Turns out our bare pantry was all part of Jim’s surprise. We ate out every day for a week. And on our way out of town, we stocked up at the Co-op.

So, once again, Jim swept his artsy-fartsy birthday gal off her feet – and the Puget Sound faeries (not f—y’s!) sent us on our way, by mainland, with their blessing. 

Our campsite at Port Townsend

And I’m still not convinced Port Townsend is for real.