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  • Writer's pictureCarmine Valentine

How could we be lost? It's a small island.

A few weekends ago, I stepped off the ferry in Friday Harbor. This fun, little touristy town is located on the San Juan Island in Washington State. This wasn't my first time to Friday Harbor, and it won't be my last. The day was sunny, the sky blue, and the water in the tiny harbor even bluer. It was one of those gorgeous, sunny days in the Pacific Northwest that makes you glad you live here. I was there for research, wrapping up the final details for a book. My sister Hilary Williamson had come along with me on my exploration. We had three hours to get across island to Roche Harbor and get back to the ferry line per the ferry rules (we had to be in line 45 minutes before departure). We had a plan in how we would wisely use those 45 minutes at the end of our visit here. We set out driving across the island with the complimentary map we'd found in the brochure display on the ferry. Overall, the island looks tiny on the map. And the roads to Roche Harbor measured about three inches max on the map. We had plenty of time to drive three inches. So, we set out with the windows down, the sun roof open, and serene, grassy pastures whizzing by along the country road. We would have had the tunes cranked but I think we were too busy talking about men and life in general. Of course, we had all the world's problems solved by the time we realized we were lost and came to a slow stop in a private driveway in front of a 'keep out' sign. What the…! How could we have ended up on the wrong road? We're both highly organized and detailed people. We turned that map upside down and sideways trying to figure out our dilemma. Still not quite sure how we'd set down four wheels in front of a 'keep out' sign, we backed out and got ourselves pointed in the right direction on the humbling and obvious road called 'Roche Harbor Rd'. Pride recovered, we rolled into the tiny village of Roche Harbor and were immediately charmed. Cute cottages, marina of blue water and white boats, and green points of land and tiny islands farther out. The old, pristine white Hotel de Haro with wrap-around balconies will take you back in time. (That's me in the pic in front of the old hotel.) There was much to see! And the clock was ticking. Taking the ‘didn't pay attention 'cause we were talking too much’ route across island had seriously cut into our special plan while we would wait for the ferry. We had to pick up the exploration pace. We toured the hotel in four minutes flat. I snapped pictures while my sister asked questions at the reservation desk. Got a picture of Teddy Roosevelt’s signature in the guest book. Picked up brochures that provided details on the history of the old hotel and the family who had built it. There was a mausoleum we had to see. We walked fast along peaceful trails that took us deep into a skinny-treed forest where moss and clover grew up alongside the service road. Suddenly we came upon stone pillars and an iron arch entrance. Through that arch the sun shone down on an open Grecian-like pavilion. Our steps slowed and our voices softened. Our rush was momentarily forgotten in this place of rest protected by the silence of respect. And out of respect, we behaved like guests and didn’t stay long. We left as quietly as we had arrived. Once back on the service road, real time set in. We had twenty minutes to get back to the ferry. We rocketed out of there, first on legs, then on the four wheels of my sister's trusty Volvo steed. Travel tip: Staying on the Roche Harbor Road gets you back to town in less than fifteen minutes. With our car parked in the ferry line, the final plan of the expedition was about to happen. Our trained internal radar zeroed in on the closest beer deck. Mission accomplished! Then the ferry was late. We laughed. This day was a solid 10 in making sunny memories.

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