Road trip: Taholah, via bagel and kite country
An unusual impulse spurred this year’s fall trip to the Pacific coast: I woke up wanting a bagel. Particularly, I wanted a Cheesy Changa Bagel, and very particuarly, not from any of the 10 Starbucks stores within two miles of our home, but from the Starbucks in Aberdeen, 80 miles away. My husband readily agreed, except that in his case the driving impulse was a cranberry-orange scone.
The somnolent seaport of Aberdeen boasts double distinctions. It is the Gateway to the Olympic Peninsula, and the Birthplace of Grunge, being the hometown of Nirvana members Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic.
September marks the fourth month of this year’s fall in Puget Sound, but now we are enjoying an Indian summer. Our road trip day was warm and sunny, and so, having downed our mission of scone and coffee and bagel and tea, we decided to go on to Ocean Shores, then up the coast to Taholah, the terminus of Highway 109. Richard Hugo wrote a poem, “Road Ends at Tahola” [sic]; it sums up pretty grittily the character of the place.
I have to mention the parades. Saturday was a day of them. We navigated around a parade of AIDS and pink-shirted Planned Parenthood enthusiasts in Tacoma, making us glad to be leaving town. Aberdeen is an excellent town, abounding with Rossi yard signs. As we proceeded through town, we encountered the annual Loggers Parade. Dino Rossi people greeted the crowd from a float and several cars, and Christine Gregoire was entirely unrepresented. I hope Aberdeen is instrumental in electing our next governor.
At Ocean Shores, we feasted on convenience store burritos and tramped around the dunes and beach before heading north on 109.
At Pacific Beach, we happened on the annual kite festival. Hundreds of soaring kites created the effect of a colorful daytime meteor shower. It’s the event of the year in Pacific Beach, and we had never heard of it. That would be us, bumping into things people look forward to all year, having no plan nor any idea at all that they are happening. The kites were truly amazing. The relentless wind on the Washington coast is probably among the world’s most kite-friendly phenomena.
From the kite festival, we drove about 20 minutes to Taholah, a place so demoralizing I declined to take any pictures. Even the Welcome to Taholah sign seemed too much a lie to commit to the reality of a photograph. “Night comes on with stars and years of dead fish,” wrote Hugo. And, “A kelp bed is a rotten place to hide.” The hardest thing to bear was the depressed dogs. One padded along the sidewalk, head down, looking as though he were dutifully headed to his own hanging. Another was in a deep sleep on the side of the road. I was sure he was dead, but my husband pointed out that there were no signs of actual necrosis. He probably was just depressed.
We made another stop in Aberdeen on the way home, where I had the most delicious Safeway panini I have ever eaten in my life. I decided to add “quality of Safeway deli” to the proprietary criteria I use in rating towns. Still, it would be important to defer granting Aberdeen high vitality marks until the weight of Taholah’s morbidity settles. To be fair, Taholah doesn’t have a Safeway.