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WP_000341After last year’s drama over the 4th of July I was ready for a truly relaxing getaway weekend.  And man, how time flies!  Can’t believe all that was a year ago.  If you don’t feel like clicking on that link, we had about a 3-4 acre beach grass fire in front of our property on the Washington coast, set off by an unsuccessful bottle rocket launcher.  No one ever came forward to claim responsibility, and my family, neighbors and I watched helplessly as the volunteer fire crew got it under control while the winds blew hard in our direction.  And my eldest nephew had to stay home with my sister-in-law, as he’d made a trip to the ER after trying a superhero-style leap off of a neighbor’s backyard slope behind a basketball hoop…and missed catching the hoop.

So this year we had nearly all of my immediate family at the beach house in Ocean Park, but not quite as many extended family in the neighboring houses as in other years.  It just seemed, well, a little quieter this year overall.  But we still had the fun crowds watching the parade down the main street, which has everything from the local high school band, people running for office, the car club, a belly dancing troupe…and a shopping cart drill team thanks to one of the grocery store’s employees!  And a fantastic time laughing and talking around the fire pit with other relatives in Oysterville, WA, just a short drive from Ocean Park and on the Willapa Bay side of the peninsula.

As I’ve likely written before, getting there is half the fun.  Meaning, the road trip from the Seattle area to Ocean Park is beautiful.  Even more beautiful once you get off the main I-5 freeway and onto the smaller more rural highways.  I’ve driven the route hundreds of times and it’s different every time.  It’s usually around 4 or 4 1/2 hours…but this year it took a whopping 5 1/2.  Bad traffic and an extra stop I hadn’t planned on making.

I usually grab dinner at the Crow’s Nest drive-in in Montesano.  Fast food doesn’t count when you’re road trippin’, right?  This is my classic although somewhat ridiculous excuse for a good, greasy burger and a shake.  After 3 hours on the road – double my usual time to get to this spot at about the halfway point of the drive, I knew I’d be arriving at the house after dark.  The main freeway traffic earlier had crawled…for some reason I had this silly idea that most other people would get an earlier start getting out of town and on the road, while I still had a full day at the office.  So, I stand corrected!  But it was a beautiful evening, and Mount Rainier was out – it was so clear you could even see the rolling foothills all around it.  Gorgeous.

I’m a pretty good ‘eater in the car’ type, even when driving, but this time I ended up wearing my dinner, as a few diced onions and sauce from my cheeseburger danced down the front of my new t-shirt as I sped down Highway 101.  I was determined to make up time, but the curvy highway keeps your speed in check.

And how interesting a segue is that.  This part of Highway 101 winds over quite a few rivers, creeks and sloughs that all eventually flow into Willapa Bay.  And summer is construction season, so bridge maintenance work is in full swing.  The sun was setting and I realized I didn’t need my sunglasses much anymore as the road wound through the trees.  I made up lost time driving a little faster – getting up around 65 mph on a curvy highway is about my limit.  Then…construction zones.  One of the bridges was down to just one lane, and they had an automated traffic light set up to keep traffic flowing long after the work crews went home. Painfully long light cycle…and I could tell I was just one of many frustrated drivers eager to make up time spent backed up in traffic earlier in the afternoon to get to wherever they were going.

A few miles later the highway straightened out and I was probably doing 65 or 70 again…enjoying the last bits of sunlight, admiring the beautiful bay views – and up ahead was another bridge construction zone.  Speed limit 25mph so says the warning sign.  So I gently started tapping my brakes to slow down…I wanted to do a gradual slow and nothing obnoxious.  As I was slowing down I saw a bunch of County police in their Tahoes facing the other direction.  Suddenly their lights started flashing and I continued to brake.  OK, it’s a construction zone but it’s after hours (around 9pm or so) so nobody is working, and oh, those cops must have been called elsewhere…that’s why that guy is pulling out into the road and turning around my direction, right?  RIGHT?  I keep slowing down and realize OH SHIT, he’s pulling me over!  Maybe I’m wrong and I just need to pull over to get out of his way.  Nooo…I pull over and he pulls over behind me.  FUCK.

As much as I want to tell this dude to get a life and leave us city people alone and go fight some REAL crime rather than trolling for speeding cars in a construction zone where NO ONE is working, I keep composed.  A half hour later he’s completed his paperwork and I get my license, registration and insurance card back.  And a $113 ticket for doing 35 mph in a 25 mph zone.  UGH.  OK, I was in the process of slowing down…I just didn’t slow down fast enough.

baby islandThat was at milepost 33 on Highway 101 in Washington state, if anyone wants to map that.  Right near the construction of the bridge over the mid Nemah River.  Be warned, my friends.  When it says 25mph, they mean it.  And fines double or triple in construction zones, even if no one is working in them.

So I didn’t want that episode dampening my mood any longer…I’m headed to the beach!  By now it was just after dark and I had the home stretch of the drive ahead of me.  The curviest parts of Highway 101 actually.  This picture is of Baby Island in Willapa Bay, and the sight of it always makes me smile.  I found this picture online – never have been in a spot to pull over and attempt to take a picture of it myself as the road shoulder is a little narrow and precarious – and you can see the bay, mud and beautiful sky.  I was actually driving this in that kind of not-quite-totally-dark dark.  Instead of beautiful sunset colors, everything had a brown, taupe and dark green glow.  You could still see the outlines of everything so clearly.  It was surreal; I can’t remember the last time I ever have seen the bay at night like that.

Deer are very common on the Long Beach peninsula, and I was crossing my fingers hard that one would not spontaneously leap out in front of me in the dark on the last stretch of the highway to Ocean Park.  Between bad traffic, spilled food and a speeding ticket that was enough.

It took me a good 24 hours or so to wind down.  And nothing better than seeing my adorable nephews and niece to put a huge smile on my face the next morning!  We enjoyed the annual parade through Ocean Park, watching the huge fireworks on the beach in the evening from our back porch, the volunteer beach cleanup (you would not believe the amount of fireworks debris left behind on the beach!) and just playing and relaxing.  Because you just can’t help but chill out and slow down when you get to Ocean Park.  The pace is slower, the salt air makes me sleep like a rock, cell phone coverage is a little spotty but improving…and the TV stays off.

oceanHere’s the view looking south at the (Pacific) ocean on Beach Cleanup day (July 5).  Nice relief from the hot weather we were having at home (but nothing compared to some other parts of the country, yikes).

And a large doe I encountered on a walk about a quarter-mile from the house…she was just standing in the middle of the road and walked over into someone’s yard to start munching grass.

Oh, and what’s with the “slow down little missy” in the post title?  That was J’s wise words to me in a text message after I told him I got a ticket!  Too funny.