Our adventure a week before this one, Puyallup Pool Party seemed to usher in spring with blue skies and green buds. Evidently, spring didn't extend up I-5 to Bellingham. I did not enjoy driving over one hundred miles in the driving rain. The only adventure with worse weather was when Peg and I had to drive the winding roads on Cape Cod in the early morning through heavy rain and wind to make our return flight out of Boston. I hated the drive then, I hated this one as well. Luckily, we had a great time in West Dennis and we had a great time in Bellingham.
We were going to Bellingham to visit our granddaughter, Talia. She planned to show us some of the sights of Bellingham and Whatcom County. "Whatcom" is the Lummi word meaning "noisy water."
Coincidentally, our good friends Donn and Debbie Irwin traveled to Bellingham the same weekend to watch their grandson Michael play for Western Washington University in a baseball tournament. Joining Don and Debbie for the trip north were Michael's parents, their son Sean, and daughter-in-law Sue.
You would think that with a built-in visit and friends, we would have a hard time making an adventure out of the trip, but it was easy . . . and fun. Although, every mile we drove in the wind and rain seemed to foretell a lack of baseball in our near future.
Peg and I stayed at the Baymont Inn & Suites, which is located in north Bellingham, while Donn and Debbie stayed further south closer to downtown. Our granddaughter worked just minutes away from our hotel.
We had a King Suite at the Baymont. It may be the only King Suite at the Baymont. In the photograph our room is at the top of the tower just above the drive-thru. Note also in the photo, the potted plants scattered around the landscape to add color. Since we later saw planted daffodils that were beaten down and drowned, the unplanted pots seemed to represent good planning. We were referred to the Baymont Inn by the La Quinta in Everett where we had stayed about a month before. It was a nice recommendation.
Our suite had a tiled entrance with a huge matching tub with water jets for easing and relaxing a tired and weary body. The commode and nearby shower where matched with the same dark green. An interesting feature of the bath was what I dubbed the "window of opportunity." Cut through the wall above the tub was a glass-less opening directly to our king bed. If I were smaller I could have run across the bed stepped through the window and plunged into the large tub/small pool. Of course I probably would have knocked myself out.
The suite had five windows, which provided great natural lighting during the day. Wall lamps lit each side of the bed for reading, a necessity for two readers. A desk stood next to the bed between the king (me) and one of the windows. There was also an easy chair with a floor lamp where Peg would sit and read.
Peg and I left Tacoma about half past noon and checked into the hotel just after three with only one stop on the way. We stayed connected with the Irwins via cell. By leaving Tacoma early we missed much of the Friday afternoon traffic and were able to relax a little bit before dinner. Talia left work at 6:30 and five minutes later was knocking on our door.
Talia had excitedly told her friends, "My grandparents are coming to visit . . . and some of their friends!" Her friends didn't know that we are fun people to be around. And so are our friends. I think she gave up explaining.
For dinner we all met at Jalapenos, a family-owned Mexican restaurant chain in Bellingham. We waited for our table at the bar. Peg had a huge glass of Modelo with two large slices of lime, while Talia and I had healthy (meaning more than a simple shot) Disaronno Amaretto Sours. Mine went down in less than a heartbeat. Since I usually only drink lemonade or Sprite, one was enough. Another one or two would have gone down nicely, but I was driving and I thought the restaurant people would not appreciate someone taking a nap on the floor.
We all enjoyed our meals. I sampled around the table a bit, but I think my pork shanks dinner was the best food on the table. I would order it again, possibly with the house blend of pineapple salsa.
The next morning, breakfast at The Baymont was a little pedestrian. Once I had my self-made waffle the glamour of the morning meal had gone. The juice machine offerings were watery and the muffins had been cut in half, which of course dries them out. If management was trying to make them go further, then they might try cutting a few in half for light eaters.
After eating my waffle and dried muffin I let Peg sleep in, while I drove downtown and visited the waterfront. It was a nice morning, but chilly. I walked around a little bit and took some photos of the views. On my trip downtown I had seen several restaurants that had early morning diners. I denied my inkling for a second breakfast. I knew that we would probably be dining out for lunch and I didn't want to eat on a full stomach.
I drove back with a mission. On the way downtown I had seen a brown rhino. They are very rare, indeed, especially in residential areas. As I left downtown I was hoping that he would still be in the general area of Cornwall Park, where I had seen him . . . and he was.
The rhino was welded instead of weaned and stands guard along a private drive-way.
After I took his photograph, I returned to the Baymont and sat down with my ten inch Android tablet and searched for "Bellingham Rhino." I found him and a little more information.
The rhino was created by Harlow Friday for his wife Anna. Harlow is a welder and sculptor. Anna is a textile artist, who wears her own northwest designs.
Standing about twenty feet away from the rhino is a five-foot raven. Ravens are common characters in traditional narratives around the world. One Native American legend has the raven stealing the sun from a man who kept the sun hidden in a cedar box. Besides being the representative spirit of actual ravens, the raven in mythology is often depicted as a trickster or cultural hero figure. The raven took the sun and placed it in the sky. This particular five-foot raven holds the sun in his mouth.
Peg and I were headed to lunch in downtown Bellingham, but I had to show her the rhino and the raven. The driveway led to the home of Harlow and Anna. As we drove up to their house, Anna was leaving, but Harlow greeted us warmly. We chatted about his art and before we knew it we had the grand tour of his yard, shop/studio and his home. The family home was constructed in the 1930s by shoving together two chicken coups. The home is like Harlow, warm and quirky. Harlow and Anna retired here more than a dozen years ago from Oregon.
Anna used to dance in costume while Native American storytellers told their tales. Many of Harlow's pieces of art represent those wonderful stories. Their art is everywhere. One of my favorite pieces is in the kitchen. It's called "The Hanging Tree." It's a rough-hewn cedar pole, with pegs from which pots and pans hang.
Harlow showed us his current project, "Saber-toothed Bird." (I think that's what he called it.) It stands outside his shop and studio. His shop is cluttered with tools and various projects. I fell in love with his motorcycle side-car. Well, actually I guess it's a front-car since the motorcycle pushes it from behind. Harlow always wanted a Morgan, the early '50s classic sports car from England. He had that in mind when he built the side-car. It's beautiful. I think "motorcycle" is the Lummi word for Harley-Davidson.
Harlow and I had similar personal histories of involvement in art during our college years (mine at the University of Puget Sound and his at Portland State University), but both of us went into business to feed our families. Our few moments with Harlow shown like the sun reflecting off a raven's wing . . . or perhaps, the single headlight of a Morgan front-car.
There are two main places in downtown Bellingham for fun and food: Railroad Avenue, and Fairhaven. We hit Railroad Avenue for lunch and goodies on Saturday. Peg and I joined the Irwin clan at Avenue Bread. The morning baseball game was cancelled because of a wet field, so most of us were eating together. Peg chose a cheese sandwich, which was too goopy for her. I gave her half my excellent Reuben in exchange for several bites of her excellent tomato and dill soup. It was thick and flavorful. Talia was working until 4:30 and so was absent.
One place we didn't get to visit was Man Pies, which was just a block away. They feature all kinds of savory pies. That restaurant will have to wait for another day. Leaving Avenue Bread we made it past Mallards, the ice cream place to go to in Bellingham and then while Peg went shopping in a used clothing store, I visited Sweet Art, a chocolate shop. I bought several pieces and advised the shopkeeper that my wife would soon be there to buy some more.
I returned to my Durango, which I had parked in a small parking lot (parking is tough to find anywhere near Railroad Avenue) and opened up my little white bag of sweets.
Like Peg I usually choose dark chocolate . . . and of course it's not just a sweet, but it's a healthy food (so they say). I really enjoyed my butterflied apricot covered in dark chocolate, my dark chocolate toffee, and a dark chocolate turtle. My last piece was called the Aztec, which was supposed to have a little spice in it. It did. Instead of popping the entire piece into my mouth, I bit off one end. The back of my mouth lit up. When Peg returned to the car I sampled some of her sweets and gave her a nibble of my Aztec. A nibble was all she needed. We saved the last bite for Talia, which she really enjoyed with wide open eyes of surprise.
The Copper Hog puts the ham in Belling. Our entire group ventured there for dinner. The afternoon baseball game was cancelled due to another wet field. Peg and Talia and I sat at the bar, while we waited for our table and the rest of our group to arrive. Again, Peg had a dark beer, while Talia and I had whiskey sours (doubles). Again, mine disappeared in seconds.
The Copper Hog is a "gastropub." That means it features excellent food and drink. I got that information from watching Gordon Ramsay on Kitchen Nightmares. The "excellent" part may be a bit of an exaggeration, but some of it was. Peg had the Irish Onion Soup. It wasn't served as hot as I thought it should have been. The onions were well caramelized giving it a very sweet taste. Floating in the middle of the bowl was a slice of rye bread (One OF Peg's favorites) with melted cheese on it. I enjoyed it, but it just wasn't finished.
Donn also had the Irish Onion Soup to go along with his fish and chips. I think he enjoyed the soup, and the mustard for the fries, but he felt the fish was a little greasy. I thought was a shame because it looked like it was fried perfectly, but the taste buds will decide.
The service was friendly and quick. Our waiter did a nice job advising us about foods and then steering us away from Coldstone Creamery in favor of a trip to Mallards, which was only half a block away. Even I was happy to walk there . . . well, perhaps happy is not the right word.
There was quite a bit of sharing going on at the Copper Hog. Peg and Talia enjoyed my Scotch Egg (boiled egg covered with sausage and deep fried) and I enjoyed Talia's bangers and mash.
I thought the best thing at the table was Peg's salmon and citrus salad. It was beautifully served and tasted crisp and wonderful. I think the three best foods we had in Bellingham were my pork shanks (Friday night dinner), Peg's tomato and dill soup (Saturday lunch), and the salmon citrus salad (Saturday lunch). If they had all been served together it would have been one perfect meal.
I stayed with my one whiskey sour and went immediately to Sprite. The Copper Hog is not lacking for customers and we would dine there again, but sampling is definitely the way to go.
Find your favorites and order them the next time. That's always a good rule of thumb.
We enjoyed the restaurant. Original paintings of iceburgs and boats were Velcroed to the walls, which made the decor both unusual and interesting.
We liked the friendly and efficient waiter and so we left him a decent tip and Peg gave the copper hog himself a hug right before we left. Larger than life animals are so adorable.
Although I had driven around a three block radius trying to find my initial parking space after dropping off Peg and Talia, once you're parked there are plenty of places to visit on and around Railroad Avenue.
As we walked to Mallards, I knew that my Durango was still only half a block from Mallards, just like it was half a block from the Copper Hog.
Mallards is a happening place. There was a line at the counter as we got there. There are many posters displaying information on concerts and plays, fundraisers as well as business services. It's very homey.
Sean, Sue and Michael went next door for coffee without ice cream. The rest of us bought cones. Donn was the only two-scoop man with chocolate and vanilla. I had the yummy Lemon Liberation. Peg had the Expresso.
We all talked a good game about going to a movie, but in the end we all went home. Michael still had the possibilities of games on Sunday. Peg and I would be packing and checking out at the hotel and then driving north near Lynden for a home-cooked breakfast by Talia.
It was about three in the morning when I knew there would be no baseball played on Sunday. I could hear the fierce rain beating against the windows. To dry out the fields it would have taken a couple of ravens with a couple of new suns working together to do it. It would also take a new folklore story.
Talia rents a room in a house owned by one of two sisters, about ten miles north of the Baymont. She made under-toasted toast (just how I like it), fried eggs, a salmon and cream cheese quesadillas (excellent!), a yogurt breakfast cake and orange juice that the hotel could learn a lesson from. I just don't enjoy orange juice you can see through. We call that Kool-Aid where I come from.
After breakfast we drove through the flat river valley where we saw berry field after berry field. The rich earth, like that of the Puyallup River valley, provides the ideal nutrients for fruits, vegetables, and berries. Talia says, "In the summer its quite beautiful here." I believe it and also believe that if we return "in season" we'll be able to eat fresh berries and cream for dessert at local restaurants.
I'm also willing to bet that berry pies will be on local menus and perhaps even dominate Man Pies in downtown Bellingham.
We enjoyed the drive west around the local farms until we connected with I-5 and headed south to Bellingham and the district known as Fairhaven.
The business district of Fairhaven is full of little shops serving coffee and tea as well as little restaurants and bars. I dropped Peg and Talia off to go shopping while I drove around and took some local photographs.
Peg and Talia had disappeared into an alley of doors and shops. It reminded me of shopping in the towns in Tuscany, except the shops were newer, the walkways wider, and the alley was spiffy clean and not dusty.
Staying in a hotel near one of the first Bellingham I-5 exits from the south would mean Fairhaven would only be minutes away. The next time up I think this would be an ideal area to stay, investigate . . . and enjoy.
As we left Fairhaven and drove towards the freeway, Talia directed us on a little detour. She had us stop and see the charming house where she had stayed a few days in September, while she was searching for a place to rent more permanently.
Talia has plans. She used to be employed at Expedia, where she was a customer service rep. Expedia flew her to San Salvador, Cairo and twice to the Philippines to help with training new agents. When Expedia closed their Tacoma office, she decided not to transfer to Las Vegas or Bellevue and instead took re-training as a certified medical assistant. She used her new certificate to land a job in a Bellingham plasma center and soon starts classes at Whatcom Community College. She will finish her Associates degree there before enrolling at Western Washington University. Whatever degree she ends up with I'm willing to bet it will let her travel. She really enjoyed working with the people she helped train around the world.
The call center in the Philippines, where she was sent twice offered her a position, which she really considered. I hope her new career will keep her in the Pacific Northwest, but if it doesn't. We'll just have to visit.
We traveled north again and left Talia on her doorstep with hugs and kisses and then headed south for Tacoma. After we entered the traffic flow on I-5 we called Donn and Debbie to see what was going on with them. They were already home. There were no Sunday baseball games. They were all cancelled due to the rain and wet fields. I think the weather rained itself out for a while. The morning sun blued up the sky a little bit and aside from a few spits of raindrops, we made it back home with only a minimum of traffic around Edmonds, which is where we will have an early May adventure.