I did not plan on attending the Rotary District Conference in Bremerton. I did not have reservations for the conference hotel, which was right next door to the Kitsap Conference Center. And then, a week before the conference I found out that my friend Gene Pankey would be by himself manning a table for Rotarians for Hearing Regeneration. I volunteered to assist him.
On the way from Tacoma to Bremerton, which is normally only about a thirty-five minute drive, Peg asked to drive by Long Lake, where we had lived over forty years ago. I took the cutoff and drove up a long hill and descended into the Ollala Valley. We drove the winding rode along the lake looking for our old home, but we couldn't find it. The little two-bedroom house and orchard must have made way for larger and fancier homes over the years. We continued on and drove through Port Orchard just a few miles beyond Long Lake and built along Puget Sound. As we turned left and drove around the shore we took in the sight of the Bremerton Naval Shipyard, which is home to the Navy's mothball fleet and their repair facility.
From Port Orchard to our motel in Bremerton took only about ten more minutes. I was a little worried about the motel, since the rate was only $69.00 a night. Since I made reservations less than a week before the start of the conference, we had to take what was open to us. What the heck, Peg and I like adventures, anyway.
The Flagship Inn looked good on their website, but often reality is a long way off from website descriptions. Here are their own words: "Relax on your private full width balcony overlooking Oyster Bay and the Olympic Mountains or enjoy a summer afternoon swimming in or relaxing around our heated seasonal pool. You will enjoy the luxury of your guest room featuring amenities such as air conditioning, refrigerator, in-room coffee maker, microwave, two telephones, color TV with cable and a movie channel and a video player. Our lobby features a video rental library, Continental breakfast in the morning and a fine selection of teas, coffee, home baked cookies and fresh fruit all day and night."
They promised a video player, but I guessed it was going to be a VHS player, so I brought along four movies on DVD that Peg and I had never seen. We checked in and aside from an overdose of plastic plants in the lobby the motel seemed nice. As I walked past a plate of chocolate chip cookies I snagged two (one for me and one for Peggy). They were good. We took our bags to our room and took a deep breath. I opened the door and immediately looked through the room to the balcony and the view of Oyster Bay. Wonderful.
The video player turned out to be a dual deck. It would play either DVD or VHS. The cable-TV was connected to a decent sized TV and the remote control even let me use Closed Captioning so I could watch TV in the middle of the night without needing to turn the volume up and waking Peg.
We loaded up the refrigerator with Diet Pepsi and looked around further. One of our biggest complaints about motel/hotel rooms as well as bed & breakfasts is the lack of table lamps. On either side of our king size bed were matching lamps that allowed easy-on-the-eyes reading. There was a floor lamp behind an easy-chair rocker as well as two swivel rockers at a small table, which also had a table lamp. The small balcony contained two metal chairs and a table.
The view of Oyster Bay was excellent. The bay is so protected that you had to look closely to see and then guess whether the tide was going in or out. Mostly the water looked like glass. Peeking up beyond the trees were peaks of the Olympic Mountains, but best of all, even though the view faced west, the setting sun was towards our left, so we didn't suffer from blinding light or late afternoon heat. It was perfect.
As always when we are trying to get away for a three or four day weekend, it seems like it takes us three or four days to prepare. Although I was hoping to leave Tacoma at noon, we left around six. Actually, once the clock closed in on four-thirty I figured there was no hurry. We calmed down and grabbed some fast food from MickeyDee's and got out of Dodge. Taking the tour of Long Lake and Port Orchard relaxed us even more, so when we checked into the motel, we were almost ready for a nap and then bed.
Friday morning I awoke and visited the motel office to check my emails, eat a continental breakfast, and read USA Today and the Kitsap Sun. I felt right at home. My parents owned two motels and I grew up cleaning and renting rooms from the time I was in the seventh grade until Peg and I married and moved into our own apartment.
Frank Sinatra sang on the radio and the white-haired clerk whistled along with the tunes, just like my father did. I can whistle, but my father, who never learned to play a musical instrument, could really carry a tune.
I took notes from the local paper and then asked the clerk about a non-chain, mom and pop type restaurant. He recommended the Big Apple Diner, which was only a mile and a half away. After breakfast I went back to the room and discussed the day with Peggy. There was an article in the paper about a production of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado at CStock, a local community theater. We decided we would try out the Big Apple for dinner and then take in The Mikado. I also found a production of Once Upon a Mattress, which we thought might work out for us on Saturday evening.
I called Gene and he and his wife were almost ready to drive over from Tacoma. We decided to meet up with each other at the Conference Center at noon. With time to spare I joined Peg for her Continental breakfast and then she dropped me off to meet up with Gene. For the conference I brought along two DVD player/monitors to play Fly Away, our music video about hearing loss as well as Hope for Hearing Loss, which is a full-scale production with interviews and comments.
After Gene and I set up our posters, brochures, and video players, we called it quits for the day. Gene and Margaret gave me a ride back to the Flagship Inn, where I took a nap. Peg was out exploring. When she returned she took a nap and then we headed out for dinner and the theater.
We missed the diner, but had to turn around when we found the road under construction, anyway. We drove back and looked a little closer at The Red Apple Grocery Store. In the same little mall was The Big Apple Diner and The Apple of God's Eye Thrift Store. Peg made a beeline for the thrift store, where she found small beautiful bowls and some earrings to buy. While she went to find cash for the purchase, I went and found a table at The Big Apple.
While walking through the diner I took a good look at the dessert display. Darn my eyes. While sitting at the table I noticed that they have an orange juice machine that squeezes oranges for fresh fruit juice. I'm going to go back for breakfast one of these days. I ordered clam chowder and their rib steak. Peg had a dinner salad and a butterfly fillet of trout. My chowder was really good and my steak was good. Peg enjoyed her fish. We should have stopped there. I ordered marionberry pie and Peg ordered apple pie. The apple had a good crust. The marionberry crust was just passable. Both fillings would have been improved with less sugar and a shot of lemon juice. On the plus side, however the pieces were huge.
We headed towards Silverdale and found the theater easily enough, but had time to kill. At breakfast I had seen an ad for bee supplies and honey in Silverdale. I knew the place was across the street from Central Kitsap High School, but had no clue about the location of the high school.
Two nights before leaving Tacoma I had gone to my book club, where we discussed Fruitless Fall, a book concerned with CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder). Our host for the night had several types of honey for snacking on as well as honeycomb and some raw organic honey, which was white and crunchy. It has bee pollen in it as well as little pieces of bee wings and such. I liked it best. The next day I went to two stores looking for the raw organic honey. I found nothing like what I remembered. I had to settle for honeycomb, which was good, but it just wasn't what my tongue was ready for. I found some on eBay and will be ordering it.
The book explains the current problem with honeybees. They are disappearing. Some say it is because of mites, some say it's because of pesticides, some say it's because of chemicals, and some say it's because the bees are simply too stressed with trucking here and trucking there to pollinate one crop after another. The theory I prefer is that we are propping up the honeybee population, when we should be letting them crash and then right themselves. Instead of feasting on pollen, we now feed them high-fructose corn syrup and spray their hives with chemicals to kill mites. When they pollinate crops they also ingest chemicals from the soils. As I sat eating a muffin in the motel lobby I saw a honeybee right outside my window going from flower to flower. I was absolutely thrilled.
Leaving the theater parking lot I drove to the next light and for some reason went right and a hundred yards later I was at Central Kitsap High School. I turned the next corner and found the bee place. They operate out of their home and were closed and having a barbeque, but they opened up for us. However, they didn't have the white stuff. Peg and I returned to our Durango disappointed, but an older lady came out of the house and explained she would have what we were looking for later in the summer. She handed me her business card and explained, "They spelled my name wrong. My name is Barbara." On her card it was spelled Brabara.
We drove back to the playhouse and picked up our tickets at will call. The play had a good review in the paper that morning, but the theater was only about half full. Too bad. The production was nicely done. I was slightly irritated with an obvious fan of the theater or a close relative to one of the cast members. He applauded too much and laughed too loudly. To me that behavior comes across as phony. The production was good enough to stand on its own merits. The scenery was a little cheesy and the singing was done to a music CD instead of an orchestra, but that's all forgivable. The actors were having a good time and the singing was good. One actor did a great job when he spoke, but when he sang his volume went down. It should have gone up, but he did such a good job other than that, I discounted his singing performance. Well, it helped that he tap danced as well.
As we left for home, I asked Peg if should would like to stop for a beer. She did, so we did. We stopped in at the Oyster Bay Inn, which is next door to the Flagship Inn. We came in the front door and walked down a hallway. As we neared the lounge we would hear someone on a microphone announce that people were coming. We entered the lounge and there was the bartender on the Karaoke microphone, an off-duty waitress sitting at the bar, and one customer nursing a Scotch. I order a St. Pauli Girl, but they didn't have any even though they had a St. Pauli Girl sign out front (turned off). Peg asked for a Miller Chill or a Bud Lime. We settled for Blue Moons on tap. Most places would deliver a Blue Moon with a slice of orange hanging from the rim of the glass. The bar was a little strange. The bartender kept asking inane questions while we drank our beers. When we left we stopped at the counter of the restaurant (closed) and looked over the menu. The bartender/waiter came over and told us his favorites and explained several menu items. He won my heart when he said the oysters were really good.
I met up with Gene again on Saturday morning. He and his wife Margaret had gone to dinner and met up with fellow Rotarian David Harkness of Harkness Furniture in Tacoma. After dinner Margaret and Gene did a little gambling at a local casino. She lost. He won.
It was fun talking to Rotarians as they walked by our table. We already knew many of the other people who had tables and like Gene and I were telling everyone else about their projects. I chatted a while with Jerry Vandenberg from the Sumner Rotary club about hearing loss. His son has a post-punk rock band, who has done recording work with Pearl Jam. Jerry is president of the board of trustees for the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle. I also got a chance to talk to District Governor (2010-11) Bob Martin. I look forward to working with him in the future.
The Kitsap Conference Center was very nice with its exterior fountain and interior artwork, but the room for displays was too small. There was no space for us to sit and wait at our table for crowds of Rotarians. Normally, at a tradeshow, you would have a booth so you could greet people as they come up to your display. At the conference center the larger room was used for dining and listening to keynote speakers.
I let Gene go to lunch with Margaret and when they came back, Peg picked me up. We drove by the Arts Area in downtown Bremerton and we spied a puppet store, so we had to park and investigate. We like puppets.
One year for Christmas shopping we went to Seattle and stayed at the Mayflower Hotel, which has a tunnel to the Westgate Shopping Center. We bought all of our kids and grandkids puppets (turtles to opossums) from one of the creative games and toy shops there. We still have some in the toy box. They always are good entertainment for the younger ones and a great way to annoy the older ones.
The shop had some interesting hats, but none of them fit me. I have a big head. A birthday hat did fit Peg, so I got a nice shot of her. We will have to bring some of the grandkids back to this store. The puppet prices were great. We bought a velociraptor hand puppet for $15.00. Peg wanted it for the children, but I think it may have just been for her.
The cool thing about puppets is that you can take on a new personality with each new puppet. You can say strange things and make weird noises or you can use them to illustrate an important business simulation (well, that's what I tell the IRS, anyway). They are an excellent way to interact with the other kids and their puppets.
After pulling our hands out of the puppets, we went to lunch. Peg mentioned the fact that the fast food place Noah's Ark had Ivar's Clam Chowder, a personal favorite of mine. It's so thick and creamy.
Peg had a cup of the chowder and I had a bowl. She had crackers with her chowder, but I selected bread. When it was brought to our table, the bread turned out to be a toasted bagel with melted butter on it. I ate both halves without dunking them.
They had some nice looking desserts on display. Chocolate eclairs always attract me, so does vanilla tort and pudding cakes. They had them all. Their burgers and fries looked really good, too. They even offer a second burger for only ninety-nine cents.
Keeping with the name/theme of Noah's Ark, an artist had created a retaining wall mural of animals and nature. It was so realistic Peg tried to get a fox to snack on some cracker crumbs.
We had a date for dinner. Peg's sister's daughter, Theresa works in the Bremerton Ship Yard and lives in Bremerton with her teenage daughter, Madeline. Theresa came to our hotel room and then after discussing all the options, we drove the hundred yards to Oyster Bay Inn Restaurant for dinner. The dining room was beautiful. Our 3-top had a fantastic view of Oyster Bay.
We had an over cooked appetizer of fried meats and then a very nice salad. Peg's pork loin was over cooked, but the sauce was wonderful. I think Theresa's snapper may have been over cooked, but I hated to ask. My oysters were cooked perfectly. They were large oysters rather than small or medium ones. I've never seen the large ones served in a restaurant before. Peg said later that she could have eaten another one. I gave her half a one to sample at the dinner table. I would have happily given her more. Well, maybe not happily, but I would have given her ONE. The asparagus was very nice and my baked potato was served with extra butter (containing chunks of bacon) and extra sour cream just like I asked for. Pecan pie a la mode was our dessert. The three of us shared. It was very good.
Afterwards we returned to our motel room and the three of us laughed and talked about our families for an hour and a half. It was nice, relaxing, and friendly. We had a great time.
Sunday morning Peg dropped me off at the conference center and Gene and I picked up our display. Peg came back with the Durango and we headed off to Tacoma with some ideas for the future. I think we can divvy up the grandchildren and make three summertime journeys back to the Flagship Inn. We may have to have two rooms each time we visit, but at their moderate prices, almost anyone can afford to get away and have an adventure in Bremerton on Oyster Bay.