We continued our trip through Steilacoom, which was the first incorporated settlement in Washington State in 1851. We drove past the Hampton Inn in Dupont and joined I-5 for a short drive through the Nisqually Delta and up the hill to Lacey, Washington. Our 12-year old grandson Riley was playing in a baseball tournament in Lacey. Lacey was once a bedroom community of Olympia, but has been building up over the past several years. The excellent baseball park featuring four fields and individual bleachers are an example of the desire of the townsfolk to offer top-notch facilities.
Riley had a nice single, but was thrown out trying to steal second base. This was the third call that went against his team within thirty minutes. Unfortunately they lost that game and the one that followed and were eliminated from the competition. We had to leave for a client meeting fifteen minutes away, back across the freeway but still in Lacey.
After our meeting we leisurely drove back through Nisqually, home of the Medicine Creek Treaty. We left the freeway and entered the long driveway on Center Street, the “Main Street”of DuPont. We had no idea where to have lunch. Peg saw McNamara’s and said, "We had a P.E.O. (her women’s group that raises money for post-secondary education for women) birthday lunch there. It was excellent." I don't need much more prompting than a general recommendation and a promise of good food.
The brick, wood and stucco exteriors of the new buildings as well as a soft day in the mid-eighties made me feel like I was in Tucson. Well, a Tucson filled with members of the U.S. Army, perhaps. I didn't know what to expect at the restaurant, but I did see a framed neighborhood award in the lobby for McNamara's Pub and Eatery and Farrelli's. Farrelli's is a small, local franchise that delivers good service and good food, primarily but not limited to pizza. It turns out that the two restaurants are part of the same ownership. It's a great pairing.
In addition to the mid-American offerings of comfort food and hamburgers, McNamara’s specializes in Irish food. Soup of the day was corned-beef chowder. I ordered a cup, just to sample of course but ended up eating it all. I chose the black and bleu burger with sweet potato fries while Peg ordered the meatloaf. I traded a little bit with Peg. I gave her half my burger and received most of the meatloaf with tasty Guinness gravy. I cleaned up on the veggies: sliced carrots, parsnips, and shallots. Although the burger and the meatloaf were very good, I really enjoyed the vegetables. Peg cancelled her order for a baked potato, which would have been a substitute for colcannon (mashed potatoes with cabbage and shallots). Peg doesn't like mashed potatoes. My half burger and veggies including a few sweet potatoes filled her up.
I sipped on endless refills of Shirley Temples with four cherries each time. As I sipped I looked out the window and watched groups of Rangers leave the Farrelli's restaurant directly across the street. It was fun watching them. As they came out onto the sidewalk they all placed and adjusted their Ranger berets in unison.
The service at McNamara’s was impeccable. We were greeted warmly and soon, and had our needs checked on throughout lunch. Chris, our server was always there to suggest , assist and chat. I figured that we’d be back for dinner that evening, but it never happened. I guess we'll have to return on a future trip. For dinner after the McNamara’s comfort food feast, we decided to have salads that night at Farrelli's. While I paid the bill that night, Peg went back across the street and bought two slices of McNamara’s key lime pie for an evening snack. Yum!
When we return to McNamara’s, we have selections in mind to order from both the main and dessert menus, plus, I now know where I can get Irish food. This will save me from having to drive to the Galway Bay in Ocean Shores for some soda bread and a Guinness.
Our next stop on the way to our hotel was PJ's Sweet Factory. PJ's is located in the last industrial complex in DuPont before joining the Steilacoom DuPont Road. PJ's originated in Modesto, California in 1996. Kathy Trotter purchased PJ's and now they are locally produced in the Pacific Northwest’s small town, DuPont. They specialize in making incredibly delicious handmade toffee, which is available covered in milk or dark chocolate and with or without nuts. Their products are made with the finest, freshest ingredients available. No preservatives or artificial colors are added. Kathy is a DuPont city councilmember. She is a one person PR committee for her community. She suggested several places to eat lunch. One was Happy Teriyaki, located within yards of our hotel, the Hampton Inn.
Kathy lives in Steilacoom with her dogs and a friend. It's a beautiful commute from Steilacoom to DuPont through the forest of cedar and fir trees.
Kathy is my kind of business owner. I think she was a little upset that we stopped in and took photographs without making an appointment. She would have preferred to wear a PJ's Tee for her photos. She wore comfortable shorts and a Seattle Storm T-shirt. In this informal uniform she could spill chocolate on her clothes and not worry.
Kathy doesn't like to ship chocolate-coated toffee in hot weather. During the summer months she travels around southwest Washington selling her English toffee at fairs, shows, and farmers markets. She likes to either sell from a booth in the mornings or from a building where the sun doesn't beat down on the product. We'll have to plan on a weekend stay in Puyallup again, so we can see her in action at the Puyallup Farmers Market.
We bought over fifty dollars worth of toffee from her on Friday and put it all in our refrigerator at the hotel after we checked in.
We had no idea what to expect at the Hampton Inn. You could say all of our expectations where met or exceeded! The room was huge. We had two queen beds. The room stretched a good thirty feet from the hall way to the window. We could have brought in a whole van's worth of boxes and luggage. Our two suitcases took up hardly any room. The only thing lacking was an easy chair with a good light for Peg to sit in to read. She could have used the desk chair, but there wouldn’t have been a light in the right place to read. In addition to the desk/office chair there was a straight back side chair as well, which I could have used at the desk where I set up my laptop.
The bathroom had a nice wooden vanity, but what I really enjoyed seeing was the tub/shower safety handle. I generally prefer showers, but every once in a while I like to soak in a tub. In many hotels this is almost impossible. Small tubs with no hand-holds can leave you at the mercy of bad knees and the help of your spouse.
Although, the little complex where the hotel’s located was probably stripped bare of trees and bushes for construction, they’ve put a lot of effort into the landscaping. From the freeway side of the hotel you look out onto the parking lot and I-5, but you can also see majestic Mt. Rainier. Dividing the parking lot are strips planted with wild grasses. I’ll be interested to see how they grow over the next few years. The Hampton Inn also provides electric car charging stations for five or six cars. The connections wouldn't work with our ZENN Car, however; the ZENN uses a standard 110 household connection plug-in.
Our room looked out onto recently planted trees and a new Starbucks. You can walk out the side door of the hotel lobby and be inside Starbucks in about sixty paces.
Just around the corner from Starbucks is Happy Teriyaki. If you walked from the hotel lobby it might take eighty paces to their front door. Just across the street from Happy Teriyaki is a small courtyard of benches, so you can dine outside and enjoy the northwest weather. Several people mentioned Happy Teriyaki, so they are very well thought of by the community; perhaps, next time we'll try them out. A few paces from the courtyard and again a very short distance from the hotel, is the Better Business Bureau and across the street from the electric car charging station is Subway with, again, outside dining.
This complex is very well thought out. You can stay at the hotel, exercise in their fitness center, swim in their pool, run across the street for the best coffee in the world, use the hotel business center, report a bad business dealing to the BBB AND choose between two restaurants for a business lunch. How convenient is that?
Before we start out on a new adventure, I like to search the internet for events and entertainment in the area. A search of DuPont and Lacey showed a BBQ competition in Lacey, just minutes away from out hotel. I let Peg sleep in, then she had some yogurt and fruit at the free hotel breakfast buffet. We decided to stop in at the event and see what they had to offer, take in a movie, and return after the film to eat.
Once we arrived at the competition I realized I knew some of the people involved - Hawks Prairie Rotarians. I knew they’re hosting the Pacific Northwest Mushroom Festival in late July, but didn't know that some of their members were also involved in BBQ. The Rotary Club of Hawks Prairie was chartered in 2002; they’re a fun group. One year as an auction item at the Rotary Club of Tacoma #8 (my home club) the Hawks Prairie Rotary bought the right to chair one of Tacoma’s meetings.They ran the meeting and entertained us as well.
The BBQ competition featured a number of booths selling everything from jewelry to survival gear, but come to think of it, jewelry could be classified as survival gear. Various forms of jerky as well as spices and mixes were available. Peg bought a whole wheat bread mix. I can hardly wait.
One of the booths was selling empanadas and cookies. I'm guessing it was a family operation. It looked like a grandfather and his granddaughter running the booth. Since Peg and I were going to a movie (Regal 16 in Lacey), I thought we could buy some snacks to sneak into the theater. We bought a mango and a lime pastry. Those lasted until we were about a two blocks away. We managed to save a key lime cookie for the show. It was gone before the previews were over. We should have bought several of the cookies. It was a sugar cookie, dyed pastel green, with a thumb print filled with lime curd. It went well with my raspberry tea.
I've loved Sandra Bullock since she co-starred in Love Potion No. 9 with Tate Donnovan in 1992. This time out she was co-starring with Melissa McCarthy in The Heat. The story: "Uptight FBI special agent Sarah Ashburn is paired with testy Boston cop Shannon Mullins in order to take down a ruthless drug lord. The hitch: neither woman has ever had a partner -- or a friend for that matter."
We thought that Melissa McCarthy was a riot in the Bridesmaids and Identify Theft. Partnered with Sandra Bullock, this buddy film has moments of sheer lunacy. Their bonding scene with drinking and dancing was hilarious. We’ll see this movie at least one more time.
We returned to the BBQ competition in a great mood and ready for some ribs, dogs, and pulled pork. Evidently, we missed the excitement. A small whirlwind came through the lot and picked up a couple of vendors’ canopies and spun them around and dashed them to the ground. It was no Oklahoma, but Matt (Jimbo Jitsu) nearly acted it out for us. Luckily, no one was hurt. The grandfather/grandaughter team had their canopy well secured so they were completely safe.
The high heat (for Washington) was probably the culprit. The large, dusty vacant lot where the event was held was probably a co-conspirator.
We made it back in time for blackened hot dogs (both beef and regular). They were crusty which is how I like them, eaten as finger food.
Peg got a pulled pork sandwich and I chose six ribs as well as pulled pork without a bun. We squirted some sauce on our meats and had them wrapped up in aluminum foil to keep them warm. Matt brought over a bacon bit which he had saved for me. He was putting them together (hamburger, onion, and spices wrapped with bacon) when we first stopped by. I could have popped about a dozen of those puppies in my mouth.
We grabbed a bunch of napkins, a couple of sodas and took them to the car. I asked Peg if she’d like to picnic at the Nisqually Delta Wildlife Refuge. She beamed!
In less than ten minutes we were pulling off the freeway, winding a few hundred yards into the delta. We stopped in the parking lot of the visitors’ center and enjoyed our ribs and pulled pork. If you're not licking your fingers after you eat BBQ you're doing something wrong. Of course we didn’t have enough napkins, but fortunately we always travel with paper towels.
While Peg went to pay for parking and a bathroom to wash up, I wandered around taking photographs. The place is beautiful. Over the past several years the farmlands of the delta area have been allowed to return to their estuarine beginnings, forming backwaters and wetlands across the Nisqually River delta.
On every pathway in the reserve you can see wildlife and enjoy nature at work. When Peg returned from the center she brought me a damp paper towel to clean up the sauce still on my fingers. Back at the hotel I stripped down, showered and cooled off. As a reward for a wonderful day we sampled Kathy Trotter's PJ's Sweet Factory English Toffee. Oh, it was soooooooo good.
Sunday morning I let Peg sleep in. I decided to wander around the area on my own. I left the room about 5:30 a.m. Fog was floating everywhere. I decided to start with the river. I've fished the Nisqually a number of times, but don't recall really catching anything. I used to fish with a schoolmate from the University of Puget Sound. Yes, he was another fine art student. He taught me to use periwinkle snails as bait. They are tiny and cling to the rocks along the edges of rivers. You can peel back the shells and take out the snails to spear on the hooks. The snails are so small I think they’re the reason I never caught a trout longer than six inches.
I think what I enjoyed most about fishing was walking in the cool water. The Nisqually is fed by the Nisqually Glacier on Mt. Rainier. I've always loved the mountain and that's probably why I enjoy the river. As I looked along the early-morning banks I saw an empty lawnchair on one side and a fisherman casting his line on the other. Fog floated in the upper branches of the nearby trees.
Leaving the river I drove across the delta and then crossed back over the freeway along the Nisqually heights looking for some viewpoint where I could overlook the delta. I found some houses that must have great views, but at six-ish in the morning I didn't see anyone I would start up a conversation with. Eventually, I found a sign mentioning boat launching. I finally found the road sloping down towards the water. I found myself alone looking out across the delta. I could still see fog covering parts of the waters and the wetlands. The peak of Mt. Rainier stood out behind the trees. Swallows dipped and circled as they nabbed insects for their morning repast.
I stood looking over the delta as well as back across Puget Sound to the Olympic Mountains in the northwest. It was a quiet morning, peaceful and simply wonderful.