We made it to Todd's house on Sunday afternoon and early Monday morning--like 6:00 AM, we followed Todd on backroads on his way to work in downtown Seattle, then waved goodbye to him as he turned off and we drove on up to Anacortes. We made good time, so we stopped in Anacortes to load up on groceries and things we don't ordinarily eat--like meat --for John for the week out on the island. Got the RV and tow car onto the ferry and had a very pleasant one hour ride over to Friday Harbor, the main town on San Juan Island. It was John's first ferry ride and he had a lot of fun, as we explored the boat, going out onto the deck where the wind was whipping and the sun shining! He also liked the fact that they had a snack bar on board!
Once we got off the ferry we drove out to the campground, a really fun place called Lakedale Resort. It's a very family friendly campground, with three small lakes, rental canoes, kayaks and paddle boats, big outdoor chess set, and lots of activities. Mary Ann, the owner is a real bundle of energy, who helped everyone have fun the whole time. There is a lodge, some rental cabins, some of which are quite large, a lot of tent sites, only a few RV sites, and a little "canvas cabin community." These are basically big canvas square tents permanently set up on wood decks, with beds and furnishings inside. They have a mess tent where they serve a huge breakfast each morning to those staying in the canvas cabins. Since we were not in one of these, the breakfast wasn't for us, but fortunately for John, there was a couple--Lisa and Mark--with two young boys staying nearby, and they invited him to join them. He and these two guys made fast friends and spent most of their time together until they left to go back home a couple of days before we left. They live in Seattle, so hopefully they will be able to get together later on.
John and I went out on a paddle boat one day around the lake and had a lot of fun. Just as we were coming back to the dock, Lisa was coming to rent boats with the boys, so John went back out for another spin around the lake with Paul, while Lisa and Jack took the other boat. Mark took the boys fishing one day, and John learned why they call it fishing and not catching--they all got skunked, but had fun. One evening we took Paul and Jack with us into town for pizza and it was so much fun watching these three boys being silly and having fun there, too.
Probably the highlight of the week, though, was the day we went out on a whale watching boat. They told us as we were getting ready to go that there were no guarantees that we would see whales, and at first, we saw a couple of orcas way off in the distance. We thought that this might be all we would see, but soon we were really close to a number of these beautiful whales. And one came right up to within about 10 feet of the boat--that was really exciting! I wasn't able to get as many good pictures as I had hoped, as the boat kept shifting and just as I was getting the camera in focus, the whale would go under. Eventually I just gave up trying to get photos and enjoyed watching them while they were coming up to get air, dive to fish and just swim around. It was really a lot of fun and John was super excited! Also, while we were on the boat we met a group who were together on an REI adventure trip. They had been biking, hiking, kayaking, and camping all over the island. We had never known about the trips REI does, but talking to some of these folks who have done several of them made us really want to look into that as well. Sounds like a lot of fun, and since REI is the one doing the trips, you know they're filled with exciting outdoor adventures.
Went to a whale museum in Friday Harbor, which was fascinating--learned a lot about whales, as well as the history of the island. That evening we came back into town to take John to dinner--his first time eating crab! The place had an upstairs deck, overlooking the harbor and the ferry landing and it was a gorgeous evening--and John loved his dungeness crab! After dinner we strolled along the waterfront and found John an ice cream shop--another aspect of a great evening!
On the drive from our campground into town, there is a winery--looked interesting with some old buildings on the grounds, what looked like an old school house and a chapel. But perhaps the most interesting thing was that the owners had a pet camel, Mona, across the road! Mona is quite the fixture on the island, and her picture adorns the labels on the wine bottles. Kept meaning to go by and get a bottle with her picture on it, but we never did. We did get some pictures of the camel, though, along with a llama who's also on the farm.
One of the great traditions at Lakedale is making tie dyed t-shirts in the activities tent. I had never done this, nor had I ever seen how it is done, so this was really a neat thing, to see what designs folks were doing and how they turned out. Since Todd's birthday was coming up, John wanted to make a t-shirt for him, and one of the staff was really helpful with showing him how to do it. Basically, the technique he showed John was to lay the shirt out flat, pinch it in the middle and start twisting it into a big spiral like shape, so it sort of resembles a big cinnamon roll when you have it all twisted up. Then the guy took rubber bands and stretched them across the circle, making pie shaped sections in the shirt. Next step was to go outside where they had paint buckets with some wire covers; you put the shirt down flat and then used different colored dyes in squeeze bottles to color the different sections, working the dye down into the crevices and folds--wearing latex gloves, of course!--and did the same thing on the other side, then unfolded it and voila, a beautiful pattern emerged! Hung it out to dry on the line with all the others and it was a great thing to do. Todd loves tie dyed shirts, and this was special to have one John made for him.
Though the shirt making was the highlight of the time at Lakedale, the ferry ride back was also something none of us will soon forget! As we waited in line for the ferry, we could see that the wind was pretty brisk, and could see whitecaps out on the water in the harbor. They put us on first and the cab of the RV was sticking way out on the bow, out from under the upper levels. Usually on ferries they don't let you stay in your vehicle, but make you go up to the seating areas in the upper decks, as we did on the trip over. But Trisha asked if she could stay on the RV with Sophie and they said we could all stay if we wanted. John and I went above and stayed there for a while, but then came back down to join Trisha later on. Well, as we were out in the open waters, the winds picked up and soon a bodacious storm came on, with 30 mph winds and pretty high waves. As John and I were sitting in a booth, the captain came over the PA system and announced that the Coast Guard had notified them that there were a couple of young boys in the water from a capsized boat, so we were going to go somewhat off course to search for them. So John and I went down to the RV and from then on it was a really amazing ride--the ferry was pitching and rolling, and the waves were crashing over the bow of the boat. Not only were they crashing over the bow, but some of them were crashing completely over the top of the RV!! Now the RV is 12 ft. 10 in. tall, so that means that the waves were coming up some 4 feet to the level of the deck and then 13 feet above that! And I'll admit it was a bit of a hairy ride. The captain did a good job of trying to steer us directly into the waves to keep the swamping effects down, and we knew that the ferries were designed really well, but suffice it to say, none of us were sorry when we hit land! It took a monumental effort for the captain to get it into the dock, as he was having to fight the winds coming in, but he made it. We drove off the ferry and as we were coming up to the intersection with the road back to the park where we were going to leave the RV again, a police officer was stopping traffic to say some power lines were down across the road, so everyone was having to detour. We made it to the campground and there were lots of trees down there, too. In fact, when we pulled into the campsite where we had left it before, there was a small tree that had come down in the adjacent site that was partially blocking ours, so I had to move it out of the way to get the RV in. We were a bit concerned about leaving the rig there, since there are humongous trees all around, but I looked at the weather report and the 30 mph winds were predicted to die down in an hour or so, so we locked up, held our breath and jumped in the tow car to drive back to John's house. But the traffic was a nightmare--on Interstate 5 there had also been some trees down, blocking some lanes, so road crews were out cutting them up and getting them off the road, but this meant we were moving at a snail's pace. Took us twice as long as normal to make it down to Covington, where they live.
We stayed there for several days--John started school on Monday, Aug. 31, and we wanted to be there for Todd's birthday on Sept. 2. Well, the excitement continued, as John had a mishap while running at recess on Day 1--turned his ankle so Todd and Karen had to come pick him up and take him to the doctor, and he ended up on crutches for a week. What a heck of a way to start the first day of school! But he was adjusting as the week progressed, so that was good. We had a wonderful celebration dinner for Todd's birthday, with some of the halibut I had caught in Alaska, along with the steaks we had saved from the steak cookout on the trip--and some of Karen's good veggies for Trisha and me. Karen's mom, her sister, Gretchen, and Gretchen's boyfriend, Tim, came over for dinner and it was a lot of fun. And Shelley had arranged for a "flocking" of Todd's front yard--40 pink flamingos and a sign that read "Lordy, lordy, Todd is 40!" Great fun.
Since we had made an appointment at an RV dealer near Anacortes for the next day, and had to be there at 8:00 AM, we decided to drive back up to the RV after Todd's birthday dinner, rather than take a chance on making it through the Seattle traffic early the next morning. Good decision! It was much better to be back at the RV, get everything back organized and ready, so it was no hassle the next day.
On the ferry heading out of Anacortes