Aberdeen, Washington: Not the Lying-Down Kind

The city’s bridges sag over their rivers like hunchbacked men carrying too-heavy loads for too long.

On the streets, tired, dim-eyed cars float into mist as a foreign country’s nighttime overtakes everything.

Orange lights glow in pub windows, the buildings thus resembling cooling embers from a scattered fire. They’re the secret hearts of this world carved out of fog, those pubs. Their walls thump with rock, pop, and hip hop.

A tortured, mewling voice echoes faintly through the alleyways. “Come as you are,” it says, “and then be gone with you.”

The whole of Aberdeen sleeps on the threshold of yesterday, dreaming of beds.

In the warm thump of the secret hearts the people laugh. Nothing said ever lasts. Every word fades into fog rolling down out of the mountains.

Yet, for all their subtracted voices, the people stay, and in staying they honor a history of hard work and tough family. Theirs is not a surrendering sadness. No, not that kind.

It’s triumphant and proud, and it laughs. It harvests life out of the hollow and doesn’t give a damn for lying-down things.

Aberdeen is a mother feeding her baby after a double shift. Aberdeen is a grim lumberjack, hands numb with callouses, laughing with abandon as his son tickles his stomach.

Sometimes hobbled, but never cowed, Aberdeen is its people.

“Let’s get to work,” they say. “Our bridges may sag, but they never break — and neither do we.”

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Where to Stay in Ocean Shores, Washington: The Sands

Note: I went to the Sands independently and received nothing from them for my stay or for this article. I didn’t tell them I run a travel blog, and they don’t know I’m writing this. I receive no payment from them or any other place that I endorse.

The Sands is a Great Budget Stay in Ocean Shores, Washington

Well, I’ve tried nearly every hotel in Ocean Shores now, and I do believe I’ve found my favorite budget stay.

Going by cost-to-quality ratio, the Sands was my favorite lodging experience in town, and I’ve visited Ocean Shores more times than I can count. For just $89 dollars a night (95 after tax), in the middle of June, I got a room with a killer view and bird songs filling the air (more on the birds in just a bit).

Their rates are even lower in the off season, making this a terrific destination for an impromptu weekend getaway or overnight trip. This will definitely be my go-to place for future quick-trips.

There for the Beach, Not the Room

I’ve seen one reviewer online call the Sands’ rooms “dated,” but I didn’t get that impression. They have few frills, I guess, but I go to the beach for the beach, not to sit in my room, so that didn’t matter much to me. The room was clean and the bed was comfortable, the bathroom tidy and the shower nice with good hot water.

On this particular trip (ironically enough, considering the generalized statement I made about myself above), I actually did spend quite a bit of time in my room watching the birds in the bushes and the waves rolling over the beach beyond. The accommodations suited me perfectly for that.

This was my view as I contemplated the mysteries of life…and enjoyed a beer.

There are two beach access points within short walking distance from the hotel, so you can make a circular trip of the beach without retracing your steps at all. Ocean Shores, by the way, has a sandy beach, which is not always easy to find in Washington, where the coasts are usually rugged and rocky.

Some other hotels in Ocean Shores sit right on the sand. This seems appealing, but the drawback to this is that the beach goers are always within earshot. The Sands has a buffer of grasses and bushes that makes the hotel itself feel like an isolated little oasis. I liked having that stretch of greenery there more than I’ve enjoyed being right on the sands.

Many Amenities: My Favorites are the Birds

My favorite part about the Sands is the birds. Handmade bird houses are located all over the grounds, so there are birds everywhere. Their singing creates a supremely peaceful setting.

The hotel also has a volleyball pit in the back and a sun deck with chairs called the Dolphin Cove. There’s an indoor pool and a recreation room above the office, a couple Jacuzzi tubs and a dry sauna. I didn’t partake of any of these amenities, but I gave them a gander and they looked nice to me. Personally, I didn’t need any of those things. I was happy with the bird songs and the ocean so close by.

When I travel, I usually spend very little time in my room except to sleep. If I do sit in the room, it’s just to read or enjoy the silence. So, for me, the basic accommodations were terrific.

There is No Wi-Fi Except in the Recreation Room

I’m making this its own section because it’s a point that is bound to bother some people. The rooms do not have wi-fi. To access wi-fi, you have to go to the recreation area above the office.

Personally, for me, this was a good thing. I like unplugging now and then. Honestly, I wish they didn’t even have a television. Disconnecting, far as I’m concerned, is relaxing and good for the mental health.

I understand this is a position that not everyone will take, of course, so I’m making certain to make this fact known loud and clear in my blog. I don’t want to influence you on anything that you won’t enjoy.

In that light, I should also add that the service at the Sands is perfectly good, but maybe not as warm or eager-to-please as you’ll find at some higher-end hotels. This, too, is something I frankly don’t care about, but am mentioning because I’ve seen some reviewers elsewhere criticize the Sands in this regard.

The gentleman at the front desk on the day I arrived was professional and polite. He made sure to get me the best view he could get at the best price.

The woman who was there on the day I checked out, meanwhile, was very helpful. We had a good chat and she filled me in some upcoming events and the likelihood of vacancies in late August. She introduced herself as Stacy. She was friendly, informative, and pleasant to deal with.

It usually doesn’t even occur to me to remark on the front desk reception, because it’s a non-issue to me. I just don’t really care. Since I’m trying to be as helpful to you folks as I can, however, I ought to mention it. I only stayed there once, so I can’t debunk the negative receptions I’ve seen in some reviews. But, I can say, that in my experience everyone was friendly and efficient.

They weren’t gushing with hospitality as I’ve seen in some hotels, I guess, but were friendly and good at their jobs, which is all I would ask for.

Location, Location, Location

Ocean Shores has plenty of good hotels, both high-end, budget, and in-between. If you’re looking for a high-end place, then the Sands might not be for you (I’ll be writing about the high-end places I think would be for you later).

What the Sands does offer is a terrific location at a very fair rate. To get an ocean view for less than a hundred bucks in June is not easy. I’d say it’s damn near impossible, really. Their prices, far as I can tell, are even lower in the off season.

Ocean Shores is a pretty small town, so the restaurant strip is never too far from you, no matter where you stay. Neither is the grocery store or gas station.

I’m not being endorsed in any way by the Sands. I’m just relating my honest, personal experience, which can be summed up thusly: The Sands is a nice little hotel with a killer location and bird songs filling the air, and I will be going back there, regularly, for sure.

I’ve not found a hotel so close to the beach for such a low price anywhere in Washington state.

Forks, Washington: Cycle of the Vampire

I came home from deployment to find that women had overrun the town of Forks, Washington. This was some time around 2008. I’d been going to Forks for years for the hiking and camping in the area, and had always known it as a gritty, hungover little lumberjack burg (no offense intended, Forks, I LOVE gritty, hungover lumberjack burgs). So it was truly surreal to find it suddenly overrun by well-dressed women and teeny boppers. It was like finding out that the area had been infected by a very classy form of zombie virus.

What I came to discover was that, while I as deployed overseas, a little movie named Twilight was released, and this little movie had been somewhat popular among Americans of a female persuasion. Furthermore, this movie had been set in a fictional version of the town of Forks, apparently because it sees less sunlight than any other town in the continental United States. This sunless factoid is of import because Twilight, in case you hadn’t heard, is about vampires that glitter in sunlight (and glittering is bad because it gives away that they aren’t regular people).

I learned all these facts from a group of 30-something ladies that I met at a bar that night. I’d drunk in that establishment many times in the past, and the only company I ever had there was 10 or so big dudes in jeans and flannel shirts. On this night, however, there seemed to be about 10,000 women crammed into this place. The air was absolutely pungent with the scents of perfumes, lotions, and body washes. It smelled like a garden full of synthetic roses.

These ladies were a blast, and they filled me in on Edward, Twilight, and the whole Forks craze. We, along with a couple hundred other women, shut the bar down.

Those days, however, are now done. At least for now. I visited Forks again last week when I was camping at Klahoya Campground, and the place has returned to its meditative silence. All the Twilight shops were shut down. The streets were devoid of female packs. It was back to the Forks I’d come to know and love, and that is one of the reasons I decided to write this, because Forks has more to offer than vampires or werewolves.

Forks is a great midway point to several of my favorite Washington locations. It’s half an hour from Ruby Beach and La Push, my two favorite beaches in the state, and it’s a bit more than half an hour from Lake Crescent, which is also where the trail head is for mean, mean old Mount Storm King.

The Olympic Suites Inn is also one of the best-kept secrets in the area. The Lake Crescent and Kalaloch Lodges are generally sold out far in advance during the summer, and the campgrounds can be even harder to find space in, but I’ve almost always been able to get a room at the Olympic Suites. They’re fair-priced and large accommodations (though the walls are a bit thin).

Pacific Pizza has some good pizza, and even better ice cream.

Forks has a certain charm of its own, even without the vampire-chasing ladies. It’s not a tourist haven and I don’t mean to paint it as such, but it does have a down-home sort of appeal. The people there work hard and have a no-nonsense, direct attitude that stands in sharp contrast to Seattle—they may not tell you what you want to hear, but you can be reasonably certain that whatever they tell you is honest.

The vampires have run their cycle…for now, at least. But who knows where things will go from here? The undead, just like billion-dollar movie franchises, have a way of resurrecting themselves at the most unexpected times.

Somewhere, Edward waits in the eaves…

The Terrible, Mysterious Suspended Bike of the Ruston Waterfront

The Terrible, Mysterious Suspended Bike of the Ruston Waterfront: Weird Melodramatic Poetry Version in Honor of William Blake

Oh, mysterious suspended bike of the Ruston waterfront, who made thee?

Who shaped thy strange handlebars?

Who bound up thy body in wood and left thee, as though in flight, suspended over the Sound?

Where did you come from, you weird artifact?

From the depths of someone’s imagination? Or from some place darker? Are you drawing us toward madness, or bliss? And is there a difference, mysterious suspended bike of the Ruston waterfront walk?

Oh, your strange character has confounded me for generations…generations before my own birth. You hearken back to pre-birth memories, so strange and beautiful and terrible you are.

A surrealist’s dream of lost childhood, or childhood found? Or just an accident with no meaning at all?

Are those wooden posts crosses? The spirit of Dali shivers with delight.

I await you.

In my dreams.

In my nightmares.

Strange, suspended bike of the Ruston waterfront…do you love or fear at all?

The Terrible, Mysterious Suspended Suspended Bike of the Ruson Waterfront: Less Melodramatic and Non-Poetic Version

It turns out I’m not the only person whose fascination has been captured by the mysterious suspended bike of the Ruston waterfront.

Grit City, an excellent Tacoma publication, has done more serious gumshoeing on this topic.

Teaser from that Grit City piece: “Here’s what we know: The bike is a Sears Tote-Cycle and is actually fairly old; probably from the ‘60s. The Tote-Cycle was one of the precursors to today’s foldable bikes.”

I’ll write no more, as I’d just be stealing their content, something the Northwest Nomad will never do (and I’ll fight any man who claims otherwise).

Man Plays Tuba on Mount Si

Just a brief post here to share some pictures of a funny event I witnessed while climbing Mount Si on Saturday.

There was a fellow hiking up the same time as me with a full-sized tuba on his back. It wasn’t even stored in any kind of outdoors/sports backpack, but was just jammed into a giant instrument pack.

Mount Si is not an easy hike. All respect to this man for carrying his tuba to the top of Mount Si and playing it. I was on the top of the Haystack when I heard the sweet, surreal sound of tuba calling out like some kind of alpine whale.

Respect to you, sir, and gratitude for a good story and some funny pictures.