Friday, April 30, 2010


I'm in the USA this week, a country I can see from my window at home. It's just across the water where that barricade of mountains rises up over a few wisps of smoke trailing upward in the wind from Port Angeles. It's oh so close, but it's a big rigamarole getting there from Victoria. Once across the strait on the Coho ferry it's only a two hour drive to the Tacoma Narrows bridge, skipping the sometimes hair raising drive through Seattle. Squeezed between Puget Sound and and Lake Washington, Seattle acts like a kind of sphincter to motorists trying to get by it. I usually take the Coho to avoid it, but the Coho schedule is infrequent and not that favourable and since the tightening up of the border the formalities require getting to the terminal an hour ahead of time. Combine this with the necessity of getting there early enough to make sure you can get on board, and the time needed to get to my destination stretches from two hours to six hours.
But it's six of one and half dozen of the other, so this time I took the 7am BC Ferry to Tsawassen. That turns out to be a pretty good time to go. The border crossing isn't too crowded, and it was still morning when I switched from I5 to 405. It went pretty well, no traffic jams, not even any slowdowns. But it was still 6 hours from the time I got in line at the ferry to the time I arrived in Puyallup.
Puyallup lies in a lush river valley and is famous locally for one thing- the Western Washington Fair, which takes place in September. The same roller coaster that awed me so much as a child still twists and turns next to Fifth Street but the grounds have expanded since then.
A little farther down the street the high school football field has been rebuilt in grand style, and is named after Mr. Sparks, the coach who led them to the state championship. He taught mechanical drawing when I was there and had the nickname of Blinky. I never would have guessed that he would become our football coach.
The top of the hill above the fairgrounds has changed beyond recognition. When I knew Puyallup my Uncle Clarence had a nice little acreage there. I especially remember the wonderful pies my Aunt Ivy used to bake from the yellow cherries growing next to the house. Now I can't even make out where that little acreage was. I'm told it was about where the Target store is now. In fact the whole South Hill is covered with malls and big box stores where it once sported small farms and acreages just like my uncle's. I'm not opposed to commerce and business at all, but I must say I liked it a lot better the way it used to be.
When I come for a visit I always take a drive by my old house and the high school. Both are still there. I always wonder if the new owners still have trouble with condensation. I had a crush on the girl next door, but her family moved away while I was away in the Navy and I have no idea what ever happened to her. The high school has a new addition and doesn't look the same. Hard to believe it's so long since I left.
Funny, though. Guys wore their pants really low when I was there, too... though they were above the hips at least.
Going back I'll probably take highway 9 after I get around Seattle. It's curvy, quiet, scenic and very rural. Recommended to anyone who likes to take his time and relax.

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