June 12, 2023 at 9:30 a.m.

Travel Trails: The Pacific Northwest - Modes of Transportation

By Renee Risk Strietelmeier

At Indiana University’s school newspaper, Indiana Daily Student, is where I met Beth, Lorraine, Bob, Barb, and Rob. Although we were just starting our Senior year, Barb and Rob already knew they would be moving to Seattle after graduation. That is exactly what they did, right after IU won the 1989 National Basketball Championship. Say what you will about Bobby Knight, the coach gave us a reason to celebrate, senior style.

Our senior year we were all advertising reps for the IDS. We loved our jobs. We loathed our bosses. With these two factors in common, we all became fast and furious friends. Our friendships lasting to this day.

As was common after we graduated college and had real jobs, Beth would call asking to go on a travel adventure. This time she called asking, “Wanna go see Barb and Rob?” Let’s see. Fly to Seattle. Visit friends. See some sights. Seemed a simple enough plan. I sorely underestimated Beth’s and my adventure abilities. We successfully squeezed ten days of adventure into a four-day weekend with the help of various modes of transportation.

While I do remember saying, “Sure. Let’s go visiting.” I am not entirely sure I signed off on parts of the adventure awaiting us. First stop off the plane was Barb and Rob’s house. After a day of walking around Seattle which included a trip up the Space Needle, a few local breweries, lunch, dinner, and a late night of catching up on one another’s lives, we were up and on it early enough to catch a sunrise cruise of Seattle’s harbor aboard a tall schooner. The sights and sounds and majesty of the harbor were an amazing way to start our day.

After the harbor cruise, we were off to hike in the western section of Olympic National Park along the trails of Hoh Rain Forest. We had no prior knowledge. As was our preferred manner of traveling, we just headed west and found ourselves in a wonderland of waterfalls, canopied lushness and solitude. At some point in our hiking, we did come across a rather large group of tourists. Neither Beth nor I were fans of elbow-to-elbow wilderness, but our need to know got the better of us. The next thing we know, we are strapped in and heading straight down via a completely vertical zipline of sorts. Woe is the human spirit that needs to know. Once at the bottom, we shook off the experience through which we had just survived in order to now sort out how to get back to the top. Something about curiosity, satisfaction, and a cat came to mind.

This is where our adventure starts to take on a life of its own. Being the trusting young souls that we were, we reached out to a couple of young strapping tour bus guides. The young men told us to hike around until a designated time and place at which they would meet us and take us to the very top. All was going as planned after we met up, until the big blue bus we were riding on with our personal tour guides, went off the road and into the ditch. Try as we might, there was nothing we could do at that point. This little snafu did not halt our desire to be at the top with the stars. We all left the bus as it was and started walking. As it was, we were closer to the top than the bottom. It only made sense to see this side-adventure through to the top. Once at the top we truly were among the stars. Exhausted and satisfied with the completion of our mission, we fell asleep on rocks with only our jackets for covers. The good-natured guys definitely got us into a predicament, but I would not trade the experience and memory for anything. It was funny at the time and has gotten funnier over the years.

The early dawn light woke us. We proceeded to walk back to the bus. Beth and I caught a ride to the bottom and our car where we informed the bus tour guide company they had two boys and a big blue bus stranded three quarters of the way up the mountain. Before we parted ways, the guys told us we needed to take a ferry to some small island off the Pungent Sound. We hiked as late as we could to still make the ferry which took us to Friday Harbor, only accessible by boat and plane. The population in the early 1990’s was less than one thousand people living there year-round.

We arrived on Friday Harbor just as the nightlife was starting. We enjoyed cocktails and seafood bar style while we talked to some locals about what to explore on their island. The next day we took off for exploration but not before taking in the landscape of California poppies and lavender. The beauty of the island’s landscaping still has an impact on me to this day. My own garden’s main features are orange poppies contrasted with purple lavender. To maximize the time to smell the lavender, we opted for mopeds instead of bicycles. Away we went motoring through the little town like we owned it.

We ended up renting kayaks to travel to an even smaller island where artists and sculptures called home. The artistic people who lived here did so in order to get away from the hustle and bustle of what this tiny island residents considered Friday Harbor to be. Surprisingly, we were welcomed warmly by the locals. Beth and I put on our respective painter and writer personas and fit right in with the locals. After explaining we wanted to go to Canada for a day, a bar owner suggested we take a sunset ferry into Victoria BC and see Craigdarroch Castle for the stunning views. Why not go visit a castle? Neither Beth nor I had ever seen a castle. As it turned out, it was at this castle where I fell in love with stained glass windows.

Renee Risk kayaking.
Photo credit; Beth Sayer

We left our tiny artsy town via our kayaks and made it back to Friday Island in plenty of time to make the sunset ferry. With our exploration already under our belts, we decided, after a few evening thirst quenchers, to try out roller blading while we waited for the ferry to depart. Although the rental place had roller blades, the concept was new enough that there was no one to explain exactly how to roller blade. We ended up taking measures into our own hands. Nothing was off limits. We grabbed complete strangers in order to make a turn. The best means to stop was to head toward a stop sign or convenient pole and hope we didn’t cut it too close. Until we came up with that brilliant strategy, gravity definitely was our friend as well as our enemy. We learned a lot about roller blading in the relatively short amount of time we had. Basically, slow was not an option and bruises were guaranteed.

Renee Risk resting in Vancouver.
Photo credit: Beth Sayer

We were thrilled when we heard the "all aboard" whistle sound for the last ferry. We promptly boarded and headed to the upper deck to whale and sea lion watch while taking in the sunset. I for one vividly remember the spectacular sunset and how happy I was that someone else was driving this mode of transportation. All the modes of transportation we had been on in just two days became a topic of discussion between Beth and me during our ride to Vancouver.

Let’s see. We flew into Seattle on a plane. We drove in a car to our friends’ house. We took the Tram into downtown Seattle. We rode the elevator up the Space Needle. We hiked through the forest. We went sightseeing at night on a big blue bus. We rode mopeds through town. We even had an unforgettable rollerblading experience. We cabbed it to the ferry. We took a ship into Victoria Canada. Anyone keeping count, yet?

After a magnificent sunset cruise, we officially landed in Canada about midnight.

As we were rolling out of the ship in our rental car, I called out, “Hey Beth? Any chance you brought any Canadian money?” I can still see the look she gave me. Good grief! We had absolutely no money. There were no ATMs at the time. Certainly, no banks were open at midnight. All we had to barter with was some water in the car and a piece of artwork I picked up at the artist island. We decided we better save the water. I was not parting with my painting. Who would we barter with anyway? Vancouver was closed for the night.

Despite our dilemma, I do remember thinking how the city was incredibly clean. The air even smelled clean. Good thing the weather was on our side because once again we found ourselves sleeping under the stars. This time in a shiny clean Canadian park.

Two very sore bodies awakened the next morning. The park benches may have been cleaner than the mountain rocks but the rocks were more comfortable. The park benches definitely won in the clean category. We thought we were in Stanley Park, but we never did exactly confirm this with anyone. We were moving slowly but we managed at that age to quickly work out the kinks. Thus, began our wanderings in Vancouver.

First, we located a bank to exchange money. Next, we found a secluded beach where we bathed, which we had not done in several days. Then, we found a rental place and we bicycled the seawall of English Bay. As is the case in most of Vancouver, one lane is open to vehicle traffic and one lane is dedicated to cycling traffic. This very cool and practical concept was actually started as early as when Vancouver was becoming established. Oh! Add bicycling to the transportation mode list.

After a non-stop day of sightseeing beautiful beaches, local wildlife, historical landmarks, and endless restaurant lounging, our getaway was coming to an end. At last count, Beth and I had traveled on eleven different modes of transportation in four days. As we say in our surprising little town of Hope, we packed 100 pounds of adventure into a 10-pound bag with the help of numerous modes of transportation. Each one as great as the other.

** In loving memory of Beth Sayer **