Dusk Patrol

It’s one of my (numerous) conceits that, because I’m self-employed, I can arrange my schedule around those small windows of rideable wave availability on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  It is, of course, not always true. Work almost always comes first.

BUT, I have been known to dawn patrol it, surf, then work late (and tired, and, hey, you must know what it’s like to sweat out the saltwater you couldn’t shower off). AND, particularly in the winter, I sometimes head for an evening session (this can be 3pm when the sun goes down at 4:20 [no other significance to 4:20 intended]), or, around summer solstice, it can be, as it was recently, an 8pm arrival, quickly (for me) suited-up and in the water, hitting some semi-glassy walls, watching the sun disappear somewhere around Neah Bay around 9:14, dressed and re-loaded by 9:50, and home in pretty much record round-trip time.

OH, maybe I’ve made trips in less time, but that would be because I got skunked, didn’t hang around waiting, didn’t check other spots; and, mostly, because I didn’t stop for gas, food, to fill a Costco list, and because Olympic Peninsula traffic is not (usually) the nightmare it is in the Seattle/Tacoma/Bremerton.

That traffic was fresh in my mind; I’d spent most of the day taking my daughter, Dru, over to the Bainbridge Island ferry (always an anxiety-creator; barely made it). Then there was a (planned) side trip to Daniel Smith for some art supplies (some for her mother, Trish), only one mistaken turn (with ten minute readjustment- thanks to Dru’s phone), a quick stop at the Jack-in-the-box (because they don’t have them in Chicago) on First Avenue (with a blond rat cruising the dumpster area), and minimal holdup at Sea-Tac (the usual cars curb-blocking, others trying to make 90 degree turns).

About this time I got a call from Trish saying I might as well drive around as the ferry terminal would be a (bigger) mess. Fine, don’t mind, the fee for the Tacoma Narrows Bridge is collected going the other way, and, besides, rush hour couldn’t start at 3pm.

EVIDENTLY it can.  I now admit I used the carpool lane (by accident- hey, I live in the boonies) to get onto I-5; I mean, once I got in it, I couldn’t move over.  NOW, I had been checking the buoy reading all day on my phone, and it was looking, um, possible. THEN I got a call from someone returning from a weekend with the family on the coast, where, I’m pretty sure, the waves had been minimal and the crowds, well, fun if you like sharing and the whole campground atmosphere.

Image (78)

Above: another silkscreen image from 1980s, retrieved from my attic.

FIRST, I was told I was on speaker phone and the family was in the same vehicle. Yes, his sons didn’t need to learn any more new words. No, he didn’t surf on the Strait, no, the waves had been fun; oh, and he had passed other surfers headed toward the Strait.

SECOND, I have a phone number for one of the surfers mentioned. Somewhere, barely moving, not yet to the water park (which is close to the rest area, which is on the other side of the highway), I gave that guy a call. NOW, no; we don’t call others to report good waves. NOT DONE.

But, I was, according to the sign over the freeway, 8 miles and 29 minutes from the turnoff to Tacoma, low on fuel, and, besides, that surfer was just about to check out the possibility of waves from a secret vantage point somewhere around Port Angeles.

THIRD, the card-reader (or something) didn’t work at the gas station in Tacoma (gas is always higher close to freeways); I had to go inside; the brand new person at the counter (I was third in line, cut off the guy who could have been- counter-hopped him) was showing the even-newer woman how to make the gas pumps work. I asked a local how to get back on 16. “First right, skip over those streets, second left; third right- easy.”

FOURTH, and I don’t know why I started using numbers, there was a big accident at the big curve at Gorst (long called the armpit of the northwest by commuters), in the other lane (thankfully), and the backup went…driving, driving… almost to Silverdale.

OH, I had to stop in Silverdale to bring home dinner. Arby’s. Trish had a list. What’s the fastest route? “Go past Silverdale, take that exit. You have my order?” Yes. “Get whatever you want. It’s dinner.” Fine. I’d already had one of those breakfast sandwiches and the taco Dru didn’t eat, and I had eaten breakfast, but, Classic roast beef and cheddar and bacon sandwiches were on special, two for six bucks.

Didn’t mean to eat both, but, hey, they are way better warm than warmed-up. LUCKILY, the Hood Canal Bridge was not open for a sailboat, submarine, or mechanical failure (or just meanness), and I got home, with too much coffee, too many Arby’s specials heartburn, sometime around 6:25.

“GOING SURFING,” I said. “Really?”

NOW, I passed quite a few surf rigs on my way out; not usually a good sign. No, I didn’t get a call confirming the existence of actual waves; and, when I did get into the water, the guy I had called had already been surfing for four hours, but was willing to go back out for a few more. STRATEGIC STRIKE. Stoked.

ALL RIGHT, I should add that my backup plan had been to go the next morning, and I almost decided not to go, but I had already sworn to a client that I would be on her job the next morning. AND, the next morning, the angle had moved, the swell had dropped.

SO, maybe this is kind of a bit of a backhanded compliment to surfers who have to endure traffic daily, and are willing to take a chance. If I lived near Sea-Tac, the trip, one way, would have been, um, let’s see, 5 hours. Yeah, yeah, a couple of stops.

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