For anyone living east of the Mississippi, Port Townsend is a long way to go for ice cream.
This laid back seaside community on Washington's Olympic Peninsula -- a ferry ride and a 75-minute drive from Seattle -- is a popular vacation and retirement area for folks who like their lives casual and outdoors.
The town, sprinkled with crafts stores and art galleries, bed and breakfasts, and small restaurants, is surrounded by seawater and mountains that show snow in the summer.
Bring jackets, not neckties, to Port Townsend, where the ground never freezes, but the air seldom suggests suntan lotion.
The air journey to get here is crowded in August, when planes to Seattle are packed with vacationers headed toward cruises to Alaska (And did you know that American Airlines has found a way to shoehorn a row of seats into the aisle that leads to the door where you board the airplane on a 757? So if you are assigned to those two seats you stand while everyone boards, then you sit after the door has been sealed. At least, you’re the first passengers out when the plane lands).
Floating across Puget Sound
From the airport, the route to Port Townsend is much more fun.
A scheduled bus ($1.50) to downtown Seattle stopped five blocks from the ferry terminal. I paid $6.70 for a roundtrip to Bainbridge Island, and settled into a seat on the outside deck for a breezy 30-minute ride across Puget Sound.
Mountains, boaters and casually clad travelers – all with a backpack -- welcomed me to the Northwest. My 75-minute drive from Bainbridge Island to Port Townsend was eased by the largess of my younger brother John, who picked me up at the ferry (saving me from the bus).
We ate from cones and cups at a shop called Elevated Ice Cream, where, according to a sign, the Travel Channel had been there and rated Elevated as one of the best ice cream parlors in the country.
Sounds right to me. In my few Port Townsend days I sampled enough of the homemade stuff to agree.
I tried ice creams from Blind Love, Expresso Chip and Ginger, to non-dairy Italian ices, Marionberry, Triple Citrus and Chocolate. The shop, on Water St., was an easy walk from my bed and breakfast, Holly Hill House (360-385-5619), where $119 a night included 9 a.m. elegant servings of fruit, eggs and baked concoctions such as bread pudding cooked like French toast.
Love between the raindrops
But of course, my Chicago brother and I did not meet in Port Townsend for the breakfasts or the ice cream.
We came for the wedding of John’s son, local chef Scott Molyneaux, who had planned an outdoor ceremony outside of town on a bluff overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Scott married Laura on a Port Townsend day, which began in mist and continued as an overcast, cool August morning. The sun broke through by noon, was gone by 3 p.m., back by 4 p.m.
Predicted rain beat the 5 p.m. wedding by about 15 minutes, and the radar on a Blackberry showed evil skies on the way. So, we stood in a tent with clear plastic sides while the minister and groom considered alternatives, which the groom declined, saying he intended to be married on the bluff.
The bride and her two attendants stayed mostly dry under the roof of a nearby shelter while we waited for a weather break that Scott, and probably Scott alone, believed was coming.
At 5:22, the drizzle became more of a mist, and at 5:24 the rain stopped. We grabbed towels, rushed for the folding chairs, as the bride began her walk, brisker than planned, across the field. We assembled, some sitting, some standing, and a guest held an umbrella over the head of a saxophone player, as the bride and her parents strolled down the path between the chairs.
At 5:35, the minister began his message. At 5:45, the sun arrived.
Ominous clouds moved elsewhere, and the evening provided semi-clear skies for music and congratulations, toasts and conversations.
Dessert was peach cobbler. With ice cream.
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