Me and Sacagawea

Like Lewis and Clark before us, we recently journeyed to the northernmost reaches of the Pacific Northwest on a quest of exploration. While John and I reached our destination much faster than Meriwether Lewis and William Clark did, I’m not certain our trek was all that more comfortable. I’d like to see either of those men stuck in the middle seat of a packed 737 for four hours. Judging from the illustrations on Wikipedia, these guys looked more like First Class passengers to me. And I’m not talking free First Class tickets redeemed with frequent flyer miles. No, no. These fellas appear to have been the real deal.


I mean, look. Isn’t that an ascot around William’s neck? Neither John nor I even own an ascot.

Though the method in which we traveled to Washington differed slightly from that of Meriwether and William, our reasons for checking out the area were similar. We all desired a closer look at the region. In our case, however, the ultimate goal is to move out there permanently. Lewis and Clark merely visited.

As it happened with our predecessors, we learned a great deal on our expedition. For one thing, we’d been fairly certain our future homestead would be on Orcas Island. But as we scoped out several areas along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, we began changing our minds. Orcas Island is indeed spectacular — in our humble opinions, nowhere else we’ve been in Washington trumps the sheer beauty of it — yet the island is a tad more remote than we’re comfortable with. To get anywhere else, you must take the ferry. In the summer months that means at least a two-hour wait in line; in the winter months, there’s the risk of ferry cancellation due to bad weather (they can get some crazy winds up there).

Still, Orcas Island was the only place we met with a real estate agent. It was pre-planned, and although we’d already pretty much decided we’re more interested in Port Townsend, say, or one of the more accessible islands, we chose to go ahead and look at properties. If the perfect place was awaiting us on Orcas, we didn’t want to miss out.

And the first place the agent showed us nailed it.

Orcas house

The main house was slightly smaller than our home here (perfect); there was another structure being built that could have been turned into a guesthouse (perfect); it was on five beautiful acres (perfect); and oh my, the view.

Orcas view

Once inside the house I turned to John and said, “Write a check.”

Which brings up the one problem with the place: the price. This property costs almost as much as we’re asking for our farm, and that’s not part of our game plan. We need to walk away with cash in our pockets when all is said and done. The purpose of this whole exercise is not only to move to the Northwest, but also to retire. From what I understand, you need to set aside enough money in order to do that.

Details can be so annoying.

So after bidding a reluctant adieu to my dream home, the agent took us to two other properties that, while meeting the criteria of costing less, simply didn’t do it for us. Our last and final stop then was to see a property the agent referred to as “the farm.” It was only two acres, which is fine with us, and years ago was indeed a small working farm. The agent cautioned us, however, that the current owner had let it get rather run down and that we needed to recognize it as a diamond in the rough.

“Squint when you look it,” she warned me, in particular.


I can’t squint that hard.

pile of wood

Turns out, neither can John.


Finally, after traipsing around two acres of what looked to us like a toxic waste dump (all the while listening to the agent wax nostalgic about the lovely little farm that used to be there 20 years ago) John finally said, “This might be fine for a younger man to tackle, but not for me.”

The neighbors looked a little disappointed,


yet we were actually kind of relieved. The day’s outing had served us well in cementing our prior decision that Orcas Island isn’t going to be our final destination after all.

We’ll Lewis and Clark up to the Pacific Northwest again in a few months or so. Maybe to Oregon this time, or if we find a serious buyer for our farm, it might mean another sojourn in Washington to real estate shop around Port Townsend. I’m telling the agent up front, though, that I have no intention of squinting.