‘We’re in the boonies, ma’am’ | Loud & About
By Heija Nunn
Although the epic construction of the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge burned my original plans to visit the Alameda Point Antique Faire over Labor Day weekend, a friend reminded me that the town of Packwood, inconveniently located right here in Washington state, becomes a giant flea market twice a year over Memorial and Labor days. So I made a reservation for what felt like the last available room in town. The owner prepared me for anything when she kept repeating the word “basic” and ended our chat by saying, “We’re in the boonies ma’am.”
There are two ways to get to Packwood: the right way, and the way for people who enjoy shows like Ice Road Truckers. Thankfully it was a dark and stormy night, so sensory deprivation rendered me unaware that the narrow twisty road I was driving reveals nonexistent shoulders in the daytime and miles of opportunities to plunge off the side of the mountain. After an accidental 30 mile detour accompanied by the monotone of NPR, I finally checked in at the Mountain View Lodge where my little cabin was basically perfect, pristine and totally charming. Packing my own bedding was major overkill.
Before sleeping I decided to test the cell reception; there isn’t any. I called home using the wi-fi in the hotel lobby. At the local gas station I learned about my only two food options and got the scoop on where to park. The next morning I was back at 4 a.m. and the same clerk looked at me like I was nuts to think I needed to get up early for the best deals.
Out in the parking lot a made-for-TV BBQ vendor laughed at me, asking if I was from Seattle, and then chuckled, “We’re not like that here.” So I did the rational thing and went back to bed and waited until 6:30 a.m. to reemerge. It was still a ghost town, but at least the tavern was open for breakfast.
By 9 a.m. I had bagged a few items and spent the following 24 hours getting to know Packwood. I shared moonshine with strangers, witnessed more dog adoration and pampering than at the Westminster Kennel Club and made friends with locals who think I am a
I learned that the roadkill is bigger in Packwood, but so are the stars in the night sky, the personalities, the shave ice and the deals. My drive home was my ideal road-trip: no death defying cliffs, lots of barn and estate sales and a carload of good company: bachelors bearing battle tanks, gun toting totems, chastity belt wearing cowboys, and snakes…snakes in a Volvo.