Roadside Attractions

Treasure hunting in Skagit

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

As per the Lady of the House’s request, we’d spent the entire morning blazing trails through the streets of Bellingham methodically patronizing every garage sale in sight. Although the material effectiveness of this operation couldn’t be disputed, her hesitance to push the treasure-hunting process further afield threatened to unnecessarily curtail a good adventure. 

Henceforth and entirely of her own volition, she momentarily deferred navigational prerogative to me, her intrepid chauffeur. 

Fueled by the lure of good deals in out-of-way places and the ever-insatiable lust for voluptuous countryside, it only took a couple hard right turns off Sehome Hill for us to galvanize a southbound leap.

Peeling off the Interstate onto Riverside Drive in Mount Vernon, I merged fitfully into crushing throngs of Saturday afternoon traffic while my passenger kept her eyes peeled for sale signs, quickly noting a batch of them with urgent anticipation. 

“Even among all these bottlenecks and big-box stores,” I opined, “don’t you feel invigorated to be absorbed by the complexities of such an exotic streetscape?”

“Hang a Ricky at the next light!”  the Lady interrupted. “I’d rather invigorate myself at Goodwill.”

We spent an hour fishing through the shelves in there. She got skunked, but I walked out with a pristine vintage copy of Native Son by Richard Wright and a science-fiction book featuring a furry yeti and a frightened mountaineer on the cover.

“He looks just like you,” she said.

“Which one?” I asked.

“Which one do you think?” she smirked.

Following more sale signs, we backtracked to College Way and headed east. And east. And east.

Finally, almost near the end, I turned to follow a series of signs that guided us several fraught miles to a subdivision deep in the Highlands. The garage we walked into contained infinite treasures and we soon found ourselves beset upon by a pair of octogenarian antiquarians who bombarded us with charm, wisdom and stories to such spellbinding effect that we either had to buy something right away and leave or else remain trapped in their museum for hours. 

It took a concerted burst of wheeling and dealing, but we stuck to our guns and escaped with a $3 candy bowl and a $5 hand-carved ebony beaver.

Eventually—after navigating through more unfamiliar forests and subdivisions—we emerged onto a two-lane highway that I recognized as Highway 9. 

“North to Big Rock and loop back to Sedro-Woolley or south to Big Lake and re-emerge at Conway?” I asked the Lady.

“Either way works for me,” she smiled—not knowing we’d soon discover roadside art made from salvaged metal, an unexpected field full of blooming dahlias, and a historic bank for sale in the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town of Conway, and that our adventure was far from over.

“Wherever you go in Skagit, the magic is all-pervasive,” she noted.

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