When last we wrote the Shell On Wheels clan had completed three weeks at the Naval Air Station on Whidbey Island, followed by two days off island for windshield repairs, then returned to Whidbey for nine more days, including a full week stay at Rhododendron County Park in Coupeville. Despite all this time we just weren’t quite ready to leave, so we returned to Cliffside RV Park for nearly two more weeks to close out our time on the island and plan our next moves.
As we strung to together a couple more stays at Cliffside, the front office informed us that we were close to our maximum allowed time in the park. Many military bases, especially the seasonally popular ones, have such limits, and the specific rules vary greatly from place to place. In this case we were caught off guard, thinking that our time off island and at Rhododendron Park had reset the clock.
Four years ago during our first visit to Whidbey that would have indeed been the case, but a few cases of perceived abuse had prompted a rule change and we needed to vacate a bit sooner than expected. So we pushed out as far as they would allow, finished our time on the island with a couple of days back at Rhododendron, and allowed the stay limits to help define the dates of our next adventure.
We took advantage of our remaining two weeks on the island to revisit our favorite places, find a couple of new ones, and participate in three more local Saturday markets put on by the Lion’s Club. As we had in July we timed one of our RV moves to coincide with the market, making this event quite convenient. Between July and August we sold at this venue five times, and while not all of them were great, the average of our sales made the overall endeavor worthwhile.
The Lions Club market is the island’s newest regular craft event, and fills a niche for what I think of us “entry level” or “easy access” sellers. I.e., it is cheap ($20 vendor fee), short (one day a week for five hours) and accessible (all are accepted with no category limits and no special licensing or paperwork.) For us it replaced the weekly (and since cancelled) 2nd Street Market in nearby Langley at which we sold in 2017. They are still growing, working on their client base and community awareness. If we were back on our home turf in Florida and COVID had never happened, we would have skipped this modest market, but here out west, with so many festivals and fairs still rebuilding, it was quite worth our time and effort.
In this, our second summer on Whidbey Island, growing familiarity with the place has solidified our favorite spots. Coupeville is our preferred town here. It is quite small, and the limited population and tourism mean there are only a dozen restaurant options, some of which have quite limited hours of operation which further constrain the unprepared diner. We love Little Ren Hen Bakery, but it’s only open Thursday through Sunday. Front Street Grill (our favorite mussel place) and nearby Toby’s Tavern are both open daily, whereas Oystercatcher is much more limited, and we never managed to catch them when we were hungry.
Despite such limitations, we thoroughly enjoy this town, and had many great experiences. Besides, Coupeville is big enough to boast its own craft brewery, which is sort of a minimum requirement to be considered civilized in my book (I’m looking at you, Sequim.) We expect to be back in mid 2022, and look forward to catching a few of the places we missed this visit.
So that’s Whidbey for 2021. After nearly seven weeks on the island, it’s time to move on. Next up: The San Juan Islands. (Hint: not Puerto Rico.)