On the Road, with Ken Smith

July 21, 2007 |

 One of the few pleasures I have in old age is traveling by automobile. We have journeyed around more than half of America, highways and byways.

We arrived at Lake Chelan without a reservation and stopped at Best Western, the nearest lakeside accommodation. The place was nearly full if the parking lot was an indicator. I inquired the rate and was told $200 plus per night. I said it was too high; is there a place around for half that, like $100?

As a senior citizen with a shaved head and no teeth my appearance must have induced empathy. She said she might be able to find an alternative. She picked up the phone and called a compatriot in town. She got us a room at a riverside inn for $105 with tax.

As we left I asked the desk clerk "what if I get there and I don't like the deal?" "If you come back I'll give you a 40% discount." She indicated her recommendation was so convincing in appeal I would not be returning.

Sure enough, the place she recommended was very suitable for $100, set by a small park, on the river bank with a walking path around the river via two bridges set a few blocks apart. Lots of trees for shade in the Eastern Washington heat.

Not only that, the small motel had been renovated with new electric outlets, plumbing and paint. The room was very small, but efficient. The place had been done with a maritime theme. The owner was a retired submarine commander.

Naval symbolism was everywhere. The restroom adjacent to the dining area was labeled "Head." Photos of subs were on the wall; a painting of the commander between two photos of his submarine. Nautical terms were used for items. Bollards and cleats were in the yard, an anchor too.

I did not feel comfortable around the commander. When talking to him his gaze was too pinpointed, too direct, almost aggressive, as if his vision was penetrating, x-raying my brain. I mentioned my work as a tankerman and he said he had seen us in his periscope.

Greg Rehmke writes:

I highly recommend Lake Chelan. I spent many summer weekends there through my twenties. Lake Chelan is 50 miles long, winding into steep hills to the small town of Stehekin, which you can get to only on foot or by boat (a long ride on the Lady of the Lake). Most of my friends in Chelan were in the apple business as the lake was long surrounded by rich green orchards. Now many more houses are scattered among remaining orchards, and in recent years, vineyards. Tsillan Cellars opened next door to my friend Steve’s place. Wapato Point is on the far side of the lake, past Chelan.

President Bush signed an act of Congress for a 99-year lease in March to allow a new development nearby in the town of Manson, on Lake Chelan. This Bureau of Indian Affairs land is apparently managed by BIA for 33 American Indians who are descendants of former Chief Moses. And of course, there is a casino nearby (Mill Bay Casino). 


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