Almost a year to the day from my last visit, I set sail for San Juan Island, this time to explore more of what the island itself had to offer. Rather than take my car across on the ferry, I elected to rent a scoot coupe: a two-seater, three-wheeled moped that tops out around 40 miles per hour. The only thing standing in my way was the fact that my moped experience was limited to riding on the back of my second host father’s scooter in Taiwan–I’ve really always been more of an indoor kind of rebel, saving my leather wear for goth clubs and looking cool rather than for anything that might require that sort of protection.
My rental place did go over the ins and outs of driving a scoot coupe: don’t leave one of the buttons pressed in or your battery will drain. You have to manually disengage the turn signal because otherwise it will just keep blinking forever. Always put the wheel chock in front of a tire when parked. Always engage the brake lock when parked because of the inevitable kids playing on and around the coupe and their tendency to dislodge the chock. There is no reverse, one of you will have to get out and push in a reversing situation. Don’t go on any road that’s not on the provided map. Don’t try to u-turn on any of the roads because your turn radius is so enormous you’ll end up in a ditch. Speaking of which, pull over when cars are behind you so you don’t impede traffic but don’t just pull over blindly or you’ll probably end up in a ditch (don’t end up in a ditch). Got all that? Ok, drive that baby across the parking lot. You now have ten feet of experience and out into traffic you go! Of course, I immediately got flustered and missed the first turn, which meant poor Jason had to figure out the map and shout the new directions out at me because those big ass-helmets they have you wear are not super conducive to hearing. Or my ears clamp shut when I’m in a panic-type situation. Maybe both.
Once I got the hang of things (which actually happened fairly quickly), I had a lot of fun driving the scoot coupe. It felt like I’d somehow escaped a carnival with a souped-up bumper car, and had a great time careening around corners with the wind blowing in my face. It was late in the year, so there wasn’t a ton of traffic on the roads save for other scoot coupes, and we always honked and waved, which made me feel like I was part of a tiny adorable gang.
Since you can essentially drive around the island in one big loop, my first stop was at American Camp. As I’ve briefly talked about in a previous post, San Juan Island was the site of a territory dispute between the United States and England, with the island’s strategic position between the United States and Vancouver island, and as a result, both Americans and the English attempted to settle it. One day, an American farmer, Lyman Cutlar, found a pig digging up and eating his potatoes (not for the first time, either), so he shot it. The pig turned out to belong to an Irishman, Charles Griffin. Cutlar offered Griffin $10 for the loss of the pig, Griffin demanded $100, the British threatened to take Cutlar into custody, and in response, the other Americans on the island called for American military protection–thus sparking what is now known as the pig war. There was a lot of saber rattling on both sides, warships circled the tiny island, but ultimately no shots were fired. An American camp was established on the south of the island and an English camp was establish in the north, and eventually outside arbitration from Germany determined that San Juan lay within the boundaries of the United States. AT&T, however, still disputes that notion as I received a text message welcoming me to Canada and helpfully informing me that I’d be charged out the wazoo for data.
At American Camp, in addition to the visitor’s center and some historical buildings, there are a good number of walking trails that take you down to the various coves and the lighthouse at South Beach. I ended up taking one of the trails to Grandma’s Cove after briefly seeing what there was to see in the visitor’s center–it was too gorgeous out to stay inside for very long. I didn’t end up hiking to the lighthouse because I was concerned about spending too much time in one spot on the loop, so after a bit more time checking out the laundress’ and officer’s quarters, it was back into the scoot coupe to putt to the next destination: Pelindaba Lavender Farm.