In investigation of the funkiest little town in America

On a quest to know best available alternative town in the US, our columnist takes a superhighway trip-up through the north-west. Along the space he obtains spate of competitors with enormous diners, bookshops and easy access to the outdoors, but which target gets his vote?

Out on Route 21 in Washington state, the long golden prairies of wheat stretch out on either side of the road, lapping against distant purplish mountain ranges. Abandoned farms dot the landscape: scrawny timber-framed skeletons, their owners given up and gone to California or Seattle. I even snooped a lone grey wolf, standing and staring at my run automobile. He must have come across from Canada, manager south for winter maybe.

Some of the cities are no longer alive, but Pomeroy , in the south-east of the state, depicts signs of hope. Theres a great bookshop where the owner, John, affirms things are on the up. Dont announce us Pomeranians though. Thats a dog.

I tell him about my quest: a search for the perfect funky small-minded American town, a region with a buzzing homespun coffee shop and a great little deli, a city with some youth exuberance and a shared ardour for the great outdoors plus, of course, friendly bookshops such as his.

US north-west map

To me, those townships are where America is at its good. Its the new American daydream. It seems particularly appropriate that Im doing this in the middle of a wicked ballot duel between two most varied images of America. John affirms that Pomeroy is manager for success, but after a look around township I can see the duel is not quite acquired. I label Pomeroy as a maybe.

Alternative funky townships of America. Id expended the previous year gathering a listing of possible locatings. After I detected a rich seam of internet discussed on the subject, my listing had grown inordinately long and crossed almost every territory in the union. But what stood out was that north-west corner: northern California, Oregon, Idaho and Washington. The neighborhood was plainly catnip to people who wanted something better from life than can be bought in Walmart. I gleaned rows on the road atlas. I discounted the cities Portland and Seattle too big and well-known. I caught a plane to San Francisco. I got on Highway 101. I led north.

That first night I formed it as far as the Benbow Inn near Garberville , on the cusp of redwood country. Next morning, I had breakfast in the Woodrose Caf and decided that all my townships would need somewhere just like this: a busy little diner acting kickstart-the-day nutrient for lumberjacks.

Breakfast
Breakfast at The Woodrose Cafe, Garberville

But why, I requested my neighbour at the counter, were there so many grubby guitar-packing youths sitting by the gas station with cardboard signs that speak: Garden Work Needed. Thats a specialised chassis of plot study theyre need, he told me with a wink, and when I still didnt sprig, he explained that Garberville is the capital of Californian marijuana culture. Gardening here is paradise for stoners.

Weed had not been on my listing of requirements for the new utopia, but a decent bookshop was: preferably a region in which to sink into a period armchair with a good steer to American ghost townships. I enjoy American ghost townships: after all, they are the shadows behind those rejuvenated lieu. Garberville has such a bookshop( Tiger Lily Books ), but the cities real fascination lies to the north along what is known as Avenue of the Giants.

The overwhelming physical existence of a redwood forest is sickening: reckon picking your space through thousands and thousands of Big Bens standing a few paws apart. North of Garberville, the highway throws into a deep sombre cathedral of trees that goes on and on. I rose at Eureka , a coastal township known for its seafood and Victorian structure. I checked in at Carter House Inn( redoubles from $189 B& B ), one of the lovelier old-time buildings.

Walking
Walking in the forest only off the Avenue of the Monster , northern California. Photo: Kevin Rushby for the Guardian

Funky cafes? I spotted a few. Bookshops? Three. It was examining hopeful. There was a bustling marina where mobs of seals and gulls were awaiting the next tuna boat. There are just a few good restaurants and saloons. In one, the Oberon Grill( 516 2nd Street ), I received a framed newspaper legend from 1911 indicates how Jack London had got into a fist campaign in that exceedingly place.

Eureka has gentrified a lot since then, but still has a colorful shape that harks back to pioneer dates. In the Speakeasy Bar that evening I discovered narrations of Bigfoot sightings and being trees. I presented Eureka a large tick on my listing. It was a contender.

Book
Book and antique stores in Eureka , northern California. Photo: Kevin Rushby for the Guardian

Heading north once again, I took a saloon table tip-off and to turn 101 along a narrow coastal superhighway that dipped and bowed along the cliffs, handing superb views of the coast, until I thump Trinidad , a pretty little seaside township and , without doubt, a good base for exploring this section of the Pacific coast. I pressed on, nonetheless, spanning into Oregon on Highway 199, one of the USs 120 national scenic byways.

My objective that night was a treehouse B& B outside Cave Junction, but arriving in the area after dark my GPS miscarried and, inexplicably, my phone more. I drew in to a gas station and received myself taking tendencies from a client with a teardrop tattoo under one attention the mark of a assassin I seemed to remember and find like I had strayed into a Coen brothers movie. Four hours later, having explored every backcountry road for miles, I lastly rolled up at Treehouse Paradise( rooms for two from $350 ). By flashlight I was depict the footpath to my treehouse which proved to be a opulent den high up in a Douglas fir.

The
The Treehouse Paradise B& B, Cave Junction, Oregon. Photo: Kevin Rushby for the Guardian

At dawn I was woken by skittering rackets and peeped out to see three deer chasing one another around the base of the tree. Down in the main house the owner, Phil, was cooking breakfast. I came up here from south California 38 years ago, he told me, We grew up channel-surf, clambering and hunting. But then it get very crowded down there. I wouldnt go back.

Phil and Jodie, his wife, had constructed an idyllic withdraw. After arriving, they decided never to shoot anything on their property and soon changed it into a haven for wildlife and chicks hence my own experience of the deer that morning. Phils breakfast was almost perfect more: a feast of fresh fruit and home cooking. We are pretty self-sufficient out here, he suggested. Have you tried my blueberry jam?

A week in the treehouse would have suited me just fine, but instead I set out again, cutting inland towards Idaho, passing through attractive little towns along the Rogue river. After Crater Lake and Bend I altered east on Highway 20, passing an marvelous dwarf forest of whitebark pines before the road became bleaker and emptier and finally endeavoured sanctuary in a long shallow canyon that burrowed its space into Idaho, emerging on Interstate 84, which took me south to Boise .

Downtown
Downtown Boise, Idahos capital with a small town vibe. Photo: Kevin Rushby for the Guardian

This city interested me. In the 1970 s, a Hewlett Packard exec, Ray Smelek, was have the responsibility knowing best available corporation HQ and locating in the US. He selected Boise( pronounced boy-see ), concluding that you could ski in the morning and play video games golf all afternoon. Since then the place has boomed, but retained a small town feel.

I gratified up with a neighbourhood rise steer, Randall, and got his take on it. I like Boise, he told me, but its too big and more grey to be perfect. He rolled his criteria for a small town. Mountains nearby, and some young professionals, but a diverse culture, and not more bourgie. Somewhere like Ketchum mind you, that can get quite bumpin in winter.

We unpicked this slowly. Ketchum is a ski town in Idaho, much affection by the prosperou( the bourgeois) who have those enormous( bumpin) parties.

I, more, liked Boise, despite its length. It boasts the largest Basque community outside Spain, which delivers an sudden dimension to its tidy grid-iron streets. Theres a burgeoning wine-colored manufacture with savor rooms, various skill breweries and some great restaurants( try Goldys for breakfast ).

Sawtooth
Theres a frontier find to the Sawtooth Hotel in Stanley, Idaho. Photo: Kevin Rushby for the Guardian

After a couple of darkness, nonetheless, I had to admit that Boise was just too big for perfection. I drove on, broom on a huge arc through Idaho, stopping regularly to admire the mountain aspect. I liked Stanley , deep within the Sawtooth mountains, and especially the Sawtooth Hotel( rooms from $70) with its sincere frontier find. But Stanley loses severe wintertimes and even in September the darkness were frosty.

I cut north-west, luxuriating in roadside hot spring Sunbeam and Kirkhams, then passing Hells Canyon and arriving at Joseph one of Oregons strong competitors for the alternative funky township claim. Once a typical logging and ranching outpost, Joseph has reinvented itself as an arts township, with a speciality in bronze-casting.

I strayed around , noting a great little pizza oven region, a bookshop and a cafe Red Horse, a real treat. There were deer tiptoeing across the lawns of clapboard the homes and a very friendly guest core. A good hike is up Hurricane Creek, they told me. Folks say theres a room of an old-time gold prospector up there still exactly as he left it. Nothings been moved.

agricultural
Farming today agricultural landscape near Pomeroy, Washington State. Photo: Alamy

Id have liked a few weeks to experience Joseph and hunt down that room, but the road was announcing me. I foreman north to the Snake river, then transforming west, spotting my wolf and inspecting Pomeroy. It formed me amaze: how are those small towns constructed? The following theme of the successful lieu Id learnt seemed to be a handful of hardy young entrepreneurs, the sort who can make their own robes, granola and business designs at the same time as snowboarding the neighbourhood mountains or debugging a laptop: the cool tycoons.

My next stop was Bellingham , right up near the Canadian frontier. I was running out of US and I still hadnt fairly encountered perfection although, for the first time, I was coming across Trump postings none for Hilary. The Tree Frog Night Inn( redoubles from $100) where I remained, certainly got a right vibe, as did the Aslan Brewery, where all the beers were superb and the financiers certainly cool. Bellingham, nonetheless, was just too big to take the claim. Next daytime I altered tush and hared back south, popping over the connection to Anacortes on Fidalgo Island.

Antiques
Antiques accumulation in Anacortes, Washington. Photo: Alamy

Truth is, this wasnt even on my listing. I just liked the mention. And when I examined it, I was in love. Any township that has large-scale ships being built on its beach cannot was all right. Plus the government has bookshops, cafe and complimentary pianoes on street corners. Yes, overstrung, gaudily covered, honky tonk joannas for passersby to hammer out jazz criteria on, which naturally numerous appeared to be able to do. Big tick for Anacortes, especially when I examined orcas in large numbers out in the bay.

These islands have some other good competitors, I realised. On Whidbey Island there was Langley , with a fine coffee shop, Useless Bay Coffee Co, and Coupville , with its glorious old-time high street and marvelous Captain Whidbey Inn.

Time was running out, I had only one more destination. I caught the boat west to the Olympic peninsula and attracted in at Port Townsend . I get off the boat and ambled around and knew Id received it. There were cafes, saloons, bookshops and enormous structure. There was the atlantic provinces and the mountains. It had it all. And it was mine. Except I had no time. My flight was next day.

The
The Nifty Fiftys soda fountain, Port Townsend, WA. Photo: Alamy

Oscar Wilde, who knew all about lost idylls, declared that parties, having encountered paradise, ever did the same circumstance: they set sail.

On my last morning, perhaps with those words in intellect, I strayed down to Port Townsends boatyard, a busy wielding yard with a great cafe the Blue Moose. I sat on the wall and watched the vibrant pleasure: men and women preparing their vessels for the next large-hearted passage. And I thought of the enormous and marvelous trip-up I was finishing. Wilde, I decided, was wrong. Its the passage itself the hell is paradise and that is why, having lastly arrived, we ever set sail once again.

Way to go

This trip was provided by VisitTheUSA. For further information on these ends, encounter visitcalifornia.co.uk, traveloregon.com, visitidaho.org and seattle-washingtonstate.co.uk. Car rental was provided by affordablecarhire.com

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