Saturday Night in Dayton, Chehalis, and Other Surprises

Take your break to a place where the dollar goes farther without leaving the state.

In Black Sheep, Chris Farley and David Spade drive eight hours from Olympia to Buckley-town. The distance is a little exaggerated physically, but mentally the place can feel like a different world from Seattle. For many Seattleites, it's a wide spot in the road on the way to Crystal Mountain, but trust me—spend some time there, you'll dig it. For one thing, the Buckley Log Show is a great time. It goes on only one weekend per year—June 28 and 29, this year—but the sign stays up year 'round. There's tree climbing, log rolling, axe throwing, and a bunch of other events that involve big axes, logs, and dudes in flannel shirts and short pants. There's some solid live music as well. For food, go to Wally's Drive In. Their burgers are like those at Dick's, only better. And finally, to finish the night off, I recommend the Firehouse Pub. It's a local favorite, and one of the only pubs I've ever been in where 21-year-olds mix freely with old-timers. Bean, a mammoth of a man with a pate like a cue ball, was the first owner. Always gracious, he was the type of person who could remember everything about you even if he had only met you a few times. Bean had a stroke and sold the place, but it's still a local favorite, and a great way to finish a Saturday night. JESSE FROEHLING, 360-829-1921 Traveling to Chehalis is like traveling to India. It's a spiritual journey of sorts, during which time you downsize and figure out that there are few things in life you actually need. And those few things, it turns out, can all be purchased at a gas station: beer, cigars, and tortilla chips. I spent nearly every weekend last summer in Chehalis visiting my boyfriend while he worked construction there. (It's along I-5, about halfway between Seattle and Portland.) With the single exception of being accosted by a tweaker in a black cape, my experience was surprisingly lovely and, more important, easy on the wallet. I stayed in a hotel with a pool (Chehalis Inn, $61 per night!) and had something very similar to room service (A Denny's across the street!). When my boyfriend finished work on Saturdays, we'd spend the evening watching a movie (something free like Terminator 2 on cable) and noshing on those gas-station delicacies. Occasionally we'd take a break from our spiritual journey and head across the street to Kit Carson's, a diner that serves up horrific portions and the best damn chicken-fried steak I've ever had. Around $200 bucks for two nights' poolside stay, potato chips, and a can of mace to avoid further tweaker encounters. ERIKA HOBART Were it not for our driver's desire to evade the post-WSU graduation traffic, and for a bout of carsickness from another member of our party, today I'd be as ignorant of the quaint, sleepy, charming eastern Washington town of Dayton as I was 100 days ago. Instead, my eyes have been opened to the 2,500-resident burg's potential as a destination for wine aficionados, as well as for simpletons whose idea of a perfect Saturday evening on vacation is going to bed early. For the more ambitious, you're in the heart of Washington's wine country. Walla Walla is 30 miles down Highway 12, Waitsburg only 10. Restore yourself at the Purple House Bed & Breakfast, where rooms start at $95 a night ( For Sunday morning brunch, be sure and call ahead. It's reservations only at downtown's Manila Bay Asian Cafe, but no reservations (or fat wallet) are needed across the street at the Country Cupboard. But if you want the egg-salad sandwich, be sure to get there before church lets out. Decide you need more than one Saturday night there? Historic downtown buildings are going in the $60,000s. And after seeing the homes in the low $100,000s, you'll cringe every time you pay the mortgage on your new place in White Center. CHRIS KORNELIS Enumclaw is one of the few towns in western Washington that probably gets more winter traffic than summer. In winter, it's the closest town to the mountain where you can buy actual groceries. That said, it's still a solid summer destination—the last real town on Highway 410 before you get to Yakima. If you're heading that way, it's worth stopping at the Yella Beak Saloon. The Beak has a relatively small dance floor, but it does have an enormous outdoor area with horseshoe pits and sometimes a mechanical bull. This latter amenity is extremely popular with the vaquero crew—when they ride, there's no irony. The machismo is thick elsewhere as well. One night, a guy in a camo jacket was picking his way through the bar in front of me. A musclebound high-and-tight fellow stopped him. "You in the Army?" High-and-Tight asked. "No," dude answered. "Better take that fuckin' thing off, man." It wouldn't be fair, however, to speak well of Enumclaw without bestowing the same courtesy on neighboring Greenwater. That town is small—so small, in fact, that you can meet most of the town during one night at the Naches Tavern, the local watering hole. There's also usually a nice stream of visitors. You'll see their modes of transportation parked out front. In the winter, they're SUVs with ski racks. In the summer, they're all Harley-Davidsons. Either way, the tavern's comfy seating, live music, and stiff drinks make for a good time. JESSE FROEHLING, 360-825-3591 Palouse—not to be confused with The Palouse, the wheat terrain that encompasses parts of Idaho, Oregon, and Washington—is a thriving metropolis (population 1,000) where folks hold regular ice cream socials, bluegrass festivals, and community yard sales. How Pleasantville is that? Wait. I'm not even finished. Palouse actually shuts down on Halloween to transform its fire station into a giant haunted house. And the cackling dude in the skeleton bodysuit at the entrance is actually the mayor. Sure, we can sniff and say that Nickels is too busy planning more S.L.U.T. routes to dress up like Skeletor, but the truth is, that's exactly the type of thing that makes Palouse (located outside Pullman, near the Idaho border) so charming. Take a walk down Main Street and discover a slew of treasures in its numerous antique shops. At Linda's Whimseys, I once unearthed a hideous but wonderful yellow lamp from the '60s and a rockin' pair of blue suede boots. Just down the street sits the Green Frog Cafe, a cute sandwich shop where the bread and even the condiments are made from scratch. (The pesto cream cheese is to die for.) There comes a time when even the most uptight Seattleite requires rest from Thai takeout and pretentious indie bands. The most effective detox regime is to visit a town where your options are limited to turkey or roast beef. ERIKA HOBART Skykomish (population 214) is tucked away in the Cascades alongside Highway 2, and is nothing more than a fistful of houses, a couple motels (about $30–$40 per night), a bar, and a restaurant. The BNSF railroad and the Skykomish River cut parallel lines through the town, a gorgeous little hole-in-the-woods that maintains its pioneer charm. You turn off Highway 2, cross the cement bridge, and pull up in front of the Whistling Post Tavern because, well, that's all there is to do. Inside, gray-haired patrons (one in sweatpants and an oxygen tank, mind you) are hunched over the bar. You are the youngest by at least three decades, which is probably why, before pouring your drinks, the bartender asks, "You folks headed over the Pass?" "Nope," you say, assuming the rural twang you left behind in Pennsylvania, but conveniently recall for these occasions. "Just out drivin'." For a 105-year-old watering hole, the Whistling Post does have a few signs of modernity, such as Manny's Pale Ale, a TV tuned to NASCAR, and an auto-play jukebox. There's a dusty row of antique empties above the bar, yellowed photos of former bartenders, and a kitschy sign near the window stating "Loggers Are An Endangered Species Too!" Much of the conversation is drowned out when the clanging BNSF cars whoosh by, literally a few feet from the bar's front door. You settle up your tab and take a walk, kicking stones along the tracks. Dogs bark from inside the houses. A man burns newspapers in his backyard. The town doesn't so much end as become a forest. BRIAN J. BARR Sumner likes to think it's a small town, but for those of us who once called the place home, it's a lot bigger. About 15 years ago, the town's entire economy was based on old ladies buying antiques on Main Street. There were no chain stores, but then McDonalds went in and everything went to shit. Now, all the regular artery-cloggers have set up shop, and the high-school football stadium is sponsored by Chevrolet. But there's still hope: Sumner lacks a Wal-Mart. As a kid, there was one form of summertime entertainment: You could launch yourself 30 feet from the train trestle across the street from McLendon's Hardware and float down the river to the library. Now there's a skate park and real parks and the trestle is blocked off. Sumner lost a relic when the Gast House Bakery, purveyor of the best maple bars I've ever had, merged with Casey's Caboose across the street. The latter institution was a tacky, smoky beer-and-burger joint until it burned down a few years ago. Now the two have merged—but the maple bars are still there. The rest of Sumner's main street is intact. There are the antique shops, but it's worth stopping at Sharky's, a dingy pub popular with the never-left-Sumner crowd. KISW's Ricker, possibly the most annoying DJ—and maybe human being—ever, used to broadcast live from Sharky's on Thursday nights, which made for quite the small-town event. Farther down Main Street, the Watering Hole—a five-minute walk from where I grew up—is where drinkers go to die. JESSE FROEHLING

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