Cover Story Plant Life Northwest Living Taste Now & Then


WRITTEN BY PAULA BOCK
PHOTOGRAPHED BY ALAN BERNER
To a degree, you can find just about anyone along this line


EARLY EXPLORERS wandered the earth looking for specific things (spices, shortcuts to Asia) and wound up getting lost.

Obviously, they didn't use a GPS. A Global Positioning System unit, otherwise known as a gadget, allows millennial vagabonds to roam the world in a completely modern way.

Thanks to a triple satellite lock, you always know exactly where you are, even if you have no idea what you're looking for or what you'll find.

This creates room for all sorts of discovery.

We set out from Seattle armed with a small GPS, a large instruction manual and a torn map.

We wanted to witness whatever was weird, whimsical, wonderful, weepy — all those meaningful, minuscule moments that make life what it is but don't make the news.

The cool thing about Latitude 47 is that it encircles the Earth like a sweatband at about eyebrow level (if the globe were a head), tying Seattle and Spokane to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and every other spot on Earth the same distance from the equator and poles.

Think of latitude as a bagel that's been sliced horizontally into bagel chips. Each thin disc is called a minute; a stack of 60 bagel chips adds up to one degree. In latitude, one minute equals one mile, north to south. Each degree is a swath 60 miles thick.

Places are parallel. But not predictable.


View Latitude 47 Map [556K PDF]
Imagine you could hover in one spot over the 47th Parallel while the rotating Earth sweeps beneath you.

Start levitating at sunrise on the International Dateline, just south of the Aleutian Islands in the blueness of the Bering Sea.

You'll watch Pacific waves for awhile, then the Kuril Islands; then Russia's Sikhote-Alin Mountains (where a 70-ton meteorite fell in 1947); Manchuria; Mongolia; Kazakhstan; the Caspian Depression; the Ukraine; Moldova; Romania; Budapest, Hungary; Salzburg, Austria; Bern, Switzerland; the Loire Valley in France.

The Atlantic Ocean will drift below you. Next comes Newfoundland, New Brunswick, the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario, Lake Superior, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, a sliver of Idaho, and finally, Washington State, the last place on Earth before Latitude 47 slips back to the sea.

ON THE SHORE, BORN AGAIN
47 D 41' N
122 D 15' W

IN THE UKRAINE, ice floated on the lake sometimes, but that didn't matter. The faithful were baptized in winter, at night, when it was dark and deserted. Getting caught would have meant jail.

That's why Pastor Vladimir Monich left his homeland seven years ago. He found religious freedom along the shores of Lake Washington, where every summer for the past five years, he's baptized 10 to 20 followers at Seattle's Magnuson Park, full body immersion, while hundreds of friends look on.

The 350 members of his Sulamita Church, a Slavic Pentecostal Fellowship in Lynnwood, are mostly from the Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Estonia and Latvia. To the immigrants, the water here feels warm.

LENARD PEDALS
47 D 55' N
118 D 57' W

SOMETIMES PEOPLE who don't have much enjoy what they have the most.

So it is with Lenard Gray, all his worldly goods strapped to his Mongoose bike, 50 miles and 40 years behind him, a monster hill and a new life ahead.

For a day and a night and a day, he's been inching toward the VA hospital in Spokane, pedaling or pushing his bike through rolling wheatland, sometimes stopping along the shoulder to rest. He has 86 miles to go. It's hot. His ZZ Top beard is resplendent in the sun.

Clearly, Lenard is not your average touring cyclist. Instead of clipping battery-powered lights to his bike frame, he hangs a kerosene-fueled brass lantern from his handlebars. He wears neither Lycra nor helmet. And he is smoking.

"I was thinking about the way the clouds looked," Lenard says. "The clouds were moving fast and I was just enjoying the real nice view."

Earlier in the week, he'd been all set to hop on a bus to the next stage of his life. He'd signed up for a year-long program to get his epilepsy and other medical problems treated at the VA hospital in Spokane, where a caseworker had arranged affordable housing.

Lately, life had been tough, especially last winter when it was so cold, the electricity rates went up more than he could afford on his Army disability money. His power was cut off. That prompted him to call a community-action hotline in Okanogan, which eventually led to a conversation with one of Maria Cantwell's aides. Then the senator herself phoned.

"I have never talked to such an important person ever in my life," Lenard said. "That she would call me personally made me consider what she said more seriously."

Lenard decided this was his big break. He rode his bike more, drank less, lost 40 pounds, gained energy, sold his chainsaw and gave most everything else away. By the appointed departure day, he felt light. Ready to go.

But the once-a-week bus never came!

So Lenard started pedaling. One hundred-and-seventy-four miles on back roads from Brewster to Spokane. (Since he has epilepsy, he doesn't drive.)

"I'm not tired. I'm excited," Lenard says. "The closer and closer I get, the more happy and better I feel.

"I gotta get there," he pats his bike, "and this is the only way I have."

AT THE REUNION, DANCING WITH HORSES
47 D 00' W
120 D 31' W

BEFORE THE ELLENSBURG RODEO, before cowboys, before Washington was a state or America was a country, the tribes of the Kittitas Valley and Columbia River Plateau moved from place to place, gathering salmon, berries, roots, nuts, medicines, deer, elk, antelope, bear and spiritual strength from the land.

"As long as we can remember, there's a horse that's been here with the tribe," says Rex Buck, director of the Ellensburg Rodeo Yakama Tribal Encampment and member of the Wanapum tribe.

"Some of the horses aren't here anymore. The kind we had, they were smaller. Endurance horses. They had a lot of wind and they could pack their weight and travel through all kinds of conditions, through rocks and into mountains, and they could run on and on for a long time."

At the annual tribal reunion, families dance, play traditional games and pass on stories about the horse to their children. The horse helped ancestors move and survive, they tell the kids. The horse has a spirit.

"There's archival material, too, of course," Buck says, "but the elders don't like to depend on that because they believe what's in your heart is what's important."

The Encampment is as old as the Ellensburg Rodeo, almost 80 years, and, in fact, the rodeo grounds sit on land allotted to a Yakama tribal member.

The tribes lead the parade into town. Chiefs don eagle-feather war bonnets and carry eagle-feather staffs. Traditional riders wear buckskin regalia. Tribal cowboys on the pro circuit wear cowboy hats with an eagle feather stuck in the beaded headband. Horses are draped with breast plates, rump fringe, trappings of fur and beads, and blankets. Most are Pendleton blankets, but now and then, you'll spot old blue or red trade cloth with a yellow stripe — originals from before Lewis and Clark.

Cowboys and Indians? Buck laughs diplomatically. "What we share in common is the horse."

"Everybody has their differences," he says. "But since 1912 and further on down, you kind of put away the guns and you went to court."

At the rodeo, it's a matter of who can outride whom.

ON THE MEDIAN STRIP WITH FRED AND SARAH
47 D 41' N
117 D 17' W

THE TABLEAU was reminiscent of Seurat's painting, popularly known as "Sunday in the Park with George," except it was a sweltering Thursday evening with Fred and Sarah on a median strip in Millwood.

Their only fan had broken earlier in the day. "Too hot to eat in the house," Sarah said. "Let's have a picnic."

The feast emerged from a white plastic grocery sack : A whole roasted chicken. A pound of potato salad. Four rolls. On special at Albertson's for $4.99.

Fred and Sarah sipped pop, played with their puppy, wiggled toes in the grass, and looked like a young couple in love under the dappled shade of a tall pin oak.

Except, as Fred puts it, "This isn't what it's really like. Life isn't simple."

Even their puppy, make that ex-puppy, has a complicated backstory, especially when you consider the German Shepherd-Pit Bull is only 10 weeks old. But that's another chapter.

Eight months ago, Sarah Fackler and Fred Arias were neighbors, living in a roach-infested apartment complex they now affectionately refer to as "Felony Flats."

Originally, she'd moved into apartment No. 19 with her husband. Make that ex-husband. Almost ex-husband. (Ex-husband to be?) Anyway, after they decided to divorce, he moved out. Sarah went to live with her stepmother-in-law. (Actually, her ex-husband's father's girlfriend.) Then she moved back into No. 19 with a guy she'd started seeing. That boyfriend happened to be Fred's friend from work. (Make that ex-friend.)

Fred lived downstairs with his then girlfriend.

There was a party. Somebody told them they'd seen Fred's girlfriend and her boyfriend kiss.

Within a week, Fred's girlfriend moved out and Sarah moved in.

Sarah: We knew each other before, so we just started . . . talking.

Fred: We probably did something in revenge.

Sarah: It turned out to be something else.

Fred: It all worked out for the best.

Four months ago, they moved into a white clapboard house across from the median strip, a second-floor walkup shaded by a spreading maple, $320 a month.

Soon they hope to rent a house with enough room for their children, who are now farmed out to relatives. Sarah has a 2-year-old son with her almost ex-husband. Fred has six children between 2 and 11 from various relationships that soured. They figure they can afford $450 to $500 a month.

The previous week, Fred's small landscaping company had cleared $2,000 — on top of the barter gardening he does for the attorney who's working on Sarah's divorce.

The picnic was a splurge to celebrate a fat paycheck, a sweet evening, the weird way things came together.

Fred: That's our life story, and it ain't all that bad.

Sarah: I like it.

Fred: Yeah, me, too.

IN THE BEAUTY PARLOR WITH THE BOY
47 D 19' N
119 D 32' W

ON THE MAIN DRAG of this Norman Rockwellish town, 18-year-old Jeff Garrett sits under a hair dryer in Classy Cuts Styling Salon doing what teenage boys these days do.

His fuzzy legs protrude from a beauty cape. His hair sticks out in spikes slathered with purple goo. A lavender bonnet is tied under his chin with a bow.

He's reading the swimsuit issue of Us magazine. Specifically, a story about Britney Spears and her co-star, smooching.

"I'd like to meet her," Jeff says. "I'd say: Do you think you're too good for a guy like me? Based on her answer, I'd try to get her phone number. Actually, I'd try to get her phone number whether she denied me or not."

Spending $25 and an afternoon in a beauty parlor is part of Jeff's strategy to woo women who are, if not Britney, at least smart and attractive and have wonderful-looking eyes, preferably blue, and a great sense of humor.

The potion he hopes will transform him into a babe magnet is Purple Colorgraphics, by Matrix, a pigment designed to turn his light brown locks not just blond but "really blond." It's his first foray into highlighting.

Trisha Daley, Jeff's stylist, says he's part of a trend.

"When we go to the Beauty Show in Bellevue, they tell us our market right now revolves around more men getting chemical treatments. Teenage boys and adult boys. Nothing against barbers, but they have one cut and everybody is tired of looking the same way."

Even before he decided to go really blond, Jeff had great hair.

Girls at Ephrata High School liked to touch it, especially when they wanted to bug him.

"There's a time for having fingers run through your hair and a time not, and school is not the time," he says. "Well, am I right?"

Trisha tells Jeff to close his eyes. She sprays his newly blond tresses with pink streaks from an aerosol can labeled, "Hot Sexy Highlights."

Classy Cuts (three chairs, middle price range, slightly trendy) is one of eight salons and three barber shops in Ephrata, a municipality with 15 churches and 6,895 residents.

"It's way too small," Jeff says of his hometown. "They're not open to anything but old-fashioned ways."

Jeff plans to split town and move to Tempe, Ariz., because he loves that weather and those girls — especially the ones crazy for blonds.

THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS
47 D 12' N
123 D 6' W

Jack Hughes is nimble and he's quick
riding his unicycle like a candlestick
up and down main street in Shelton.
Forward and reverse,
Upside down
Pedaling with his hands,
Legs in lotus,
Spinning, bouncing, side-hopping,
all the while telling how he discovered the sport on TV when he was 10 and has never looked back, except when unicycling backward. Now 15, he's the national champ in the 150 meters uphill and 400 meters flat out.

One wheel. A dozen more at home. Different cranks and pedals.

This here is a 24-inch, double-wide rim, blue-and-white seat, green cube on the valve, grip tape on the fork, red tire inflated to 85 psi, special suspension for tricks like wheel walking and bouncing, watch this, on pretzeled legs . . .

Hop

twist

hop

Crash!

into a shiny window on main street.

Raining plate glass. Five paramedics. A cellphone call: Mom?

"Jack!"

It'd been a year since Jack's one-wheeled run-in with a truck; 11 months since he broke his ankle jumping off rocks (mountain unicycling).

Helmet in hand, blood dripping down his leg, Jack pedals his unicycle to Mom's car for a short ride to the emergency room. Four stitches in the ankle, eight in the upper leg.

"Well," Patty Hughes says of her youngest's chosen sport. "I don't think it's more dangerous than anything else he could be doing. And he loves it."

ON THE EDGE, INTO THE BEYOND
47 D 54' N
124 D 38' W

ON THE EDGE, where the last lick of land dissolves into sea, a red Coast Guard helicopter circles above Latitude 47.

All morning, the helicopter searches the swells around craggy James Island and the rocky Needles; the tricky currents through the jetty; the shifty sandbar where the Quillayute River empties into the Pacific; the stony shores of La Push.

At 7 a.m., a Boston Whaler had been found overturned on the rocks. Three young men and their grandfather, sport fishers, were missing. Their bodies would be recovered the following week, but this morning, the whole village hopes and prays. They search from skiffs and walk First and Rialto beaches. Maybe the men were wearing survival suits. Maybe they're floating, still alive.

Doesn't matter that the missing boaters aren't members of the Quileute Tribe. Doesn't matter that they're from eastern Washington rather than the coast. All that matters is they're missing.

Boating accidents pierce the heart of this tiny fishing community.

Since 1990, 19 lives have been lost between the Quillayute Needles and Cape Alava, off shore from La Push. The previous week, a fisherman drowned when his boat lost power and foundered along the jetty.

These two boating accidents, a week apart, came as the Coast Guard announced plans to close its Station Quillayute River, leaving only an auxiliary manned by volunteers.

The plan was controversial. Everyone in the village knows someone who makes their living from the sea.

"How many more would be lost without the Coast Guard here?" asks Sue Payne, whose husband and business partner is a commercial fisherman. This morning, he was out fishing for tuna. After that, there'd be Dungeness crab, then halibut, then black cod.

"People always ask: Why do you fish if it's the first-rated occupation for danger?" Payne says. "Fishing isn't what we do. Fishing is what we are."

A few weeks after the fatalities, the Coast Guard station decided, for the time being, to stay put.

"Each time you see a friend's boat leave the harbor you know that might be the last time you see them," Payne says. "You live life on the edge."

Paula Bock is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff writer. Alan Berner is a Seattle Times staff photographer.


Cover Story Plant Life Northwest Living Taste Now & Then

seattletimes.com home
Copyright © 2001 The Seattle Times Company