All travel educates. The traveler learns about other places in the world, people and cultures, about herself, and important life lessons. Well before the Twilight Saga, in the fall of 2000, a big lesson surfaced in Forks, Washington. It happened the last night out on a motorcycle trip.
Judy rode two-up with me, and our friends Sylvia and Trudy rode their own bikes on this adventuresome excursion all over Vancouver Island. We’d been staying in hostels along the way and were looking for one on the Olympic Peninsula.
In the handy hostel guide book, one was listed just south of Forks, WA, called the Rainforest Hostel. It seemed to be the answer to our prayers. We would get there to make sure we had a spot then ride back the five miles or so to the Hoh Rainforest. But, we were mistaken.
With many stops and a picnic in Olympia National Park, the ride took longer than we’d anticipated. It was almost dark when we pulled into the Rainforest Hostel, which turned out to be a private home. The owner, a smallish older man named Joe, greeted us at the door. His mangy dog sat back a little ways, and I thought the odor I smelled must be the dog.
Joe showed us the sleeping quarters, through the messy kitchen with overflowing countertops, to the attached garage, which had been set up for hostelers. There were four sets of bunk beds standing on the bare concrete slab. We looked around to see gigantic piles of laundry spilling off the unmade beds. Stammering an apology, he said he hadn’t had time to fold it or to get the beds ready. “We can do that,” I said, “but first we need to go get something to eat.” So we paid the man and took off to find dinner.
Each of us had doubts about the hostel, but none of us voiced our feelings. We were tired and hungry, there was a scarcity of towns along the coast, and we’d rarely seen any motels, none with vacancies. We really didn’t have an alternative.
Returning after a bite to eat, we set to work folding the laundry, joking that Joe must have saved it up all month, waiting for us. Now we had time to notice the uncleanliness of the entire place. Floors hadn’t been swept; dog hair was everywhere, and the carpets were matted with debris. None of us touched anything in the kitchen.
Judy volunteered to test-drive the shower. When she came back, we learned that she’d showered in her flip flops so as not to be contaminated by the filthy bathroom rugs and the grime-encrusted tub. The rest of us took her words to heart and only used the facilities for the bare minimum, touching no surfaces without a barrier.
We’d agreed that we would be up early the next morning and out of there. As we carried our bags out to our bikes, a sleepy Joe appeared. “Hey, you’re supposed to each do a chore before you leave,” he said, scratching his head and quoting the general rule for hostels.
I gave him my best junior high school teacher look and voice: “WE have done enough. Good bye.” And, we got on our bikes and rode away.
Over breakfast, we discussed the situation. It was creepy. Each of us had felt it but hadn’t wanted to be the one who was squeamish. So, we spent a miserable, sleepless night in Forks.
Lesson learned: In the future, if any of us feel uncomfortable, for any reason, we will speak up. Pinky swear.
~ xoA ~