THE PAT NEAL COLUMN: Why we have a season for tourists

AN ECONOMIC SUMMIT was held recently to discuss ways to stimulate the economy of the North Olympic Peninsula.

A May 12 Peninsula Daily News article reported, “In looking at the future, the [summit] group decided to borrow from the past.”

We had better hope not.

The rivalries between the various communities on the Peninsula go back to the days of the railroad, when every town dreamed of being the terminus of the transcontinental rails, from sea to shining sea.

The fact that we were a rugged, uninhabited peninsula surrounded by treacherous bodies of water did not deter our visionary pioneer forefathers.

Like Victor Smith of Port Angeles.

He stole the Customs House from Port Townsend at gunpoint and somehow convinced “Honest Abe” Lincoln to declare Port Angeles a Second National City.

This gave Port Angeles a sense of community pride.

That, with an illegal election and a gang of vigilantes, allowed Port Angeles to steal the county seat from Whiskey Flats before the now-extinct Port Crescent could beat them to it.

The coming of the Industrial Age allowed us to exploit our inexhaustible forests and fisheries.

Now, after a century of plunder, these resources are locked up, endangered or just plain gone.

All we got left are tourists.

The summit concluded that we need more year-round tourists.

We are going to build them a bicycle trail on the old railroad from Port Townsend to LaPush, which would confirm my theory of history as a process of decay.

Getting cyclists off our narrow, crowded roads and onto a trail is a good idea that’s been around since the 1970s.

Let me give an example of how much it will stimulate the economy.

Tourists are a hassle. That’s why we put a season on them.

But they are human beings. They deserve our honesty, compassion and respect.

If you can fake that, you have a future in the tourist industry.

When I saw a pair of soggy cyclists stranded down Oil City Road, I tried to rescue them. They were Canadians headed for Tierra del Fuego.

Just lucky I speak Canadian, eh.

I warned them about Oil City: It’s worse than Sodom and Gomorrah with a hangover.

The Canucks threw their bikes in my truck. We went to the Hoh Store for supplies.

They bought a gallon of water. We said goodbye, eh.

John Speerin’s blog at describes this epic journey.

Continuing south, Speerin almost bought a T-shirt in Florence, Ore., but it was too heavy to pedal.

Then I met some “425ers.” We ID tourists by area code in the industry: “425” means Bellevue.

The 425ers stopped at the store to get supplies for a fishing trip.

Several hundred dollars later, they came out of the store and went out to dinner, the liquor store and the motel.

The next morning they bought breakfast and a box lunch and stopped at another store for more beer, smokes, doughnuts, chew, bait, gas, ice, herring, personal products and everything they forgot to buy the day before.

One of the 425ers got a call from the war department. Since he was fishing instead of visiting her mother, she was in Victoria grudge shopping for some retail therapy and wondering why her plastic didn’t work.

Let’s review.

The cyclist bought a gallon of water. The fisherman spent money like a drunken sailor, before his wife could.

Someone really should do a study on the economic benefits of sport fishing, but I think they already did. It’s probably filed with the other studies.

Someone should study that — or have a summit. It’s the least we can do.


Pat Neal is an Olympic Peninsula fishing guide, humorist and author.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or e-mail at [email protected]

His column appears on Wednesdays.

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