TO A SMOKER with a sizable habit, running out of cigarettes is much worse than running out of milk or pretty much anything, really.
When I first moved to a rural area of the West End, I smoked at least a pack a day.
The first time I ran out of cigarettes in the evening and drove to get more, I learned a lesson I’ve held on to ever since.
It was in December in 1997, the night was dark and I thought I’d just dash out for more smokes. Plus, it seemed like a small adventure.
But honestly, it hadn’t occurred to me that the closest store was 15 miles away and by the time I got there, they were closed.
That meant I was going all the way to Forks, another nine miles.
By the time I got home with my precious cigarettes, I had driven almost 50 miles and used too much gas for such a ludicrous habit, besides wasting about an hour of time.
The lesson I learned was to try really hard not to forget anything while I am already in town, or figure out how to live without it, because it’s not cost- or time-effective to make a return trip to town for one or two items.
In truth, as far as living on the West End goes, I have it pretty easy.
The long stretches of highway south of Forks are dotted with residences requiring even longer drives than I have.
Neah Bay and people living out the Hoko-Ozette Road have long drives for basic needs, too.
Ali Maxwell and her family moved from Forks to west of Sekiu a couple of years ago.
While Forks is no grand metropolis, her current home is even more rural.
She said, “Out here we basically have a co-op, a gas station and a library.”
Like a lot of West Enders, she makes the pilgrimage to Costco and Walmart around paydays “unless there are doctor appointments.”
The Maxwells use state Highway 112 to get east.
Having two teens, Maxwell finds she is motivated for the long drive of nearly 90 minutes to Port Angeles because she realizes how much her kids need “civilization.”
To her, civilization means “more people, more things to do and places to shop.”
“I always choose Port Angeles because it’s just 20 minutes more of driving and there is much more for all of us to do than going to Forks, unless we are specifically going to visit friends.”
Both Maxwell and I have grown very attuned to the gas gauges in our vehicles.
We both pay attention when we are leaving the last gas station to make sure there is enough fuel to make it back for more.
We both have also had those trips where we were biting our nails because we cut it almost too close.
Some on the West End smirk a little when friends from Port Angeles and Sequim lament “long” drives.
Leeann Nolan of Sequim was telling me of a recent adventure where she had to buy an item from a private party.
She said, “I made plans to go to Port Angeles, and I was like, ‘Oooh, I can’t really ask them to meet me halfway.’ ” Nolan told me the trip there took almost half an hour and she was trying to justify it by doing another errand.
“For me to go past Port Angeles, it’s got to be something really special like Lake Crescent, Salt Creek or good friends,” she said, and added with a chuckle, “But we know our friends out west will starve to death so they will eventually have to come here for groceries.”
Nolan said she has heard horror stories of friends being stuck in the flagger lines for construction around Lake Crescent.
Personally, I’m glad the construction is done for the season, but, like a lot of West End folks, I make the trek east anyway.
Zorina Barker has lived on the West End for most of her life. She is married to a Forks native who works in the timber industry. Both of her kids have been home-schooled in the wilds of the Sol Duc Valley. She can be reached at 360-461-7928 or [email protected]
West End Neighbor appears in the PDN every other Tuesday.
Her next column will be Dec. 11.