Cody Coughenour

Cody Coughenour

PENINSULA PROFILE: Couple build life, hostel for travelers

PORT ANGELES — If you’re a traveler coming into Port Angeles, wandering up Fifth Street in the late afternoon, a small boy might call out to you.

“International hostel!” he’ll yell, especially if you’re on a bicycle loaded with luggage.

That’s Anthony Piccolo, the 5-year-old son of Alethia Lane, the co-owner of ToadLily House. Anthony is the full-throated promoter of the hostel across the street from the Port Angeles City Fire Department, where budget travelers can find some of the most affordably priced lodging in town.

Not that you’d miss the place. It’s not big, but it’s painted chartreuse with eggplant-purple and russet accents; rhododendrons flank the front porch and a sparkly homemade sign says “OPEN.”

This is the house that Lane and her husband, Cody Coughenour, have opened after a winding road of their own. And the couple, married just 20 months, have poured their hearts and hopes into its rooms.

Coughenour, 33, grew up in Port Angeles, became an actor and dancer and studied environmental policy in Western Washington University’s Huxley program at Peninsula College. He also traveled the world — becoming well-acquainted with the hostelling experience — before returning to his home town. Back in Port Angeles, Coughenour performed in local theater productions and worked a series of jobs in restaurants and at PenPly, the now-closed plywood mill.

He was still searching, though, for the right livelihood, and the right life partner.

In 2008, Coughenour met a young woman at Bella Italia. Lane was working as a hostess while Coughenour labored in the kitchen.

They noticed each other, to say the least.

“I definitely was crushing on him,” Lane remembers.

Nothing happened, though, because “I’d heard he was trouble.” This guy with the bright red hair had a bit of a reputation as a, well, partygoer. Lane steered clear.

Both left Bella; Coughenour went to work at Maria’s, the now-closed restaurant on Lincoln Street.

Lane concentrated on mothering her toddler, Anthony, and later started a new job as a patient access representative at Olympic Medical Center.

About eight months went by, and it looked like Lane and Coughenour had gone their separate ways. But then they started running into each other at various places around town.

One thing led to another, Coughenour and Lane went out for dinner together, and then became an item.

As they spent more time getting to know each other, each had a feeling: this could be the real love thing.

Accordingly, Lane was honest about her needs and wants. She was just 21, but wasted no time before telling Coughenour that she was not inclined toward casual dating or hanging out. She had her young son to think about, and she wasn’t about to introduce him to any man unless that man was going to be in their lives, for sure, for a long time.

Hearing this, “he was kind of freaked out,” Lane recalls.

Seated beside his wife in the ToadLily House living room three years later, Coughenour smiles.

“I knew from the moment I saw her that she was something special,” he says after a moment. He also knew that it would be folly to evade a commitment, foolish to let Lane go.

Just about a year after that first dinner together, they married, on Sept. 11, 2010.

There were some quizzical looks, from people who questioned their choice of a wedding date.

But Lane and Coughenour wanted to take the date back, as it were, and make it a day to start anew. A day of joy and peace, as Lane puts it.

The outdoor nuptials were held at the Eden Valley home of the bridegroom’s father Brian Coughenour, where a variety of musicians provided the soundtrack: David Rivers and Joey Gish of Abby Mae & the Homeschool Boys, Cindy Lowder of the Soulshakers — oh, and Pato Banton, Brian’s friend and an internationally known reggae performer. Banton, who had already planned to come out to Eden Valley to give a concert — even before he heard about the wedding — performed the ceremony.

The bride and groom chose an east Indian theme for the celebration, so “it was a multicultural event that turned into a dance party,” said Neil Conklin, a friend of the family.

Conklin, who is also Bella Italia’s owner, escorted Lane up the aisle on her wedding day.

“I couldn’t have been happier,” he said, “to give her away to Cody.” Conklin has known Coughenour since he was a kid, and yes, he acknowledges, he went through a wild phase before finding Lane.

“I think they are good influences on each other,” Conklin says.

“She is such a bright light,” he adds of Lane, with whom he worked at Bella and at Angel Farm, when his restaurant served up salmon suppers at the Lavender Festival.

“She really saw Cody’s spirit” and looked past the reputation, Conklin says.

Not long after the wedding, Coughenour had the idea for establishing an international hostel in Port Angeles; he envisioned a place where sojourners could meet one another, and that would serve as a low-cost alternative to hotels and motels. He even invited a group of cyclists passing through Port Angeles to stay at his place on Fifth Street, and thought about turning that house into a hostel. But it wasn’t quite right.

The one next door, though, had potential. At the time it was a beige office building for a group of therapists; Brian Coughenour was the landlord.

Then, in early 2011, the therapists moved on. The timing was serendipitous: Brian, an attorney and Clallam County Court Commissioner, had by that time had his fill of the monthly rent collection routine.

Both Coughenours thought a hostel could work in the just-vacated house. It’s well-situated for the thrifty traveler, about two blocks from Safeway and within walking or cycling distance from downtown’s bus and ferry terminals.

So in March 2011 father and son got busy, remodeling and painting, cultivating the garden in back, building a deck beside it.

Lane, however, was a little nervous at first. She and her husband and son lived right door to the hostel-to-be, so she wondered: Who will these guests be? Will they be rowdy, up until all hours?

At the same time, she shared Coughenour’s vision for a place where people from everywhere could come and meet one another, and where they could experience Port Angeles, Olympic National Park and rest of the Peninsula.

Back when she first started seeing Coughenour, Lane had been impressed with how he treated people. This was one of the qualities, she adds, that won her over.

“He is respectful,” she says, “of people of all social backgrounds, of all ages.”

Lane herself credits her mother, Elizabeth Dawson of Port Angeles, for showing her how to extend a hand to a stranger. Dawson believed in treating people with kindness, whether they were well-dressed or wearing tatters.

So this young wife and husband were well-qualified, it turns out, for the jobs they created for themselves. From that March forward, they worked on the place they named ToadLily House, in part because Coughenour is a fan of the toad lily, a shade-loving perennial.

There’s another, playful reason, Lane adds with a smile: ToadLily sounds like “totally,” so maybe it’ll be easy to remember. Besides, it’s just fun.

The ToadLily House opened in late fall 2011, and had a few guests in November and December; then Coughenour and Lane raised their profile by joining the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce with its website, www.PortAngeles.org. People from all over — Japan, Cambodia, Canada, Australia — have found the hostel, with its $25-a-night rates, common kitchen and living room.

Lane, for her part, is enjoying the variety of people who appear on the ToadLily doorstep. They’re environmental scientists who want to hike in the national park, ragged bus passengers looking for a place to rest and regroup, and others in between.

Coughenour, meanwhile, wants to offer yet another form of refreshment, via that strange-looking structure in front of the ToadLily House.

It’s a wooden frame Coughenour is building in the shape of a juice cup, complete with a sipping straw. He and Lane want to open a juice stand in their front yard some day soon, though city building regulations have stalled construction for now.

Lane, for her part, has had her hands, and arms, full. Five months ago, just as the ToadLily was opening its doors, she and Coughenour welcomed their daughter Caya into the world. During a reporter’s visit last week, the baby cooed and watched the proceedings while cradled in her grandfather Brian’s arms.

May has been a festive month at the ToadLily. The chamber of commerce ambassadors came over for a ribbon cutting May 3, and now that it’s Memorial Day weekend, Lane and Coughenour are looking forward to the summer travel season and, they hope, a stream of guests at the ToadLily House. The place is all decked out, painted in tropical tones a lot like its namesake flower; inside, the decor is casual, with a big “Explore the Pacific Northwest wonderland” poster —­ which Lane found on eBay — in the living room.

The front room is also a showcase for local art and books. Legacy Laboratory: A Springboard to Writing Personal History by Lane’s grandmother Zeller Westabrook is on sale here, as are tin-can salmon sculptures by Natalie Brown and note cards emblazoned with paintings by Johnny Rickenbacher.

“We want to use local artists’ work as decoration till somebody buys it,” says Lane, adding that she and Coughenour also hope to have small concerts at the ToadLily.

The couple want the hostel to be not only a place to sleep but also a haven for artists, musicians and lovers of the outdoors — and already this is the clientele discovering it. Singer-songwriter Lola Parks of Victoria came, stayed and played her guitar in both the living room and at the Next Door gastropub downtown. And Parks is back this weekend, for another afternoon of music starting at 4 p.m. today at Next Door, 113 W. First St.

Lane and Coughenour have sought to make their hostel a comfortable place for single travelers, couples and families, so there are single beds in a couple of dormitory-style rooms, two semi-private rooms upstairs and the Raven’s Rest, a private room that could appeal to a honeymooning couple.

The upstairs rooms are decorated with simple touches — a light blue scarf bearing pictures of Paris adorns the ceiling of one, for example. That room is called Ladybug Heaven in honor of the deceased ladybugs Coughenour kept finding up there. The other is Freshwater Stay, a nod to Freshwater Bay, that Joyce kayaking spot.

Lane and Coughenour decorated the ToadLily largely with things found at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Port Angeles, on Craisgslist and at Goodwill; Lane is skilled at repurposing. She found a pamphlet about Olympic Peninsula marine life — birds, flowers, mollusks — at Swain’s General Store, enlarged it on a color photocopier and used it to decorate the ToadLily’s bathroom.

The house can hold 12 to 18 people depending on the mix of singles, couples, parents and children; single beds rent for $25 per night while the semiprivate rooms go for $50 and the private Raven’s Rest for $60.

Coughenour and Lane also offer the ToadLily’s common area for small group meetings and conferences, for $25 per hour. Lane added that they are willing to barter with guests, exchanging household chores for rent.

When the backyard organic garden gets growing this summer and fall, guests will also be invited to harvest broccoli, green beans, carrots, artichokes and raspberries, which Cody and Brian Coughenour cultivate.

“I feed myself out of this garden,” said Brian, whose law office is conveniently located next door to the ToadLily House.

Lane and Coughenour, meantime, are finding this new business suits them fine.

“It’s a lot more fun than it is work,” with the variety of people who come through, said Lane. “You can choose your involvement with the guests,” just as they can choose to socialize or not.

“It’s a great way to work at home,” said Lane as she picked Caya up for some cuddling.

“It’s really nice to have two people; even three,” she added, to grow this business: Lane and the two Coughenours share ideas for ToadLily’s future — as well as the child care.

It’s also clear that Coughenour, after his travels and various jobs, has found his right place.

“I am juiced for this,” he quipped.

Then, looking at Lane and baby Caya, he added: “My wife has given me so much.”

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