Guest post by Joshua McNichols, co-author of The Urban Farm Handbook.
Bellingham, like most college towns of a certain size, has lots of independent coffee shops. When I visit, I sometimes find myself overcome with the urge to order a latte and spend the whole morning with a good book. Just like I used to when I was a college student. If my children are absent, I quickly succumb.
In the right setting, forgotten languages quickly return. I remember an elaborate system of coffee shop ethics from my student days, when I used to fret over how much “rent” I should pay to sit my butt in one spot and read. After about 60 minutes of reading, a little alarm goes off inside and my conscience starts nagging: “Don’t you think you’d better buy an expensive pastry or at least make room for another paying customer?” If there are enough coffee shops nearby, this conscience can be silenced by doing something called the “Coffee Shop Hop.” That’s where you buy a coffee, read for an hour, and then move on to the next coffee shop.
Students are experts in the Coffee Shop Hop. As birds navigate by magnetic lines, so these students navigate their neighborhood by the caffeine-scented paths between coffee shops. And in Bellingham, those paths can be quite picturesque.
I like to start my coffee shop hop at Tony’s Coffee, the oldest artisan coffee roaster in Bellingham. The coffee shop itself has grown and shrunk again over the years as the company has shifted its focus to wholesale bean distribution. But the old shop is still worth a visit. It’s right in the heart of Fairhaven’s historic district. Another coffeeshop worth visiting in Fairhaven is the Firehouse Cafe, an old restored firehouse that doubles as a performance space.
When you get that funny feeling that you’ve been sitting there too long, pack up your books and hoof it down Harris Street to 10th Street. Take a right on 10th, and continue when the road becomes a trail. Eventually, the trail turns briefly into a road, then into a spectacular boardwalk.
At the end of that boardwalk is Boulevard Park. The Woods Coffee occupies some prime real estate here – you can just see it peeking out among the trees ahead.
The Woods is one of those dynamic regional chains that bring together the efficiency of a large company and still manage to keep the money local. The coffee’s not bad. The pastries are made with locally milled flour.
And the view of Bellingham Bay is fantastic. It would make a great place to wait out a storm.
Some visitors to Bellingham like to hike, or kayak, or run in the insane Ski-to-Sea race. They might visit the historical museum to see the stuffed owls, or gather in small groups to plan their high school reunions. I applaud these people. They make the world go around. Later this afternoon, when I pick the kids up from the grandparents, I will rejoin the ranks of such productive people. But for those of us unencumbered, if only for one day, there’s a waiting book, a string of good coffee shops, and a wide open morning with nothing on the schedule.