Best Pie in America – Day 100

Best Pie in America

Day 100 – July 9, 2003 – Wednesday

Day 100. Hard to believe. We are in Vancouver, British Columbia. One of the most beautiful cities in the world. Sorry Vancouver isn’t part of the US.

Wednesdays always begin with our weekly radio show. DJ Dan McGrath calls at 7:11 every Wednesday. This week, we talked about Alaska, Seattle, and the best pies of late.

We drove from Bellingham, Washington to Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada), then back down to Lynwood, Washington.

Canada has done a beautiful job at the border — gorgeous flowers and landscaping, great signage, and a wonderful monument. The United States has no flowers and untrimmed weeds growing in the median and along the highway. The good old USA needs to clean up its act visually at all of our borders.

We met a man at Canadian Immigration who goes only by a number — #154669. He would not tell us his name. I tried to bribe him with beads. I couldn’t get anything but 154669.

Vancouver is beautiful. The downtown, waterfront, and Gastown areas are especially beautiful. We loved the Gastown Steam Clock.

Gastown is where Vancouver began. One September day in 1867, “Gassy Jack” Deighton arrived (he received his nickname because of his penchant for spinning tall tales and talking without end). He stepped ashore with a barrel of whiskey, telling the millworkers that if they’d build him a saloon, he’d serve them drinks. The saloon was up and running within a day…just across the property line of the mill. Gastown was born.

Gastown fell on hard times during the Depression years and deteriorated into a stereotypical skid row area. When talk of demolishing the area became more widespread in the 1960s, a group of dedicated citizens took it upon themselves to save Gastown’s distinctive architecture and character. The city rallied around them. Gastown was not just saved, it was reborn.

Gastown is now a refreshing mix of old and new, downhome and upscale, a place for tourists, Vancouver residents, and office workers alike. Various shops have the streets buzzing during the day. A host of restaurants and nightspots keeps the area humming into the wee hours.

The famous Gastown Steam Clock was built by Raymond Saunders, owner of The Gastown Steam Clock Company located just opposite the clock. He built it in 1977 based on an 1875 design. The world’s only steam clock is powered by steam from an underground system of pipes that supply steam to heat many downtown buildings. The clock is a favorite photo location for tourists and provides a focal point for a trip to Gastown. The clock sounds its whistles every quarter-hour. Steel balls are raised to the top of the clock under steam power then slowly fall to power it. No one could tell me how the Gastown Steam Clock Company could be viable if this was the world’s only steam clock. I wondered if this was like the Yellow Pages commercial on TV about Arnold’s Rug, the guy with only one rug who was afraid to advertise because he might sell his rug.

The sky was a gorgeous blue today. We walked and walked. We enjoyed an excellent meal along the water at The Mill. Maria and Lionel took excellent care of us there. We met a tour guide named Maria and a man who said he was an author. The architecture in Vancouver is exceptional.

Chinatown in Vancouver is North America’s second biggest Chinatown. San Francisco’s is the biggest. Mandarin and Cantonese are spoken in 30% of Vancouver homes, which makes Chinese the largest “minority” ethnic group.

Stanley Park is a 1,000 acre park bordering downtown Vancouver. It is the largest city-owned park in Canada and the third largest in North America. The park attracts an estimated eight million visitors every year. A 5.5 mile seawall path circles the park. Much of the park remains forested with an estimated half million trees that can be as tall as 250 feet and hundreds of years old. There are approximately 125 miles of trails and roads in the park. The Project for Public Spaces has ranked Stanley Park as the sixteenth best park in the world and sixth best in North America.

Stanley Park contains numerous natural and man-made attractions that lure visitors to the park. The forest gives the park a more natural character than most other urban parks. Recreational facilities are abundant. The seawall is a popular destination for walking, running, cycling, and inline skating. The miniature railroad is popular. The park also contains tennis courts, an 18-hole pitch and putt golf course, a seaside swimming pool, and the Brockton Oval for track sports, rugby, and cricket. For entertainment, there is the Aquarium, Canada’s first and largest, and the Malkin Bowl, home to the local Theatre Under the Stars.

Over the years, a large collection of monuments has accumulated in Stanley Park, consisting of statues, plaques, and various other memorials commemorating a large variety of things. Among these is the statue of Lord Stanley. After we drove all through Chinatown and Stanley Park, we headed back to Washington.

Several people (Nathan at the Comfort Inn in Bellingham and the four Canadians we met at the restaurant in Bellingham) recommended pie at Dutch Mother’s Restaurant in Lynden, Washington, so we went. We have a new leader in the clubhouse for Best Pie in America. The Raspberry Pie at Dutch Mother’s was absolutely out of this world. It was so much better than the two excellent Raspberry Pies that we’ve had previously on the trip that we felt it must move to the top spot! We also had Bumbleberry Pie and Caramel Apple Pie, and they were all great. But that Raspberry Pie was truly exceptional. Big, giant raspberries the size of big strawberries, wonderful flavor, and a great crust. (After 148 days, the Raspberry Pie at Dutch Mother’s Restaurant was indeed named “Best Pie in America.”) Theresa and Trisha served us at Dutch Mother’s.

Lynden, Washington is home to the state’s largest Dutch community, which proudly displays its heritage with Dutch-theme shops and windmills. We stopped at the big windmill in Lynden. We met a family there — some folks in town doing sightseeing.

From Lynden, we went in search of a sign at Whidby Island. We saw Mount Baker as we drove south.

Whidbey Island is one of nine islands located in Island County, Washington. Whidbey is about 30 miles north of Seattle, and lies between the Olympic Peninsula and the I-5 corridor of western Washington. The island forms the northern boundary of Puget Sound. It is ranked as the fifth longest and fifth largest island in the contiguous United States (Padre Island, Texas is the world’s longest barrier island). The Whidbey Island Naval Air Station is the biggest thing on the island.

We went to Whidbey Island because of Carol at Accentrics, a store that Boz frequents in Atlanta. When Carol heard about the trip and our desire to photograph flags and patriotic displays, she told Boz that she collected photos of American flags. Carol saw a fabulous American Flag on a billboard near a bridge on Whidbey Island, Washington. Carol said she would love to have a photo of that flag. When Boz told me the story, we decided we would go to Whidbey Island in search of Carol’s billboard. Carol gave Boz a good description of where the flag billboard would be, so we were well-prepared. When we left Lynden, we headed for Whidbey Island in great anticipation of surprising Carol with a photo of her prized flag billboard.

It was 85 miles from Lynden to Whidbey Island. As we neared the island, we sat up in our seats and kept our eyes peeled. We were told the billboard was near “the bridge.” What we didn’t bargain for was a lot of bridges, a whole lot of bridges. We drove all around the island, and we drove over a lot of bridges, and we never saw a billboard with a flag. We drove up and down the highways on Whidbey Island, and we never saw a billboard with a flag. The sun set, and it was gorgeous — a beautiful yellow and gold sunset, and I took a wonderful photo of the sunset. But we were determined to find that billboard with a flag. We ultimately drove up to the front gate of the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station where we were quickly moved off to the side in a parking area with several soldiers carrying M-16’s. They must have feared we were terrorists, but they relaxed when they understood that we were simply trying to find a patriotic billboard. Unfortunately, Ken, one of the soldiers, said he had never seen such a billboard. About that time, a Domino’s delivery car pulled up, and Brian delivered some pizzas to the guard shack. We grabbed Brian as he was heading back to his car, and he informed us that he thought the billboard had been taken down. How disappointing! Carol, we tried.

The day ended in Lynwood where Paul took good care of us at the hotel. He is certainly one of the most enthusiastic people we’ve met about our trip.

The lesson we learned today is that the best can be found anywhere and anytime. We found the Best Pie in America on Day 100 in a town we never planned to visit. We found our way to Dutch Mother’s by following a suggestion from desk clerk Nathan and Canadians (Mary Ann, Guy, Suzanne, and Glen) who we met at dinner last night.

The Daily Journal of Round America:

Each day, we collect our thoughts on a web page just like this. We drop in some of the photos from the day. Our goal with the Daily Journal is to write about the towns we visit, the sights we see, the people we meet, and the pie we eat. We write about where we are, where we’ve been, and where we are going, but we also make observations about what we’ve seen and done as well as about life in general.

You can follow our travels from the Daily Journal section of this website. Other pages of interest include the running report of “vital statistics” on the Trip Scorecard, our nominations for the Best & Worst of the trip, as well as a rating of the pie we eat. If you’d like to see information for a specific state or town, click here, and then click on the state of interest, and the full itinerary is shown.

Best Pie in America

More Information on the Sights Visited Today:
Vancouver British Columbia — Gastown — Gastown Steam Clock — Vancouver’s Chinatown — Stanley Park — Lynden Washington — Dutch Mother’s Restaurant — Whidbey Island