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By Bob Francis (map looking due north of Port Townsendby Google Earth)

            I moved, he moved. I stopped, he stopped, and his motorcycle fell over. Move, move, stop, stop, splat!

            I jumped out of the van and helped lift the heavy bike back up. He gimped over to the side and off the street, sat down on the grass, more shocked than injured. I made sure he was OK, we traded insurance information and that was that. I went home and called my insurance agent.

            A few days later an insurance adjuster called and asked if he could record a statement. I said sure. After a while he asked what direction I was heading when the accident occurred. I wasn’t sure. That’s the way it is in this town. I mean, the whole town’s at the end of the road.

            We live on the tip of a peninsula hanging off another peninsula, perched on a coastal plain tucked between mountains and an inland sea, dwarfed by geography, isolated, disoriented by surroundings defiant of plumb bobs, survey lines and compass rose orientation. Everywhere you turn, a land of corners.

            So, how in the hell am I supposed to know what direction I was going? The only thing I could think of was that I was at the corner of Walker and Washington heading towards Mt Rainier. And that seems like it ought to be east.

            Although, Rainier, on a clear day … I think it’s really closer to south.  



  1. This reminds me of driving “up” the California coast from LA to Santa Barbara… you are not going north but actually west. This is a distortion of the mind more than of the compass rose.

  2. Great article which captures the oddity of the layout. I rarely get to drive straight to my destination, but almost always have to circle around to the left or right.

  3. Great article which captures the oddity of the layout. I rarely get to drive straight to something, but usually circle around to the left or right.

  4. I have a compass rose imprinted on my front porch. Only it’s not accurate because there’s 17 degrees of declination here because we’re so far north (maybe). Oh, yeah, sure, right – – what? And there’s ocean on 3 sides of this place. But isn’t the ocean to the west when you’re on the west coast? This IS confusing!

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