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Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Friday, August 22, 2008

washington Island: the real deal

Mann's here on Washington Island had contact lens cases and almost anything else one could want, including groceries galore, fishing lures, yogurt, toilets, rugs and more. It's an old time country store that has served this island since 1903

Just as on other islands I've visited, prices are a bit higher than the mainland because of the expense to get here. And everyone knows what's happening all over the world in terms of gas expense. Gas here costs $4.15 a gallon, about 40 cents more than my last fillup for my Toyota.

My contact lenses were no worse for their overnight floating in saline in a styrofoam cup, but this morning Carol, my hostess here at the Viking Motel, knocked on my door with a contact lens case.

That's the kind of place Washington Island is. Valerie, who has the Bread and Water Inn and kayak rental place told me this is a place in which the residents practice accountability and support as part of their island nature. That's why she's chosen to raise her five adopted children here. The school has just 78 students in grade K-12 and 15 teachers, so everyone gets plenty of one-on-one attention. School kids also get free ferry passes so their families can easily take them off island.

Valerie serves an oatmeal breakfast each school day to all the children.

This Washington Island is quite the place. Many of those who choose to live here year round are descendants of islanders. They or their parents had left for careers in the big city and returned occasionally for visits. At some point they realized just how good life was on Washington Island. So they moved back.

It's not always an easy place to live. In winter they ferry can sometimes take a couple hours to make the crossing. There is no hospital, and cell phone signals are hard to get and wi-fi is available in only in a few places for ready internet access.

But Washington Island is charming and its residents are the real deal. I'll tell you some of their stories in coming weeks.


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