As the publisher of all three Whidbey Island newspapers, one of the challenging parts of the job is also one of the most enjoyable.
From end to end, Whidbey is approximately 35 miles long, but jumping into the car and traveling to each of the newspapers is one of my favorite tasks.
From the Whidbey News-Times in Oak Harbor to the Whidbey Examiner in Coupeville to the South Whidbey Record in Langley, I’m developing a greater appreciation every day for the differences between each area, and the unique character that each population embraces.
My reporting career began more than 25 years ago in Oak Harbor at the News-Times, so I have many fond memories of being totally immersed in nearly every aspect of North Whidbey over the next seven years.
When I started at the News-Times, I was just out of college and, for a few months, drove from my parents’ home in Anacortes, over Deception Pass Bridge and into Oak Harbor. Day or night, sunny or foggy, that commute was never less than awesome. To this day I love traveling over the bridge.
I had fun living and working in Oak Harbor. Whidbey Island Naval Air Station had its air shows, The city had, and still has, Race Week, its old-fashioned Fourth and strong sense of pride. Navy neighbors merge with old-timers with either Dutch or Irish names to form a unique and tight-knit population.
Over about seven years, I lived in homes on both sides of Penn Cove, the first place overlooking the mussel rafts off Madrona Way.
The Madrona Way cabin was within walking distance to Front Street and Toby’s Tavern. Among my favorite memories is walking to town on a snowy night.
The first home I owned overlooked Monroe Landing on the Oak Harbor side of the cove. We weren’t far from the drive-in theater and small airport. We could walk to the beach at Monroe Landing. I once got stuck in the knee-deep mud there with my then-infant son in my arms, losing a boot in my panicked, slow trek back to shore.
Penn Cove is a magical place from either side.
After I left the News-Times I co-founded the Whidbey Examiner. There, I developed a deeper understanding of the history that permeates everything from soil on the farms to the rustic floors and walls of each historic building. When someone makes Central Whidbey their home, they literally adopt the local history and vigorously protect it.
For most of my earliest years on Whidbey, Greenbank was as far as I traveled.
The Greenbank Farm seems perched on the edge of great things, drawing people in with its shops, restaurant and intermittent events, including the upcoming Loganberry Festival and Highland Games.
It is only since returning to the island that I’ve spent time becoming friends with South Whidbey. As a young reporter in Oak Harbor, The Record seemed 100 miles away. Following a severe storm one year, power went out at the Oak Harbor office, and I was dispatched to the Langley office. At the time, there was a backup generator powering the town.
The trip down the frozen highway was a nail-biter. It might as well been Siberia.
Now, with The Record in a transitional phase, I’ve spent a lot of time on South Whidbey. I look forward to my visits there, not only for work, but also on my own time. I like the dining and diversity of shops. I appreciate the unforced mix of artistry and history and, of course, the unmatched view of Saratoga Passage.
Langley is a town I have fun exploring each and every time I’m there.
Freeland is a surprisingly hip community. It is unincorporated, but it’s bustling has a great business core. I took my son to the fireworks celebration on the waterfront.
Freeland is quiet, yet busy — an appealing combination.
In addition to its small business hub, Bayview has an amazing farmers market — a very cool little pocket of activity every Saturday morning. It’s a destination unto itself.
I’m also planning to check out South Whidbey Tilth and the newer market in Clinton soon. I like visiting the Thursday market in Oak Harbor, which I’ve been a fan of since its earliest days, and the one in Coupeville.
Although I’ve lived on Whidbey Island a total of more than 14 years, I still have much to see and learn.
While there’s a comfort in all that is recognizable, I am finding excitement in those moments of discovery.
Can you tell how happy I am to be home?
Keven R. Graves is executive editor and publisher of the Whidbey News-Times, Coupeville Examiner and South Whidbey Record. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org