Team Scenic takes Honda's One Tank Challenge

by Mary Vermillion

When Scenic WA asked me to write a piece about Western Washington Honda Dealers’ One Tank Trips Sweepstakes challenge, I heard just one word: "Challenge!" Honda’s promise is that you can make it on a tank of gas to four fabulous western Washington destinations featured in the contest.  We ultimately upped the ante; could we make it there and back to Scenic WA’s headquarters in Bellingham on one tank? Now, that’s a challenge! I say "we" because I brought Scenic WA’s publisher and my long-time friend Marcus Yearout along for the ride. That’s where the trouble started.

Now, that’s a challenge! And I brought Scenic WA’s publisher and my long-time friend Marcus Yearout along for the ride. That’s where the trouble started"

I won’t keep you in suspense. We easily made it to our destination on a half tank in our road-trip-worthy bright-blue 2018 HR-V (rated at 34 miles per gallon), on loan from the generous and courteous Western Washington Honda Dealers.

In fact, if we had stayed in our lane, we would have easily made it to Alderbrook Resort & Spa on the Hood Canal in Union and back to Bellingham with a couple miles to spare on one tank of gas. We chose Alderbrook because it was the farthest we could drive from Bellingham (roughly 190 miles and 3 hours, one way). The other sweepstakes destinations are equally compelling—but not as distant: peaceful Snug Harbor Resort tucked along Mitchell Bay on the west side of San Juan Island; the luxurious Willows Lodge in Woodinville, (read our Woodinville Wine Country story); and the charming Waterfront Inn, an historic home at the head of the harbor in Gig Harbor.

Friends for close to 30 years, Marcus and I are travelers who opt for winding country roads over interstates. We’re easily lured off course by a small-town museum, live music in a roadside pub, a tucked-away historical marker, freshly shucked oysters from a waterside shack, or a cold pint of craft beer or glass of Washington state wine. Without our more disciplined, beloved spouses in the passenger seats, we were doomed from the start.

One Tank Sweepstakes Destinations

A convenient two hours from Seattle, the Alderbrook Resort takes you worlds away. Surrounded by the Olympic Mountains, the Resort & Spa rests on the shores of the Hood Canal, a glacier-carved fjord home to eagles and osprey, salmon and seals... and of course, the canal's famous oysters!

On San Juan Island’s west side at peaceful Mitchell Bay, Snug Harbor Resort offers year-round waterfront accommodations. Once you arrive and explore the resort, you will discover the unique features and comforts that make each guest’s visit amazing and memorable.

Selected for Condé Nast Traveler’s Gold List, Willows Lodge is located on 5 landscaped acres bordering the Sammamish River in the heart of Western Washington’s wine country. Here in this comfortable, luxurious haven, you can rejuvenate body, mind and spirit.

Located on the water on Gig Harbor Bay, the Waterfront Inn is just steps from shops and restaurants and offers private, comfortable rooms in a beautifully restored historic home. Experience the incredible view from the privacy of your room or from the inn's waterfront deck.

Our first pit stop

Marcus knows my foodie tendencies very well so was not the least bit surprised when I suggested pulling over at the C-Square bakery and restaurant in downtown Mount Vernon.

The restaurant section was closed (no bacon and eggs for Marcus) but I was happy with a bagel and cream cheese while Marcus "settled" for a great blueberry muffin.

Barely 30 minutes out of Bellingham, we stopped for breakfast at Skagit Valley Co-op’s C-Square, a farm-to-table restaurant in Mount Vernon on a curve below I-5. We made good time from there on a warm and sometimes rainy Monday, taking full advantage of the car-pool lane and the car’s air conditioning (also contributing to our gas use) through Seattle.

A slight detour to the Museum of Flight

We were mugging for the camera in front of the Museum of Flight when we heard a sputter followed by the thundering roar of a WWII fighter jet.

We thought this would be a quick 1-2 minute photo/video op, so left the car running; but it took nearly 20-minutes for the P-51 Mustang to finally take off. More gas mileage lost.

But then, what’s that? We discover that the Collings Foundation’s Wings of Freedom tour of WWII aircraft is at the Museum of Flight. We took the exit and lingered; forgetting to turn off the engine for about 20-minutes as the thundering roar of a P-51 Mustang fired up, taxied down the runway and took flight. (Yes, more unnecessary gas consumption.)

Back on the road to Alderbrook Resort

A lifelong native of the area, our energetic and gracious host Kathryn Kamin filled us in on all things Alderbrook.

After our four hour drive, we appreciated a moment to relax on the banks of Hood Canal before heading home.

On our way out of town, we swung into the Union City Market to browse and grab some ice cream for the road.

We had a lunch date with Alderbrook’s Kathryn Kamin, so it was time to set the cruise control and aim for Union. Near the resort, the sun came out. As we rounded a curve on two-lane State Route 106, we pulled over to admire the Olympic Mountains across the blue sweep of the Hood Canal.

Over lunch at Alderbrook’s restaurant, we learned what’s new at the 105-year-old resort. Chef Ben Jones and his team focus on simple, refined menu items that showcase local seafood, including oysters and clams cultivated and harvested right off the resort’s beach and crab from farther along the Hood Canal. Tip: Order the Dungeness crab cakes.

Kathryn told us about the refresh of the inn’s 77 rooms and other upcoming upgrades. The resort staff are justifiably proud of the rare peace and bounty of their location at the hook of the canal, and they share it with guests through immersive experiences. For instance, on wooded trails you can hike, try geocaching, or forage with the chef and then watch as he cooks with the found edible greens, mushrooms and berries. Or, catch the shuttle to the Union City Market, a specialty grocery store and marina with local snacks, food and art. It's also the site of the resort’s canal cook-outs, the seasonally themed beachside feasts happen the third Thursday of the month (with a break in December and January).

Returning to Bellingham

After taking a detour around an accident in Union, our drive back to Bellingham through Seattle was relatively uneventful; the traffic in the downtown core was predictably sluggish but we made it through with only a few minor delays.

Having only used a half tank when we got to Alderbrook, the "Challenge" became trying to make it back to Bellingham on one tank. While falling 1 gallon short of that goal, we know that without our detours and extended stay at the Museum of Flight, we could have easily made this entire round-trip on one tank.

All too soon, it was time to return to Bellingham. Since we had used only half a tank on our drive south, we upped the ante. Could we make it home on one tank? An accident on the highway out of Union led to a pretty significant detour. The HR-V has an on-board navigation system so finding an alternate route was not a huge issue. And even if unintended detours or back-country adventures leave you miles from comfortable resorts, no problem. The HR-V’s ample stowage compartments and fully reclining front seats will make any layover (planned or unplanned) a happier experience.

Soon, we were back in Bellingham. In all, we drove 399 miles on approximately 14 gallons of gas—the full tank we left on and the one gallon we added due to our meandering. Verdict? The one tank trip to Alderbrook from Bellingham is no trouble at all, and better yet, a round-trip on one tank is absolutely feasible. While we may have fallen short of our own personal "ante-up" challenge, as far as we're concerned, we definitely won the day!

ENTER TO WIN a 3-year lease on a Honda HR-V or Civic PLUS Weekly Prizes and Weekend Trips!

Western Washington Honda Dealer’s One Tank Trips Sweepstakes continues through Sept. 3. Enter for a chance to win a three-year lease on a 2018 HR-V or Civic plus weekly prizes and weekend trips to Alderbrook Resort & Spa, Snug Harbor Resort, Willows Lodge or the Waterfront Inn. See the website for contest rules.