On the Road with New Hampshire, sometimes it’s the little things that remind us of where we are — like license plates: Part II

By Peggy Butler

Special to the Journal

Yesterday, while motoring along Route 20 towards Anacortes, a strange license plate on the car ahead of me caught my attention.

Without my glasses, I had to speed up a little closer than I should have — but —YES! It was the long overdue New Hampshire plate. Finally!

Ever since the last week of July, through September, I made a list of the different state license plates on the island, but I never saw New Hampshire and six other states. I wondered “Where are they — where is New Hampshire?”

Answer: about 56 driving hours away.

After traveling two full days and nights, plus eight more hours, they must have been coming here .  .  .  though I confess I didn’t actually see them on the island. But I ask, who would come so far just to miss our island?  Especially when their license plate slogan says, “LIVE FREE OR DIE.”

Would freedom loving people from New Hampshire choose to miss the spectacular ferry ride through our islands? Surely they would be among those braced abaft (“toward or at the stern of the ship” — that means the back of the boat) ogling awesome Mount Baker while sailing through narrow channels, like Peavine Pass (as announced by the captain on one sailing). They would breathe deeply the wind in their faces.

I am also glad to report that Mississippi arrived late, but did not miss.

The distance from central Mississippi to Anacortes is about 1,900 miles. Interesting slogan for Mississippi: “Feels like coming home”, which is exactly how I feel when I see the lights of Friday Harbor from the bow (front, I think) of the Elwa, after a day spent where the traffic is fast and lines are long.

First small points of light at the U.W. Labs appear starboard (great marine term), and then there is Friday Harbor around the corner, lit like a starry comforter on a darkened hillside. A sigh of relief and sense of peace as you offload, coming home and almost there.

Mississippi and I have something in common.

If you count New Hampshire, 44 out of the 50 states showed up in Friday Harbor in a nine-week period. Which six states missed out — or maybe it is fairer to ask, “Who did I miss seeing?”

Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

Who came?

Alaska, Arizona, California (“The Golden State” and they’re still coming — all the time), Delaware, Colorado (slogan “Enter a Higher State”), Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho (“Famous Potatoes”), Illinois, Indiana, Iowa (“The Corn State”), Kansas (“The Wheat State”), Kentucky (The Bluegrass State”), Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska (“The Beef State”), Nevada (“The Silver State”—can’t eat that.), New Hampshire (okay maybe that’s not official), New Jersey ("The Garden State”), New Mexico,  New York, Mississippi, North Carolina (“First in Flight”—does Boeing know? Oh, and . . . it’s not on the license plate but they have another slogan there: “Tobacco is a Vegetable”—thought you’d want to know); Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon (still coming), South Carolina , South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

Washington makes 44.

Where did I see all of those interesting license plates from far away? Mostly they were parked on Spring Street, at Lime Kiln Park, British or American Camp, and Roche (please, not roach) Harbor.

License plates are one way to gauge how far people travel to visit our island, but people obviously fly in, or sail in, or rent cars at SeaTac or Vancouver International Airport.

Someday, if I ever become a linguist, I’ll list the different languages I’ve heard spoken here as well. That might be awhile.


— Peggy Butler and family, island residents, enjoy the many sights of San Juan Island, migratory and native. She would like to thank the Baumanns, at the county park, for reporting different license plates this past month.

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