A bargain day trip to Edison, Bow, La Conner and Mount Vernon. Find blueberries, a boardwalk and more on a budget.

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Editor’s note: Got college loans to pay? Are Seattle rents pinching your pocketbook? This recurring feature, $99 Road Trip, is for anyone on a budget. We’ve taken a day trip from Seattle to see just how much fun two people can have for less than a hundred bucks.

 

As we crossed the border into Skagit County, my friend and day-trip partner laughed and murmured, “We’re in the boondocks now!” Of course, only about an hour north of Seattle, on our way to Edison, we weren’t exactly in the boondocks. But we’d just seen a bald eagle and a hawk; for a couple of college students usually confined to the University District’s cement jungle, it was quite the contrast.

With a strict day’s budget of $99, including food, fun and gasoline, my friend and I explored the Skagit Valley. We spent most of the day around Bow and Edison but stopped in La Conner and Mount Vernon. In Edison, we ate what we decided are Washington state’s best tacos (certainly the best vegan tacos), bought a few one-of-a-kind knickknacks and ended our eight-hour expedition sipping IPAs in Mount Vernon.

First stop: Edison

10 a.m.: We slept in and left our house in Seattle for Edison. Seventy-four miles, a missed exit and 90 minutes later we were there.

There are only 133 residents of artsy Edison, but the “downtown,” which spans about two blocks, somehow manages to fit in two art galleries, a hipster vegan-friendly cafe and multiple high-end boutiques. One man we met, who lives and works in Edison, still drives to Capitol Hill in Seattle to get his haircut at Rudy’s Barbershop — kind of summing up the artful vibe, I thought.

For my friend, who is both an artist and a vegan, Edison was the highlight of the Skagit Valley. Even for me, not much of an artist and far from vegan, I found Edison to be extremely cool.

It’s the kind of place you want to take your hip friends from out of town when they are visiting Washington. The aged buildings are paired with modish signage and street art that pull the town out of the 1890s — when it was founded — into the 21st century.

My favorite touch was the mural that read “Anyone who isn’t confused really doesn’t understand the situation — Edward R. Murrow,” a tribute to the late journalist who graduated from Edison High School.

11:30 a.m.: The Lucky Dumpster, an artist’s collective that has more artisans contributing to the shop than the entire population of Edison, enticed us in with its unusual name. We learned from the owner, James Reisen, that all but a few of the members of his 10-year-old collective are from the Pacific Northwest. He says the only requirement he has for the things he sells in his shop is that they are handmade (14011 Mactaggart Ave, luckydumpster.blogspot.com).

I started off strong by making the biggest purchase of the day, $26 for a small ceramic owl for my mom to add to her massive owl collection (plus 8.1 percent sales tax = $28.11).

We perused the greeting-card section, had our eyes on an embroidered denim jacket, and agreed we would come back sometime soon in an attempt to avoid blowing through our $99 budget at the first stop.

Running total: $28.11.

12:30 p.m. Next, we popped into the neighboring art gallery, Smith & Vallee. The beautiful space in an old schoolhouse hosts a new exhibition the first Saturday of each month and is open daily 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (5742 Gilkey Ave., smithandvallee.com).

After browsing, we walked about 100 feet and stopped into another art gallery, new to town this year, called i.e.

Owners Margy Lavelle and David C. Kane opened i.e. to highlight local artistic talent. It’s open Friday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (5800 Cains Court, ieedison.com).

1 p.m. It was time for lunch. We knew where we were going thanks to a couple of recommendations and, well, because it’s one of three or so spots to eat in Edison.

At Mariposa Taqueria, at the edge of Edison’s main drag, we ate tacos on quaint picnic tables outside, the perfect setting to enjoy the 75-degree weather. My roommate’s vegan jackfruit taco was $9, as was my asada taco ($18, tax included).

Mariposa is a must-stop in the Skagit Valley. After we finished eating our tacos we sat for a few minutes in pure wonderment and agreed these are the best tacos we’ve had in Washington state. Their unique combination of ingredients — red chili pork grilled with pineapple or prime rib grilled and served with fresh plum — keep things interesting, and it doesn’t hurt that the tacos are as big as your head.

One of the larger-than-average tacos is ready to eat at an outside table at Mariposa Taqueria in Edison. (Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times)
One of the larger-than-average tacos is ready to eat at an outside table at Mariposa Taqueria in Edison. (Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times)

Mariposa is open Friday through Monday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., so plan accordingly. And don’t be too set on trying the jackfruit taco, they change the menu frequently — sometimes multiple times a day — we were told (14003 Gilmore Ave.).

After chowing down, we grabbed coffee next door at Tweets Cafe ($8.65 with tax, 5800 Cains Court, tweetscafe.com) and then stopped in at the famous Breadfarm bakery (5766 Cains Court, breadfarm.com).

An Edison staple since 2003, Breadfarm uses local and organic ingredients. Who could resist a handful of $1 cookies — chocolate gingerbread spice and ginger honey cardamom shortbread — to share on the road home? ($5)

Running total for our budget outing: $59.76.

Pit stop for blueberries

2 p.m.: Full but caffeinated, we hopped back into the car and drove a few minutes east for a quick pit-stop at Bow Hill Blueberries. We passed the charming storefront and farm on the way into Edison, but figured we would get our blueberry fix after lunch.

We chatted with Susan Soltes, whose family has owned the blueberry farm for five years. Her husband, Harley, is a former Seattle Times photographer.

Susan and Harley Soltes, owners of Bow Hill Blueberries, with products they make in the offseason, including pickled blueberries, blueberry jam and juice. The new crop should be ready to pick by mid-July.  (Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times)
Susan and Harley Soltes, owners of Bow Hill Blueberries, with products they make in the offseason, including pickled blueberries, blueberry jam and juice. The new crop should be ready to pick by mid-July. (Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times)

She gave us a sampling of their pickled blueberries, which were unique and worth trying, but I settled on a small batch of blueberry ice cream ($4).

It wasn’t yet blueberry-picking season when I visited, but the Bow Hill Blueberries store was still open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. If you want to pick your own blueberries, the time to go is July or August (15628 Bow Hill Road, bowhillblueberries.com).

Running total: $63.76.

Vintage finds, new boardwalk in La Conner

2:30 p.m.: On to La Conner, about 25 minutes south of Bow and Edison. We parked and explored on foot.

We had intended to kayak through the Swinomish Channel, but the winds, coupled with our amateur kayaking abilities, had us walking along La Conner’s new boardwalk instead. There are spots to dine outdoors along the boardwalk, or like us, you can take a leisurely stroll and soak in the views of the channel and La Conner’s Rainbow Bridge.

3:30 p.m.: On our way back down the boardwalk, we noticed a shop called Handmade La Conner. We decided their beautiful soaps (my favorite: oramoss and whiskey handmade beer soap) would break our budget, so we added Handmade La Conner to the list of spots to revisit (106 First St., handmadelaconner.com).

A sculpture of an eagle “lands” on a water feature edging the Swinomish Channel in La Conner. A new waterfront boardwalk gives up-close views of the channel and its Rainbow Bridge. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)
A sculpture of an eagle “lands” on a water feature edging the Swinomish Channel in La Conner. A new waterfront boardwalk gives up-close views of the channel and its Rainbow Bridge. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)

We turned the corner and saw Nasty Jack’s Antiques. As someone who was forced into hundreds of antique shops as a kid, I’ve developed a certain fondness for a good antique shop. This one, I have to say, was great.

The 12,000-square-foot space is one of the largest antique shops in the region and boasts a massive collection of vintage magazines, advertisements, tin signs, toys and other oddities.

The store was founded in 1972 by “Nasty” Jack Wilkins and his partner “Diamond” Jim Reynolds. Nasty Jack continued to run the store until his death in 1994; it’s now run by his daughter and her husband.

Their collection of LIFE magazines is enormous. I spent an hour wading through the assortment, which begins in 1937 and ends in 1972. According to their website, they have one of the largest inventories of collectible LIFE and Saturday Evening Post magazines.

Of course I couldn’t resist buying one vintage LIFE, so I chose an Aug. 13, 1971, edition titled “The ‘Woman Problem’ — Then and Now,” which features a modern woman holding an “Eve was framed” sign standing next to a naked depiction of Eve, apple in hand, on the cover ($13.02 with tax).

I got a few laughs while looking through 1950s copies of Woman’s Day magazine. One in particular featured the headline: “6 great soups men go for,” a nice throwback to the 1950s mindset.

Tip: Save $15 of your budget to spend at Nasty Jack’s, you’ll be happy you did (103 Morris St., nastyjacksantiques.com).

Running total: $76.78.

5 p.m.: Tired, but determined to try one Skagit Valley brewery before heading back to Seattle, we backtracked a few miles to Mount Vernon because we had heard great things about a brewery that opened there recently.

Owners Dan Cameron, Mike Armstrong and Todd Owsley opened Farmstrong Brewing last September (110 Stewart Road, farmstrongbrewing.com). They partner with local farmers and emphasize the close relationship between beer and agriculture.

Farmstrong’s taproom is all-ages and canine friendly. You can set up camp with your own food in their fenced-off courtyard or buy from one of the two food trucks stationed out back.

We drained our day’s budget with two Porch Lite IPAs: $10, tax included.

Tip: If you don’t want to drive the extra few minutes to Mount Vernon, end your day at La Conner Brewing Co. (117 First St., laconnerbrewery.com).

The last tally: Gasoline for the day came to $12.48.

Grand total: $99.26.

And there you have it. Great food, drinks and gifts — all for less than 100 bucks.

If you go

To get to Edison, follow Interstate 5 north through Skagit County to Exit 236. Go west on Bow Hill Road about 3.75 miles to the stop sign at Chuckanut Drive (Highway 11). Continue straight 1 mile to Edison.

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Tips, discretionary by nature, are not included in our accounting. Remember some extra dollars for the tip jar.

Learn more

• Skagit Valley: visitskagitvalley.com

• La Conner : lovelaconner.com