From the Tacoma News Tribune:
The Long Beach Peninsula bills itself as the longest beach in the world. That’s a big claim, but when I headed there last weekend, I had one question: Was it long enough for me?
The peninsula thrusts itself into the ocean like a swimmer testing the waters with an outstretched arm. It’s only two miles wide but 25 miles long. Packed into that strip are parks, wildlife, charming towns, oysters, berries, creative restaurants and more sand than you could possibly ever use.
To the west is the Pacific Ocean, to the south is the Columbia River and to the north and east is Willapa Bay – the U.S. Pacific coast’s second-largest and cleanest estuary.
The urban center of the peninsula is the city of Long Beach, a town not in short supply of T-shirt shops, amusement centers, ice cream parlors and tattooed tourists. I started my day at Marsh’s Free Museum. The name is a feint – this really is just a large gift shop full of shells, cedar boxes and beach kitsch. But it also is home to Jake the Alligator Man. The mummified half-man, half-alligator might be of dubious parentage, but he’s spawned an enthusiastic fan club.
Shortly after leaving Marsh’s, I heard the siren of a police car as it led a dozen boisterous women down Long Beach’s main drag. They were contestants in the “Bride of Jake” contest, part of an annual birthday celebration for the desiccated specimen. The party included bands, a car show and, on Friday night, a bachelor party. Jake’s stunt double had a place of honor on the entertainment stage – the real Jake is too fragile to leave his display case at Marsh’s.
Long Beach is mostly free of the historical murals that infect so many small towns. Instead it opts for giant kitchenware. Outside Marsh’s is a pair of red chopsticks as long as flag poles and across the street is a frying pan that could, and apparently once did, feed a small town. A sculpture of a clam is bigger than a nearby orca. This is a town that has its priorities straight. You can’t eat orcas.