Roadtrip: Seattle, WA

I should like Seattle.  It’s a quirky but urbane city with great food, lots of weird historic architecture, and many walkable areas.  But for some reason, this city gave me probably the biggest hassle of the whole trip so far, starting with the difficulty in finding a place to stay either via Airbnb or via traditional hotel.

Parking is free on Sunday, which was awesome; I was able to park my car really close to wherever I was going, and made up a little for the expensive hotel room.  However, everything else was also pricy, and even big-deal sites like the Seattle Center were oddly hard to find, with little signage and, more importantly, very unassuming road frontage so you’d be nearly on top of it before you realized it wasn’t just another apartment building.  I initially planned to see an outdoor Chihuly exhibit at the Center for entropyenator, but the admission fee was over $20 (I was also frustrated as it was hard to locate in the Seattle Center–I walked through half the grounds and most of a breast cancer race–got some free beads that stained my wrist from a cute kid–before I found it).  So instead I peeked at it from the outside.

Chihuly Garden and Glass from outside, Seattle Center

Chihuly Garden and Glass from outside, Seattle Center

Then via monorail, I went to Pike Place Market (saw the fish-throwing, was unimpressed, couldn’t help thinking that it must mush up the thrown fish so badly you can’t eat it), which had some really unique items like a deliciously icy apple cider slushie, but which was surprisingly low on actual produce?  It mostly seemed to be an artist’s and gourmet prepared foods area.

Next door was the Seattle Aquarium, which takes advantage of its location atop one of the piers by having some of its tanks sit right in the Puget Sound.  They also have displays more customized to their particular region than any other aquarium I’ve been to, except for the one in Honolulu, with even a mini salmon hatchery.  The tidal pool area had sea anemones, which were kind of flypaper-sticky if you ran a finger over their “fingers,” and they had a whole rehab section for native birds.  And yes, entropyenator, sea otters.  Sea otters which dove for clams at the bottom of the tank, and which were actually quite large, maybe close to entropyenator’s height if stretched out lengthwise.  And fuzzy.  So very fuzzy.

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Last, I went on the Seattle Underground tour, which explores some of the oldest areas of the city, now buried underground due to a historic fire that destroyed the city, and to the need to restructure the sewer system (if you believe the tour, most of early Seattle’s development was dictated by sewage).  The guide was energetic and funny, willing to vault a bar (like you sit at to drink) for applause, and full of ridiculous tidbits of history.  It was only a couple dollars cheaper than the Chihuly exhibit, but I’d bet it was a much better deal.

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Roadtrip: Washington

Washington’s a pretty weird state, geographically speaking.  You go from lush woods near Spokane straight into very flat, very burnt scrubland, with stumpy little mini-buttes and mesas butting up, then into a sort of rolling desert (if you ignore the obviously heavily irrigated farmland), which eventually becomes a series of high, roasted ridges bookending valleys that look like they’re made of ironed cardboard.  It got nearly to 100 degrees near Yakima, which wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Southwest, for all that it’s nicknamed itself the “Palm Springs” of Washington.  And then you go up into the mountains and you’re back into dense pine woods.

Rock outcrop along Columbia River

Rock outcrop along Columbia River

Spokane is more or less right over the border from Coeur D’Alene, with a distinctive waterfall that’s only been somewhat smoothed out by a hydroelectric plant.  As the story goes, the waterfall is the result of a temper tantrum by Coyote over being denied a wife by the local Native American tribes.  The city smartly made it the centerpiece of the most extensive riverfront green area I’ve seen, with everything from ornamental gardens to an antique (working) carousel to zip cars you can ride out over the falls via overhead wire.  I really wanted to try the zip cars, but they weren’t going to be open for another three hours.  Not sure why they were running the empty cars out over the water anyway.

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Yakima is a long (and ultimately, not really worth it detour, since the local attractions are largely vineyards–I should have saved it for when entropyenator or my mother come along) tangent off I-90 on I-82, but just before the two interstates split off, there’s a really beautiful scenic overlook by the Columbia River.  Right across the river is the Gingko Petrified Forest State Park, which is worth a trip for the petroglyphs they’ve relocated to right under the visitor center.  The petrified wood trail is neat, too, but it’s encircling a hill and on a scorching hot day, I didn’t feel up to walking more than a third of it.  Also, they have the wood in locked cages, I guess so no one steals a piece; it’s a bit more fun to touch the samples in the visitor center.

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Ended the day scrambling around the outskirts of Seattle looking for a hotel room.  Airbnb didn’t pan out–two places tried, neither even responded to decline–and it’s only thanks to an extremely helpful front desk person at the Holiday Inn Express (who was willing to phone up competitors) that I got a room at a different chain for under $150, not including tax.  Graduation season and everything was booked up.  I was tired, so I sighed and paid.