Man! This working for a living is tough! You really gotta plot and plan to get the max vacation time possible. Then, be inventive with your destinations and take advantage of every coincidence and opportunity. I’m smiling as I say that. I managed to get ten days off work in a row and we decided to spend ’em traveling the Pacific coast highway. After spending some time getting advice from a friend (thanks Denny!), Marc booked us airfare to and a rental car in Seattle, Washington. We have a friend there who we called ahead of time and he told us about a cool little local happening the day after we got there. Then, three days before we left, I saw a Facebook post from my cousin showing her family had just settled in Seattle. Wild right?
We got an early flight so we’d have a bit more time to explore Seattle. Waiting at the gate was a bit of fun. We were surrounded by a group of elderly Japanese tourists who must have had hearing problems as they were pretty loud as the talked amongst themselves. Then they pulled out their breakfast while we were eating ours. I must admit, their corn on the cob looked pretty tasty. Really wanted to try that.
The flight went quickly and in no time we were at the hotel. Hills. Hills everywhere and homeless people here and there camped right next to the highways. Never seen that before. After dropping off the luggage, we headed down the hill to the waterfront. We really needed to stretch our legs after the flight and were eager to see the city. The Seattle Great Wheel dominates the shoreline but isn’t the only attraction present. Antique shops, restaurants, an aquarium and multiple open docks line Alaskan Way. With a nice walk behind us, we hit the ferris wheel. After seeing everything at ground level, how cool to see it all from up high. When it opened in 2012, it was the tallest ferris wheel on the west coast at 175 feet. The lines were minimal for a Friday afternoon and we managed to get a glass enclosed car all to ourselves.
We climbed the hill back to our hotel to get ready for dinner and that’s when the fun really started. My cousin called and asked us to meet them in 10. Unfortunately, I was in the shower at the time and the car was in lock down at a pay parking lot. In the end, Kelly and the crew came down and met us at our hotel and we went out in search of gelato. Yes, we walked down that hill again but ended up at a restaurant for a drink and desert for the kids. I think Kelly and I figured out that the last time we met was when Gerald was one or two years old. Now he’s sixteen and wow! Tall and handsome, just like his dad. It was great to meet everyone and Kelly and I got to catch up on about 15-20 years of gossip about all the kin back home in North Carolina before we had to leave for dinner. Next time we come, we’ll be staying with them. Lol.
We ended our first day in Seattle with dinner at an amazing restaurant. Wild Ginger does awesome asian food and has been voted most popular restaurant in the pacific northwest for eleven years running! I would highly recommend it. They serve everything family style and small portions so you can try a bit more. The wild boar and everything else was so incredible that it made the Pad Thai that would have been great anywhere else, just seem commonplace. We ended up getting it boxed to go with the idea of giving it to the first homeless person we saw. It’s harder to tell whose homeless though at 10;30 at night and we ended up giving it to our afternoon hotel clerk. We caught him coming down the hill as we were struggling up.
Our second day, we started by going back down the hill to Pikes Place Market. There is a fish shop inside that specializes in putting on a bit of a show whenever anyone orders a fish and they’re kinda famous for it. Sadly, there were more people hanging out for the show than actually ordering anything, but I did see one fish fly. See those crabs up there? They also sold it in cups with an awesome seafood sauce. It was so good! The market is huge and has vendors for anything you can think of. I guess you can say we grazed our way through and bought some supplies for the parade/festival later too.
The Freemont Solstice Fair has been going down for forty years and thanks to our friend Chris, we got to experience a pretty neat event. I believe what hooked us was the fifteen hundred naked, body painted cyclists that precede the parade every year. These folks run the gamut of ages and abilities when it comes to body paint. Not everyone gets totally naked, but definitely a more relaxed vibe out there.
Our friend Chris managed to find us in the throng on people lining the parade route right before the floats began to arrive. We had a few minutes to chat before the bands, dancers and floats started past us. He still looks the same… maybe less stressed as he’d just finished applying for tenure. Didn’t take long for me to realize that this parade is wholly put on by the local population. There are no corporate sponsors and it was interesting to see protest floats among the celebrants.
We hung out with Chris for a while, watching the parade and catching up before he took us to Gasworks park to meet up with a friend of his. Gasworks park is amazing! The site was originally for converting coal to gas, but with the importation of natural gas in the 1950’s, the place was rendered obsolete and was shut down. Instead of just tearing everything down though, it was acquired by the city which eventually cleaned it up, painted parts of it and made it safe to be used as a park. The overflow from the park found its way here. There were food trucks, people having BBQ’s and picnic’s, slack line walkers, acrobats, jugglers, and bands performing everywhere you looked.
After an awesome day of festivities, food and mostly naked people, it was time to move on. We had hundreds of miles of pacific coast highway to cover and less and less time to make it all happen. We moved on that evening, headed south, talking about the day and all that we’d seen. In search of a hotel room on the way and new sights to see. As the sun was setting and we rounded a corner on the highway, we had one more moment that took our breath and all conversation away. Mt Rainer, that magnificent snow-capped mountain dominating the distance. We watched it until it got too dark to see and then stopped for the night. Ready for some sleep and a fresh start to the morning.
I wish that for all of you too. A good nights sleep and a fresh start every morning with the opportunity to have a great experience every day with people you love. I think there will be two more parts to our West coast trip so stay tuned peeps! It’s always interesting.