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Sept 15-20, 2015Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,
Written September 15+
On Tuesday, September 15th, we started the 26th day (or 8th part) of our Northwest Trip. We were headed to Seattle, my birthplace, via Steven's Pass, the northern route through the Cascade Mountains. As a kid, this was my favorite route between Spokane and Seattle, but dad generally preferred the faster Snoqualmie Pass road. Now that we were on a slow trip, we could go MY way.
We left Leavenworth and immediately rose into the mountains on a curving, two-lane highway. The Fall colors were mixed in with the ever green dominant Northwest trees, but the few pictures we got did not capture the interesting mix. At the top, we drove past Stevens Pass Ski Area and saw chairlifts hanging, waiting for the white stuff. Everyone hopes there will be plenty of snow this year and end the great western drought. We'll see.
Just before we reached Seattle proper, we stopped by our friend-in-Germany Marilyn's sister's house in Snohomish. Fran lives with her brood of chickens in a very Northwest setting, green and filled with plant life and animals. Marianne had promised Marilyn lots of pictures, so here they are, starting with the yard and chickens.
Inside, Fran showed off her decorations, with rooms themed by her visits with Marilyn in Africa and Mexico. She also showed us her jewelry, detailed bead work that reminded me of the handwork we had just seen in the Plains Indian Museum in Browning, Montana.
We were just in time to go out for a great lunch at Maltby Cafe, a highly-rated local spot specializing in comfort-food breakfasts and lunch. Marianne was tempted by the huge cinnamon rolls, but managed to walk on by. Thanks Fran, for a great visit!
From Snohomish, it was a half-hour drive down through north Seattle to our rented apartment on NW 87th. We rented the small, one-bedroom, apartment via VRBO, a vacation home rental agency we have used a few times. In this case, we were looking for a place that was both roomier and less expensive than the normal Seattle hotels. The place seems to be OK, near grocery stores and cleaners and Starbucks. It is out in a basic neighborhood, no tourist attractions within walking distance, so we need to see how transportation works out.
On Wednesday we came up with a plan of action. This would be a "John" day and Thursday we'd get an art day. Friday? Who knows? We also learned that the Trotter gathering would be at 3pm on Saturday.
Not much of a plan, but about all we are up to.
So, what was the "John Day"? It started with a trip to a factory, the largest-by-volume factory in the World: The Boeing assembly factory for their two-aisle products (747, 767, 777, 787). As a Seattle-born kid, Boeing has always been a part of the family, although modern Seattle now has other big deal companies (Amazon, Microsoft). When I was growing up, Seattle was very Boeing-dependent and everybody knew someone at "the factory". Nowadays, there are at least three airplane factories locally, but the largest is the Everett facility.
The factory tour is organized out of the museum called "Future of Flight" and consists of bus rides to two areas of the assembly building: the original 747-assembly building and the newest line, the 787-assembly bay. The first part of tour preparation was to hand off ALL electronics and packages, including cameras, mobile phones, purses, and bags. These guys were serious about security!
-- assemble 747
-- assemble 787
After the factory tour, I wandered into the small museum where there is a limited selection of Boeing plane parts and pieces on display. Here again, the emphasis seems to be on "big". The 747 tail, the GE engine, and the 787 fuselage section all dwarf museum-goers. I liked the example section of a "business" version of the 787. This display said such a plane would have about 2400 square feet of passenger space and could be customized with anything a house would have, from living rooms to elaborate bathrooms. Under $300-million. I can't imagine being a rock star without such a toy!
While we were leaving, a Thai Airlines 787 was being put through some paces. On the first pass, the plane gracefully approached the ground and then accelerated back into the sky, presumably simulating an aborted take off. The next time around, the approach was similar, but the landing was completed. If I was a 12-years-old, I think this would inspire me to be an airplane pilot.
By now, we were hungry and we decided to take Fran's suggestion of a meal at Ray's Boathouse, down on the Ballard ship canal from Puget Sound to Lake Union. The food was great, the view spectacular, and, with the help of blankets, we enjoyed the brisk, sunny meal.
The rest of our day included check-ins at Curves and Gold's Gym, just in case we get inspired to exercise away our meals. A good idea, but one that remains theoretical so far. Maybe Thursday. Or Friday.
We ended the day by watching the CNN Republican Presidential Candidate debates. This wasn't a tourist activity exactly, but we don't travel exactly like tourists. Mostly, we like to mix normal home activities with tourism and watching the debate was "normal home". What did we think? I remain discouraged that so many voters are in favor of people who know so little. Interesting personalities for sure, but I can not imagine any of them being president in today's complex world. Oh well, back to tourism.
On Thursday morning we started with "normal" activity: gym workouts. On a trip, particularly on a long trip, we try to keep routines and our latest routine back home is to exercise, Marianne at "Curves" and I go to a general purpose gym. On the road, it's hard to find exact replacements, however here in north Seattle, Marianne did find a Curves and I signed on for three days at a Gold's Gym. I'm not sure this exercise will replace the extra calories we are eating, but it should help. Besides, the trip becomes more comfortable, more normal.
Given the reputation of Seattle traffic, we experimented with the bus system for our downtown ride to the Seattle Art Museum. Not a bad experience, once we figured out how to pay (exact change - no tourist passes), and where to get off. I'm not sure I'd be willing to try a complex route, but for our simple on-at-85th, off-downtown path, it was easy. The cost was far less than downtown parking, so bus is a recommendation.
Our goal was the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) and it is also a recommendation. The collection is broad and eclectic, with displays from African and Northwest Indian costumes, through traditional and modern painting. No one section was too expansive, although the variety did approach overwhelming. Here are some pictures from less than half of the displays.
After saturating on art, we were hungry. We headed to that most-touristy of Seattle locals: Pike Place Market. I still have grad school memories of the area, when the market was just a market for residents and restaurants and there was little other than dive bars surrounding it. (Including the original Starbucks coffee bar.) Now, the market is more tourists than locals and the surrounding blocks are thoroughly gentrified with shops and high-rise apartment blocks.
On Friday we managed our bit of formal exercise and then headed to Seattle Center. It's easy to find because they stuck this big tower in here in 1962. Marianne visited that year, as did I as I recall. The Space Needle has not changed, but what's around it has.
Our primary goal was Chihuly Garden and Glass. We have seen the glass blower's work from time to time, but we were unprepared for the huge collection, permanently ensconced in the shadow of the Needle. Dale Chihuly is from Seattle and, after years teaching and working in the east, had returned to the Northwest and built this permanent display space. By some accounts, it has become the number one tourist attraction in Seattle. It did not disappoint.
We made our way through display after display, each one causing us to shake our heads in wonder. How did Chihuly and his team DO all this? Where did all the ideas come from? How were techniques developed for such out-sized works of blown glass? Who cleans it all? Wow!
This was another zillion-picture event for both of us, yet pictures give only a hint of the impact the rooms and garden gave. Here are pictures and explanations, but you MUST see them in person. It's worth a trip to Seattle.
The Greenhouse, a bridge between the display rooms and the garden.
The Garden. Filled with surprises
Finally, the gift shop, where we had to pass on a genuine Chihuly Workshop piece. These come out of a Tacoma Museum of Glass and are created by the Chihuly team and by visiting glass artists. (Next time, we need to go south to Seattle's industrial sister-city.) After our visit, we went to YouTube to see more. My favorite showed the making of some of the pieces we saw, but there are many other examples.
OK, that wasn't all we did. There was the Space Needle above us after all. We paid our ticket and joined the not-so-huge crowds and took the elevator 520 feet into the sky above Seattle. Needless to say, the views were wonderful, even on a cloudy day. I will limit myself and, again, pictures don't give the full effect. Visit!
The last stop of the day was Spud's Fish and Chips. This simple establishment has been a landmark in Seattle for decades - 50 years that I can attest to! It has not changed. The deep fried Alaska cod remains one of my favorite meals, maybe not exactly healthy, but exercise will fix everything.
Saturday was our last full day in Seattle and our goal today was a Trotter family gathering at cousin Maryetta's house. For us, these gatherings happen only ever couple of decades, so this is special. But first, we needed to do our on-the-road chores, including laundry and trips to the gyms. These things take time, but but our daily schedules are pretty light. We like it that way.
I also wanted to make one stop in Ballard, the anchor neighborhood for my mom's Norwegian relatives. Starting in the early 1900s, because it was close to Puget Sound, Ballard became the home of the fishermen immigrants, including my relatives. We moved away from Seattle and Ballard when I was young, so this part of my heritage has no personal representatives to visit. Instead, we stopped at Scandinavian Specialties, a store offering such delicacies as lefse (potato-flour pancakes, normally sweetened with cinnamon sugar) and lutefisk (brined and cured cod, unpalatable to anyone less than 50% Norwegian and considered a dreaded holiday duty by the rest of us.) We bought lefse and left lutefisk behind the closed storage room door.
Maryetta's gathering was as expected, fun and filled with stories and history. At peak, I had 18 or 19 cousins, and three made it on Saturday. Attrition, distance, and family history all contributed to keeping the gathering small, but we managed to tell a full range of family stories nonetheless. (Warning to cousins who could not make it: we talked anyway!) We should do this more often.
On Sunday we headed for the next direction of our trip: South, to more mountains, desert, and friends.
The next story.
John and Marianne
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