Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sleepless in Seattle

Not a clever title, I know, but I thought it was appropriate Saturday night, about one in the morning when I left downtown Seattle to return to my dingy hotel room in Sea-Tac. I went downtown with the idea of taking some night pictures of deserted streets, but (A) my camera battery died and the spare was back in the hotel room; and (B) the streets weren't deserted. Turns out downtown is a happening place in these parts. There are clubs and crowds and more street-people than you can shake a stick at, much as you'd like to. I saw the Gum Wall and the ferris wheel and the Space Needle (from a distance) and had a yakisoba hot dog from a food truck; got into a conversation with the guy behind me in line and now, of course, we're like Best Friends Forever. He and I walked around for a couple of hours and talked until I couldn't stay awake any longer and went back to Sea-Tac.

My plan for Sunday was to go first up to Snoqualmie Falls, then come back to the hotel and do my laundry. Big day. I got as far as the parking lot before deciding it was too cold and wet to go up in the mountains for lousy pictures of a beautiful waterfall, so I surfed the web for a while. Then my new friend Mick (a southern boy, from Mississippi, who used to live in New Orleans, so we had lots to talk about) called and invited me back into the city. Met him on the street corner where we'd said goodnight and he took me up to Pike Market for a newspaper and Ranier cherries and a cabbage (he also likes to cook, so that's more we have to talk about) and, of course, coffee (drinkable; what a pleasant surprise, though he had to make fun of me for just ordering regular coffee), and then we went up to his apartment, on the 24th floor of a building right by the art museum (gorgeous view; wish I'd thought to take the camera with me then, though it hadn't occurred to me until just now that I could have taken pictures of it. If you lean waaaaay out and look left you can see the Space Needle), and we sat out on his balcony and ate cherries and talked for a while. Then I went back to Sea-Tac and did my laundry. Big day. Big day.

Yesterday I drove my Western Washington loop, going through all the remaining counties in that part of the state. Along the way I saw the state capitol complex at Olympia, where I was surprised to see magnolia trees. Not big ones, but successful ones, with big blossoms just starting to come out. The capitol building itself is mostly unadorned. The dome seems too large for the building, but not too out of proportion. The office buildings surrounding it are designed in such a way that they all seem very small, though they're not, really. Inside, the building is remarkably plain compared to every other statehouse I've ever been in: understated. The best thing about it is that I was made to feel welcome there. Nobody made me walk through a metal detector, nobody insisted on seeing identification or logging me into some kind of mock-security register of Potential Terrorists Come To Bring Down Western Civilisation. Not at all like the statehouse in Kentucky, for example, where I refused to go in because of all the asinine rigamarole they demanded. The only questions anyone asked me were (1) what's my zip code (for the tourism statistics) and (2) "Can I help you find something?"
Star hydrangea

My next stop was in North Aberdeen, out near the coast, at the Kurt Cobain Landing, a half-assed memorial to the late grunge rocker thrown together at a spot where he used to hang out under a bridge when he was a kid. I'm not a big Nirvana fan, but there aren't many things out on the fringe of America to use as an excuse to visit those counties. The Landing has a sculpture of an electric guitar and some quotes from The Great One on signs and walls; the best part was the easel, empty, labelled "Kurt's Air Guitar."

Willapa NWR
Followed US 101 south from there to Cape Disappointment State Park, near the mouth of the Columbia River. I have a couple of theories about why it's called that. The park has some nice views of the beach (called Long Beach, "the longest driveable beach in the world" at 27 miles), and two decrepit old disfunctional lighthouses, and, of course, views of the mouth of the great river.

decrepit lighthouse A

decrepit lighthouse B
not Long Beach
After that, it was a scenic drive up the Columbia to the freeway that brought me back to Seattle. I did get one clear glimpse of Mt St Helens (which, on my previous visit to this area, had been entirely shrouded in fog), but when I got closer it was hidden behind lower intervening hills; and later, as I approached Seattle, Mt Ranier stood out clear, though getting a picture of it was a real challenge, since the only clear shots were from the freeway. I finally gave up and settled for a picture with a bunch of phone lines in the way.

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