I got up at 7am and headed into downtown Seattle. I was surprised to find myself in love almost instantly. I walked around the Pike Place Market just as the stands were starting to open. The fresh produce and flowers were incredible. I saw so much that we’d have to hunt down in specialty markets in Minneapolis.
I walked down to the universe’s very first Starbucks and got myself an iced coffee. They also hooked me up with the extra-special Starbucks card that can only be purchased at that very store. I went across the street and sat on a wall overlooking Puget Sound and wrote postcards. Ryan called to say he’d be there in half an hour. I wandered some more and shopped for cheesy souvenirs, and whereas Montana was completely lacking in tacky gifts, Seattle was the motherlode.
Ryan picked me up and we drove over to his neighborhood for breakfast. Afterwards, we stopped to see his apartment, and I reminded him that I had a picture of his bed on my website. We drove to the bluehouse (which is grey) to get a tour of their current projects for Burning Man. They were making three giant geodesic domes and a gyrosphere. The house was littered with plans, schematics, and models. The basement was a full-scale metal shop, medieval-looking and incredible. There were fiberglass pieces being constructed in the backyard. We stood around and talked to Ryan’s friends for a while. One of them gave me passes to his favorite club in Vancouver, and invited me to their 4th of July party. Another guy wandered up and said, “Hey, I heard you’re from Minneapolis. I went to Concordia!” He had graduated from college a year ago, went to Burning Man, met these guys, and decided to move to Seattle. They were awesome.
We drove over to Gasworks Park for a good view of the city. They were setting up for the 4th of July festivities, but seemed amenable to tourists barging in to take photos. Then Ryan took me to see the troll under the bridge (you can’t see it in the picture, but he’s holding a real VW Beetle in his left hand), and the statue of Lenin in Fremont.
I freaked when I saw that Seattle has a Scandinavian neighborhood. Just like home; there was even a lutefisk shop. We spent a long time shopping at Archie McPhee, where many more goofy souvenirs were to be found. Driving around, I got the impression that Seattle was all about coffee, good food, and the music scene. And not just that grunge crap, either.
Ryan dropped me off at Westlake Center, so I could take the monorail over to the Space Needle. On the way there, I got a good view of the Experience Music Project, which he was absolutely right about: it’s butt-ugly. I went up in the Space Needle, took photos of Seattle from every possible angle, exchanged picture-taking opportunities with other tourists, and then went to the gift shop. If I didn’t give you a little metal Space Needle replica, I’m very sorry. I bought one for everyone I could think of, so I guess I just don’t like you all that much.
I monorailed back to downtown, and walked back to Pike Place. On my way, I saw a million street performers and musicians (at least half of them mariachis), vendors selling tshirts and light-up jesus artwork and beaded necklaces, two protests, and a bunch of overly-smiley guys giving out gum samples. And that was in the space of two blocks. I found a Turkish restaurant and got a spinach-and-feta pie and Turkish coffee for lunch, and briefly considered just spending the rest of my trip in Seattle. Then I remembered California, and decided to press on.
After lunch, I wandered back through the market, because all the craft vendors were now open, and the place was packed. I went downstairs and found an awesome store selling old movie posters. I went back up and bought blackberries, prunes, and an apple as large as my head. Then I wandered past an ice-cream place and saw that they had sugar-free vanilla-fudge ice cream, and once again thought maybe I should stay in Seattle. I walked back to the car, eating my ice cream and smiling like an idiot.
It took me about 15 minutes in the Escher-esque ramp to locate my car. I got on I-5 and headed south. Traffic between Seattle and its lesser-understood sister city, Tacoma, was horrific. I exited at the marked route for Mount Rainier, and began to understand why, even though the map said it was only 110 miles, the travel guide told me it was a three-hour drive. I stopped and got gas and a car wash. As was the case during most of my trip, I had a frantically-compiled mental to-do list at every stop: get gas. get carwash. dump trash. buy water. buy pop. buy seeds. get cash. look at map. Sometimes, during particularly rushed moments, I would get flustered. I’d start to panic. It’s hard to keep everything straight when you’re used to having people around to remind you to do things. So, when I left the gas station, I left a little piece of myself behind. Or, to be more specific, a piece of my car: the gas cap.
I drove many isolated and winding roads to get to Mount Rainier. It’s monstrous; you can see it all the way from Seattle. I took the road to Sunrise Lodge, which was super-narrow and winding, way more than anything I had driven in Glacier, but there was hardly any traffic. I got near the top to Sunrise Point, and stopped at the overlook. I jumped out of the car and, impatient as always, decided to hop over the wall rather than walk the extra 50 feet to the crosswalk. I stepped up, and the next thing I knew, I was flat on my back on the other side of the wall. It was almost like waking up and not knowing where you’ve been. I scrambled to my feet, shaky and dizzy. My left hand was scraped and already starting to bruise, and I had bumped my left hip (the one without the injury, of course). The altitude affected me way more than I had expected. There was going to be no hiking for me that day.
I drove the rest of the way up to the lodge, stopped at the store, and looked at the huge selection of trail mix and protein bars, finally understanding why they were such a big deal up there on in the mountains. I was still feeling sore and wobbly, so I just took a few pictures, went to the bathroom, and got back in the car to head back to Seattle. The drive down sucked, but I had figured out effective downshifting, which also helped minimize the noise my brakes were making: at this point, the squealing was hard to ignore.
I took a different, equally-slow route back to Seattle. An angry biker gave me the finger for some reason I was unsure of. Perhaps he knew about my lack of gas cap? Even I was unaware at that point, until a short while later, when my car made its happy ‘ping’ noise and popped up a message on the display: TIGHTEN FUEL FILLER CAP. I flashed back to the gas station, replaying the getting-gas-getting-carwash episode, and realized the scene where I put the gas cap back on and closed the little door was missing. Replayed it again, still missing. Again. Missing.
I decided to find dinner in Capitol Hill. I parked and wandered down Broadway Avenue, peering in the cute shops and stopping to examine every restaurant’s menu. A few blocks down, I found Julia’s, which was the same place we had breakfast, but a different location. I was happy with their vegetarian breakfast options, so it was decided. The food was great, but it was so dark that I had to hunch over my tiny little bar table and squint to see what I was scribbling in my journal. This trip had not been great for my posture.
After dinner, I walked back down Broadway. Ryan had told me that Seattle had lots of cute little neighborhoods, but you would cross the street from one and find yourself in a really seedy area. That was exactly the case when I crossed Olive Street. All of a sudden, there were street people everywhere. I saw a guy in a wheelchair and a guy covered with huge, open lesions rolling a joint. I dashed into a dirty convenience store to buy… um, never mind. I went to my car and drove back to my swanky hotel, where I carefully reconstructed my pillow nest before collapsing into it.
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random notes from my travel journal:
how long can you go without a gas cap?? i have no idea.
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