STATE 20 - WASHINGTON
07/30/2011 75 °F
My road trip through the Pacific Northwest continues as I leave behind the beautiful city of Portland and head to Seattle where I was meeting Megan. The drive was fantastic, passing by Mount St. Helens and the other giant mountains in the Cascade Mountain range. My excitement rose as I drove along the sound, passing the Seahawks and Mariners stadiums, and seeing the Space Needle off in the distance.
We found a place to park on the south end of town and immediately stumbled into an outdoor music festival. The square we were in had a music festival every Friday, during the middle of the day! It looked like a crowd people had come down on their lunch break to listen to some jams. A gym advertising a hula-hoop fitness class was there as well, so I shook my booty to the beat of the music to show everyone how a real man hula-hoops.
There were also some crazy statues, so of course we couldn't resist mimicking them.
The two top attractions we wanted to see in Seattle were Pike Place Market (where they throw fresh fish around) and the Space Needle. After consulting a map, we saw that both were a decent walk away. We detoured down to the sound to walk along the water instead of cutting through the highrises of downtown. Near the harbor, a group of Native Americans were carving a totem pole. One guy was wielding a chainsaw like a surgical weapon to make fine-tuned carvings. Several other Native Americas were standing around offering to talk about why they were making the totem and about the process of completing one.
A delicious smell made its way to our nostrils, overpowering the salty-fishy smell of a wharf. Listening to the rumbling of our stomachs, we got a table overlooking the water. The pacific northwest is known for the dungeness crab and for smoked salmon, so we ordered one of each. Along with some local beers, it was a near perfect lunch.
After lunch, we headed away from the water and up towards Pike Place Market (and I literally mean up). The city rises sharply from the shorefront, and I felt like we were mountain climbing to get up the steep incline. Pike Place Market is series of shops built into the side of the hill, with a farmers market on the top at the street level. Megan and I stopped in some of the photography and knick-knack stores, but we wanted to get to the top and see the real action in the farmers market. I wanted to see fish flying through the air!
We walked out into the crowded street level and were presented with rows of fruit stands, stacks of fresh fish, and colorful arrangements of flowers. We watched people pick out their fish and the fishmonger heave it to the back to get wrapped up.
The flower shops were amazing. Giant arrangements of colorful and aromatic flowers were listed for $5 and $10 (super-cheap compared to the flower shops back in Raleigh). People were buying them as quickly as the ladies could make them. Not wanting to carry around a full bouquet, I bought Megan a single pink daisy.
We continued through the market, sampling fresh cherries and other fruit from the stands. Megan tried a variety of honeys. We looked at all types of arts and crafts. It was a pretty cool atmosphere, enhanced by the view of the sound in the background and the music being played in the street.
Before leaving Pike Place Market, we stopped by the original Starbucks located in the middle of the plaza. The line reached out the door and down the street (which was ironic, because the Starbucks down the block sold the same coffee with no wait). Megan stopped for a picture at the front door, but we passed on waiting in line.
Leaving Pike Place Market, we headed towards the Space Needle. Now that the tallest skyscrapers were behind us, the Space Needle was easily visible.
The Space Needle is located on the old fairgrounds, so there was a big park around the structure. Several sculptures were on display. One looked like a kids playground slide viewed through a kaleidoscope.
It was over $20 a person to get to the top of the tower, so Megan and I opted to pay to go into the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum adjacent to the Space Needle (it seemed like a weird combination to put Music and Science Fiction together in one museum). The first exhibit was all about Avatar, James Cameron's big-budget 3D movie. They had masks and props from the movie, as well as an in-depth look at the technology used to make the movie. People could recreate scenes using green-screens or use the virtual 360° filming technology to film their own scene.
Exiting the Avatar exhibit, we walked into a student group giving a percussion concert of Caribbean style music. The students wore tie-dye clothing and Rastafarian headgear while playing steel drums and bongos. The music sounded cool, but seemed out of place in Seattle. Going further into the museum there was a giant guitar-cyclone sculpture. The craziest part, it actually played music!
Some of the electric guitars were wired with servos that plucked the strings. The music came out of speakers hidden in the sculpture. In this part of the museum, one whole room was dedicated to Jimmy Hendrix, a Seattle native. The next room over was dedicated to grunge music. Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam were only a few of the featured artists. The display did a great job showing how the bands were all interconnected to create a "new sound" originating from Seattle. There were booths set up where you could listen to music from all the grunge-era artists (pretty much an exact copy of what was already on my iPod).
We went upstairs to the sound studio, a series of rooms that allowed you to create your own music. They had a guitar, bass, and drum set up so that you could follow tutorials to learn how to play (and even join in with the others to actually play a song). Megan went through some of the tutorials on the guitar while I banged on the drums.
A series of private recording rooms surrounded the instruments, so you could grab some friends and slip off to record a CD while in the museum. Megan and I sang a duet in one of the booths, it was pretty fun messing with all the audio sound effects.
Sitting right next to the sound studio was a giant exhibit dedicated to Battlestar Galactica. Megan tried to show her geekiness, but unfortunately she had the wrong show in mind (give her a break, she just started watching Star Trek).
Unfortunately I had never watched an episode of Battlestar Galactica, but they did a good job explaining the premise of the show and how the 70s version is different from the 2000s version. Costumes and ship replicas used in the show were on display, along with with very lifelike character representations. They had some interactive displays too, like one where you acted as the captain in deciding how the crew reacted to a particular situation. It was supposed to show how the show handled contemporary moral issues in a futuristic setting (is it right to torture an enemy to save lives, do you break a treaty to save your ship, etc).
It was getting a little late (Megan was still recuperating from the 3 hour time difference), so we started walking back to the car. We passed the Space Needle again and continued through downtown. Megan's flower was getting droopy from being out of water for so long, so we began to look for a place to grab some dinner for us and water for the flower.
As we got closer to the car, I noticed a lot of foot traffic passing us. Everyone was wearing Sonics jerseys, which seems a little odd (the Seattle NBA team, the SuperSonics, moved to Oklahoma City a few years ago). I realized that everyone was walking towards the Mariners stadium for the beginning of the baseball game. We forgot about dinner and hustled to the stadium to make the opening pitch.
Everyone was wearing Sonics jerseys because they were honoring the Sonics at the baseball game. Greats like Nate McMillan and Gary Payton were in attendance and generated about the only cheers of the game. The Mariners are doing horrible this year, and were down 9-0 by the end of the 3rd inning. I still loved every minute of the game, there is nothing like watching baseball on a summer evening.
From our seats we could see the football stadium and the city skyline. It was a pretty cool view.
After the game it was past 3am on the east coast, and Megan was struggling to stay awake. I had picked a hotel in Redmond, a suburb of Seattle, so we could visit the campus of Microsoft. They have a Microsoft Museum, but unfortunately it closes on the weekends. We still walked around the campus, and I posed for a picture on the company sign.
We still had a lot of Washington to see, but it was going to be the part along the interstate. We were driving to Idaho for the next leg of the road trip. To keep me alert on the drive, I bought my first ever drink from Starbucks (where else to get my first except in Seattle!).