Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pacific Northwest Day 5 - Jet City

Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday was a solo day.  Upon waking from the dead, Becka decided to stay home and get some things done.  With that, I jetted off to the Jet City.

With three separate target locations on my list, I decided to risk parking three separate times as opposed to bumbling around with mass transit.  Good plan. Parking, as a whole, was a breeze.

My spinach and herb bagel and Earl Gray tea at Zeitgeist Coffee was a great way to start the day. Sadly, the tea was scalding hot.  Suffering from ninth degree burns on my tongue, I asked a fireman for help. He didn’t answer simply because he was a statue (the pain apparently made me delirious.  A wonderful memorial was built in one of the original town squares (Pioneer Square) to honor fallen firefighters in Seattle. With names of the fallen carved in stone dating back to 188, it, sadly, has room for more names. 

With a still piping hot cup of tea, I made my way to my first stop: Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park – Seattle Unit.  The friendly chap and the desk noticed my tea was still hot, but we both knew I could not enter the building with it.  He kindly let me keep it behind the desk.  His face and words suggested that he has seen this before and the spot on the desk was the “nuclear-hot coffee purchased by tourists with no other place to go” spot.

With the discovery of gold in the Klondike regions of Canada in 1897, the major Pacific coast cities were a hotbed of activity.  Vancouver, Astoria, San Francisco and Seattle all tried to sell themselves as the best place to get a start on the Gold Rush.  Good marketing vaulted Seattle out of its depression and into the ranks of one of the Pacific coast’s premier cities.  The Park’s location is the old Cadillac Hotel (photo above), a building almost lost due to damages suffered in an earthquake.  The city almost demolished it. It was around during the Gold Rush and housed the prospectors before they left for the gold fields.

One of the lasting things I took out of the center is all the great marketing and cons that took place during the short 3-4 year rush.  One thing sellers learned quick was this – if your product has “Klondike” on it, it will sell faster than other identical products.  Cans of “Klondike Baked Beans” would fly off the shelf while cans of “Baked Beans” might not move for days. 

Of course, you have your conmen, too.  One enterprising fellow sold stock in a company that trained marmots (the western United States equivalent of the woodchuck) to burrow under the frozen soils and return with mouthfuls of gold nuggets.  Amazing.  A people bought into it.  How can people buy into something so silly.  I really glad that doesn't happen today.  Uh...nevermind.   

Approaching lunch time, I pushed on Pike Place Market. If you go to Seattle, get here.  It started in 1907 as a way for consumers to skip the middle man. A few farmers came into town with their wagons and sold everything they had in hours. It has grown to be one of the premier markets in the country.  Fresh produce, fish, fish-throwing, and crafts, combined with street musicians, magicians and the Beatles, made for an awesome afternoon.

Emery Carl is simply one of a kind. I play guitar. I suck.  I tried a hula hoop once when a girl dared me on an elementary school playground way back when.  I bought a harmonica in high school. Played it for a few days. He does all of that - at the same time….

I am not sure what to make of what I call the Biohazard Wall.  Millions of pieces of chewed gum are squished onto this back alley.  I don’t get it.  Even more mysterious is why that couple was having their wedding picture in front of it.  

With my belly saying “Eat!”, I located a premier brewery in Washington.  The Pike Brewing Company started in 1989.  Stacks of awards have been given to this place.  A trip to Seattle for a beer lover is incomplete if you do not come here. The IPA, Kilt Lifter Scotch Ale, Naughty Nellie Pale Ale, Tandem Double Ale and XXXXX Stout were all super (#1,045 – 1,050).  The IPA was especially good. Damn good, in fact.  Outrageously good.   The locally raised beef in the William Tell Burger was nice to see, as well.  It appears breweries are moving forward with the “keep things local” idea.   


A walk around the waterfront was pleasant. The antique mall had nothing that interested me, but Glaucous-winged Gulls were cool.  The Black-capped Chickadee in the condo flowerbox certainly gets the “surprise bird” of the day!  Taking a few minutes to watch Native Woodcarvers work on a totem pole was neat, too.  I can’t carve  a block a soap, for Pete’s sake, and these guys do faces on trees trunks?

By dinner time, I was off to my last destination of the day – Seattle's Space Needle.  Panoramic views of any city are always cool, so why not do it from the tallest structure in Seattle?

Oh wait.  It’s not.

Yes, folks, as impressive as it is, the Space Needle is quite short compared to other downtown skyscrapers.  From its completion in 1962 until 1985 it was the tallest or second tallest structure in town.  A number of buildings built since 1985 have dwarfed it.   All those cool photos you see of a space-age structure towering over the modern downtown are all eye tom-foolery.  It is a perspective thing.  (Click here to see what I mean.)  Something close can look larger than something far away.  Stretch out your arm, put your thumb up and stand far away from a sky scraper.  There you have it.  Your thumb is now larger than the skyscraper. Woah.

I was looking to snack and have a beer while in the clouds (the clouds sometimes hang low in Seattle), so I settled in at my table in the SkyCity restaurant.  Located 500 feet above the ground, the restaurant level rotates at the head-spinning speed of 1 complete rotation every 47 minutes by using a 1.5 horsepower motor. That is impressive.

To avoid people going up there and sitting at a table with a glass of water for 5 hours, you are expected to buy $35 worth of food and drinks per person.  $35?  I wasn’t even that hungry!  I was prepared to pay it even if I didn’t actually get all the food just to enjoy the experience (ordering food to fulfill the minimum and not eating it is just dumb.)  The Penn Cove Clams with peppered bacon, chardonnay, tomatoes and oregano alongside the SkyCity greens with a huckleberry vinaigrette were just what the doctor ordered.    Two beers and $154,000 later, I easily exceeded the minimum and completely enjoyed myself.  The African Amber Ale (#1.052) from Mack andJacks Brewing Company was quite good in the beginning. The finish was a bit rough and I thought I detected oranges in the mix. That is not a bad thing, I was just not expecting oranges!  The Lazy Boy IPA (#1,052) from the Lazy Boy Brewing Company was also good, but a bit light in aroma as far as I was concerned.  Some of these other Northwest IPAs are quite aromatic.  Not this one. 

Keep in mind, too, that the $35 dinner minimum includes a trip to the observation deck.   It is $18.00 just to that!  So, plan accordingly, have dinner in the clouds and don’t drop your lens cap off the edge like I almost did.  Even if it slipped off, Mythbusters proved that a penny chucked from the Empire State Building would not kill a person. I can’t believe a plastic Canon lens cap would either!

After bidding farewell to a time when America still dreamed (great little video here courtesy of Pharyngula), the evening commute out of town was pretty smooth (Seattle traffic can apparently really suck).  I was in bed shortly after the street lights came on.

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