(2012) Spring in Seattle

Dan and I tossed around quite a few ideas on what we should do for vacation this year, ranging from England (too cold and rainy) and Buenos Aires (too expensive). Dan came upon the perfect solution: Seattle. We could reconnect with some of the many friends I left behind, zoom around the countryside on some motorcycles and – the icing on the cake – we would sign up for sailing lessons!

Per usual, Dan said that I over plan these things, but I don’t think that he realizes how hard it is to coordinate the flights, borrowing two motorcycles, transportation to/from the motorcycles, places to stay, dinner plans with various friends just about every night, the sailing lesson schedule, lists of “must see” items and when to do them; these things don’t just fall into place.

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We arrived Wednesday night, just in time for a late dinner with Katherine and Ralph, friends of ours who would put us up for the next four nights at their house in White Center. The next day, Katherine was able to drive us down to pick up the bikes that our friend Rolf said that we could use for the duration of our visit. I had chosen a Moto Guzzi LeMans 1100 and Dan would be riding a Moto Guzzi 750 Breva. It would be interesting to ride one of these unique bikes that some of my friends are great fans of.

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Before actually picking up the bikes Thursday morning, however, Katherine took us to a delightful breakfast spot in SoDo called Macrina where they serve brioche, turnovers and various pastries. They were well-made and tasty. After having our most important meal of the day, we stopped by Touratech in Georgetown to talk with Kimmo and get Dan set up with some new motorcycle gear. Kimmo had been helping us via email prior to our visit and continued to be extremely helpful. Dan is now the proud owner of a Klim jacket and pants. The new gear looks good and is waterproof, which is a good thing because as expected, it rained all day. In fact, Seattle set a record for the amount of rain on that day, so I felt right at home. Traffic was unreasonably heavy while we while picked up the bikes and took them to Moto International to have a new tire installed on the Breva. This was probably the worst part of our day (the entire trip, even), as we spent 2 1/2 hours at the dealership waiting for the bike to be completed, despite setting up an appointment days before. The dealership is small and has very little in the way of comforts for anyone standing around for over two hours. And Dave, who I presume owns the dealership, made no acknowledgement whatsoever about our inconvenience, despite being in the same room with us for the entire time.

I didn’t spend the entire time at the dealership with Dan, as I had made arrangements to buy a pair of boots from a rider in Lake Forest Park while I was in town. I took this time to ride up to his place (in the pouring rain and heavy traffic) but it was worth it: the boots fit perfectly and are in excellent shape. This becomes important later on…

With a new tire finally on the Breva, we trudged home in extremely heavy traffic and rain, me cursing the heavy clutch of the LeMans the entire way back to Katherine’s. Fortunately for us, that night Katherine let us borrow her Jeep so that Dan and I could drive to a local mall to meet up with some of our friends for dinner. It was nice to not have to worry about the dark, the rain, and the traffic in addition to not knowing exactly where we were going. We meet up at Bahama Breeze which turned out to have much better food than I expected and with a great variety as well. We chatted for a couple of hours over our food before heading back to our room in White Center. It was a busy first full day in Seattle.

Friday once again started with some fantastic food, this time at the Three Girls Bakery in Ballard. Katherine, Dan and I ate there before picking up our friend Kathy (yes, all of my friends have the same name; it makes it easier to remember) and heading north. Today, Friday, we were going to tour the Boeing plant in Everett. I don’t know why I never did this while I lived there, but the four of us were all excited to see where they make the flying tubes that allow me to visit Seattle so easily.

We started the tour by walking around a simple gallery with some photos, informational plaques and various real-life and hands-on items. The highlight of this area was a massive section cut from the new 787’s composite hull. We could touch this section and oddly enough, it reminded me mostly of a Rubbermaid garbage can.

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A group of 40 of us were eventually rounded up and set in front of a screen that gave us an enjoyable overview of Boeing and its history. Then we were herded onto a coach bus, driven across the property, over a highway and to the main grounds. From there, we listened to our guide spout off an incredible number of numbers as he reviewed how the plant evolved and was currently set up to handle the hundreds of planes that have been ordered. It is an amazingly impressive site and the tour was very interesting. I can easily recommend it to anyone who has any interest in planes whatsoever. There aren’t any pictures from the tour because they were a little picky about bringing cameras.

After the tour, which was 90 minutes in total, the four of us hopped into the car and took a slight detour over to Mukilteo , where we had a delightful lunch at Ivar’s. The restaurant is located next to one of the Washington State Ferry terminals, so we had a chance to watch the ferries come and go in the growing sunshine. Our afternoon was fairly relaxed, having dropped off Kathy at home and then going back to White Center to the Company for a couple of beers. Ralph eventually joined us and we moved over to Rostiteria Y Cocina El Paisano for a simple Mexican dinner. It reminded me a lot of some of the food I had while in Mexico, including seeing the unexpected soup that I ended up getting after I thought I had ordered a burrito from a tiny little food stand.

Saturday was dedicated to the Guzzis and the Pacific Northwest. I really wanted to ride over the North Cascades Hwy (Hwy 20), but it hadn’t opened yet from the winter snows. Instead, Dan and I took the day to explore the foothills of the Cascades and then out towards the water to include Deception Pass and a ferry ride or two. The full day’s write up is located here..

Sunday was spent taking care of some errands in the morning, including moving all of our luggage and gear to the other Kathy’s house, where we would stay for the remainder of our trip. Its only six miles away, but still required the use of a four-wheeled vehicle to get the luggage hauled around. There’s no packing stuff onto that LeMans! Once we got settled in, we met our friends Ron and Susan at the Naked City Brewery in the Greenwood neighborhood. It was a great chance for the four of us to really catch up, especially since we hadn’t seen each other since the last time Dan and I were in Seattle. They’re great people and Ron is one of those guys who can entertain you for hours with stories from his life, not to mention his plans for the future.

The problem with visiting with so many friends is that the visits tend to center around a meal. Dan and I went from lunch with Ron and Susan to dinner with Chris and Jen. We met at Siam Thai in Ballard, close enough to our new “home” that we could walk there. Our dinner was good and we made plans to meet again on Tuesday for a light bite and then The Avengers at the Cinerama. Dan and I went to bed early, for tomorrow would be our first sailing lesson!

Monday provided us with fantastic weather for our sailing, which you can read about in more detail on this link. But after a day in the sun, Dan and I were ready for some more food. We took the bus to downtown Seattle and found my friend Shannon’s new apartment. The three of us had tapas at The Innkeeper in Belltown (a downtown Seattle neighborhood). Afterwards, we walked around the city, enjoying the nightlife as Shannon and I caught up on a whirlwind year. The ride back to Kathy’s was made even easier by Seattle’s internet app “One Bus Away” that will tell you exactly when the next bus on your route will be at your stop. I’m sure it normally works great, but for some reason, it took quite a bit of time for our bus to show up.

Tuesday was a day off from sailing, so we spent the morning running some more errands and then we headed downtown again. Dan and I did a considerable amount of walking which included Freeway Park, Pioneer Square, “West Edge” and the waterfront. Along the waterfront we saw the early foundations of a new 200′ Ferris wheel at Pier 57. While I’m usually not excited about Ferris wheels, I think that the views that will be offered by this particular one will be quite the enticement.

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It was also really nice to notice the politeness on the public buses. Kids from high school said “Sir” when offering their seat to an older gentleman, and they all thanked the bus driver as they got off. Another passenger reached down and removed a weed that had been caught in another passenger’s shoe, while I was able to offer up the correct spelling of “Olympia” to the rider behind me. It really can be a nice experience, riding the bus in Seattle.

We hung around downtown long enough to meet up with Chris and have some Pho with him before heading for the Cinerama, where we’d meet Jen just before the movie started. I’m a big fan of the Cinerama, but that probably stems primarily from its history and restoration. Regardless of my own fascination with the theater, The Avengers was enjoyable and the 3D blended in well with the movie.

Wednesday morning we went back to the marina for another fun day on the water and after going home to change, we walked down to Old Ballard and met our friend Amanda and her boyfriend Mark at Hattie’s Hat for some old fashion chicken friend chicken. They changed the gravy, but it was still a fantastic treat for my taste buds. I do miss their homemade creamed corn, however.

Thursday was our last day for sailing and it ended on a perfect note. That night’s dinner company was Dan’s childhood friend Ian and his wife Michelle. Dan and Ian hadn’t seen each other for well over 25 years, so it was a lot of fun listening to the two of them catch up. We had some excellent food at the 35th St Bistro in Fremont, which was a much fancier place than I expected. Fortunately, true to Seattle form, they still served me even though I was wearing a t-shirt and jeans.

Our vacation was rapidly coming to a close – we had two more days before our red-eye flight Saturday night back to New Jersey. Friday morning, Dan and I walked to Fremont, taking in the sights of various side streets and the Burke-Gilman trail, before arriving at Google. Our friend Adam works there and he had invited us to come for lunch. Who can resist a Google lunch? It had been 5 years since I’d been there before, but the food and the amenities are just as awesome as they were then.

After lunch we wandered over to Nikwax, my former employer, and spent quite a bit of time chatting with the old and new employees and discussing what we’ve been up to since I left them for Dan. From Nikwax, we took a bus downtown and walked to where Chris works, because I was a dofus and left my camera in his car after the movie Tuesday night. Once the camera was in hand, we walked through downtown to the southern end and took an elevator to the 73rd floor of the Columbia Tower. I had never been on the observation deck in this building and had heard good things about it. The view was great – vastly superior to the Space Needle, and half as much money. Unfortunately, it does not provide a 360-degree view, as the northern portion is blocked off by offices. The only thing that you really miss by this, however, is Mt Baker and Lake Union. But everything else is easily visible, and it was great to look down on the streets and rooftops below us.

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Our day had gone by surprisingly quick and it was time to get back to Kathy’s. She was hosting a salmon taco dinner at her house and I knew that she would appreciate some help in getting things prepared. Dan and I spent the rest of the evening helping her out and then visiting with friends and neighbors who came over for the feast.

Saturday. The last day of our vacation. I had left this day fairly open so that if anything came up last minute, we’d have time for it. Nothing unexpected came up, other than some extra time around lunch. We stopped by Sewing Specialties to see Carol and ask her to fix a glove and add a snap to my hi-viz vest. Carol does fantastic work and it was great to catch up with her.

Then Dan and I proceeded with the convoluted process of moving our luggage back to White Center from Ballard, again with the use of Katherine’s Jeep. This didn’t take as long as I thought it might, so we had time to take Kathy to lunch at Portage Bay, now located in Seattle. I don’t know how we kept finding the best restaurants in Seattle, but we hit another winner with this one. After almost too much good food we went down the block to check out the Ballard Locks (Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, more accurately) and enjoyed watching the boats rise and fall with the lock levels. There weren’t any salmon this time of year but there were still a lot of people visiting the area. They had a beautiful day for it, too.

After dropping off Kathy, we swapped the Jeep for the bikes and then make the hour-long trek back to Puyallup to return them to their owner. A friend picked us up from there and took us back to White Center to get our gear – this would be our second-to-last stop in Seattle. The last stop was the Elliot Bay Brewery in Burien, where half a dozen friends gathered to see us off. More good food (and really good local root beer – I don’t drink beer) was enjoyed and then we were dropped off at SeaTac for our flight home. Like the flight west, the return flight was uneventful. By 8am Sunday we were back at our house in New Jersey, much to the relief of the cats and our neighbors.

More adventure, coming soon!

2 comments

  1. Jim Balz says:

    It sounds to me that you and Dan are having a great time together. I am happy for you, and will toast to you the next time I open a bottle of beer or wine! I am still having fun myself. Had to ride my final continent, so flew to New Zealand, rented a bike there and rode both islands. Then on to Australia, where I rented another bike, and rode as much as I could in 4 weeks. Then an 11 hour ferry ride to ride New Zealand. All in all a great time. Keep on riding the bikes and enjoy every minute you have in this big world of ours.
    Jim

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