Seattle Backpacking - Day 1: Seattle

June 17th, 2005

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Seattle Skyline

Seattle Coffee

We awoke our first morning in the comfort of Seattle airport's Double Tree Hotel and prepare ourselves for the renowned rain of the area. Instead, a sunny warm day greeted us and caused us to doubt the appropriateness of the rain gear and long sleeve shirts that monopolized our baggage.

Not daunted by Seattle's divergence from its norm, we brewed a pot of coffee in our room and rubbed our hands together in anticipation of our first taste of Seattle's rich, delectable, brew. After all, Starbucks originated in this area.

Finally, the coffee was ready. We inhaled the aroma and took a steaming mouthful before pouring the rest of the concoction down the sink in disgust. We console ourselves that packaged hotel coffee is packaged hotel coffee anywhere in the world. Breakfast coffee would make up for the travesty.

We popped downstairs for a Double Tree breakfast. The waitress' drink order request was met with, "coffee," "coffee," "coffee." Our cups filled, steam rising, and Robyne sniffed delicately before arching one eyebrow in suspicion. She took a sip, scrunched up her face in disappointment, and slammed down her cup.

This minor setback did not daunt our coffee connoisseur. Robyne marched out to the coffee and espresso bar in the lobby and returned with a large cup. We looked up at her expectantly, but she dashed our hope with a slight shake of the head.

"Tastes the same as the breakfast coffee. It just costs more." Robyne plopped in her chair and a single tear leaked from her downcast eyes.

We ate our meal in silence and reluctantly decided to continue our trip instead of catching the next plane home.

Seattle Roads

As planned, we dedicated our first day to picking up supplies for backpacking, visiting Pike Place Market, and traveling to a campsite near the trailhead of our first hike. Our first stop was REI, an outdoor store, and our first challenge was finding it.

With confidence, we took the freeway to downtown Seattle. Three relatively intelligent adults with a map and an address should have no problem finding a huge sporting goods store in a small city. Sounds easy. Right?

"Take this exit," Elaine said and we flawlessly ended up on the expected street. "Now take a right." We are perfection. "In half a mile take a right on xxx road." Sounds easy. Right?

After a few miles, we discovered that we had traveled well past our turn. No problem. We'd just turn around. Sounds easy. Right?

A concrete barrier perched in the median of the road, effectively divided the two directions of traffic and prevented us from crossing to the other side. Finally, we located a break in the barrier. Elated, we drove through only to have our celebration cut short by a no left hand turn sign. No problem. We’ll just block around. Sounds easy. Right?

Unfortunately, Seattle likes its one-way streets and do not enter signs. But, through persistence, we managed to head back the way we came. We found our street, turned left and made our way down several blocks to xxx street. The street of REI.

"According to the map," Elaine said with renewed confidence, "we should take a right."

I took a right and the road dumped us immediately onto the freeway we started on. Far from being discouraged, we reveled in the fact that we now knew where all our turns were. Sounds easy. Right?

We arrived back at xxx street and hung a left, pleased with our logic and the prospect of being out of the car. Unfortunately, the road ended after a few blocks with no sign of REI.

But, were we discouraged? Well, yes, just a little bit. We continued to make random turns, driving on every single road in the entire city, when Elaine flapped a hand off to our right and says, "REI should be over there somewhere." I promptly turned and there, in the distance, we spotted REI's towering sign, looming over the store. Now, all we had to do is drive a couple blocks and we'd be there. Sounds easy. Right?

Of course it was easy, especially, with three relatively intelligent adults. We just wish they had been in the car with us.

Pike's Place Market

Next stop, Pike's Place Market. This multilevel, indoor/outdoor market would take a shopping addict hours, if not days, to peruse. Our complete walk-through, including two food purchases took exactly twenty-seven minutes and fifteen seconds.

This tour included the tasting and purchasing of five bags of nuts and fruits so we could take advantage of the buy four get one free deal. We are such tourists. Somehow, we failed to note that the price per bag was ten dollars. When the clerk told us the total, instead of walking away like a sane adult, we numbly handed over the money and then spent the rest of the day talking about what suckers we were.

We consoled ourselves with some wine and clam chowder at an outdoor cafe that overlooked the water. Fortified, we jumped in the car, drove aboard a ferry for a gentle ride across the sound.

When Elaine was just a wee little girl, her family lived on the Olympic Peninsula, so we made a minor detour on our way to Port Angeles in order to take a picture of their old house for her Mom. Quite frankly, I think it's lucky we weren't arrested.

There we were on a quiet dead-end street, slowly driving back and forth, trying to find a house from a thirty-year old description. When we thought we had a winner, we leapt from the vehicle, and started snapping pictures. Once again, the miracle of the cell phone proved indispensable. We were able to send a picture to Elaine's Mom to verify the targeted house, before snapping enough shots for a feature spread in Homes and Gardens. Task complete, we were once again on our way.

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