Saturday, July 23, 2011

Well, That Was Fun

So, over the last few days I had family in town (for only the second time in fourteen years of trying): my niece Misty, my nephew-in-law Allen, and their sons Logan (age 8) and Memphis (age 8 months). Horray!

Which meant we left town to go visit places and see the sites, since it's a kind of rule that you tend to go see local/regional landmarks when there are visitors to show them to. Among the sights, we

saw a waterfall -- and a spectacular waterfall at that: Snoqualmie Falls. A good reminder of how the Cascades got their name.

visited another country -- driving up to the Peace Arch at Blaine, where we saw the monument Sam Hill (the famous roadbuilder and pacifist*) put up to celebrate a century's having passed since the last time we were at war with England (1814/1914). Both the US and Canada share the park, so you can enter from either side without a passport, enjoy the park, and then exit back into yr own country again. I'd never been there before (though I suppose we must have driven by it during two of our three trips up to Vancouver); V. nice.

went whale watching -- taking a ship from Bellingham out to circle San Juan Island in a six-hour tour that actually lasted about seven & a half, given how good the whale-watching turned out to be. On the way there we saw a buoy that had two sea lions sunning themselves on it (one Stellar and one Californian, according to our on-board naturalist), and we'd seen what must have been a harbor seal from the restaurant the night before. Unfortunately I missed the Minke whale -- a pity, since they're fairly rare and I haven't seen one before -- but there were orcas a-plenty. We even saw a baby orca with its mom, and off Lime Kiln Lighthouse saw two orcas (or the same orca twice) on his back slapping the water w. his tail. Great fun all around, and much nicer than going down to Point Defiance (which'd been a back-up plan).

crossed a terrifying bridge and walked along the beach -- this being the high bridge connecting Whidbey Island to the mainland at its northernmost point, and the nearby West Beach.

explored an abandoned coastal gunnery station -- i.e., Fort Casey on Whidbey's western coast; a vast array of concrete bunkers intended to ward off imaginary Russian or Japanese fleets in the early years of the twentieth century: manned for decades and never fired a gun in anger. Now they're spooky underground rooms with rusty iron doors, a grass-grown hillside, and everywhere steps and ladders up and down all around.

rode the monorail -- something Janice had done but which I'd never been able to get my nerve up to before, due to the acrophobia. Not as bad as I expected, though the getting on and off wasn't pleasant (the flooring being that open gridwork that enables you to look down and see the street two or three floors below).

visited the market -- to see the fish fly, to pass by a spot apparently featured in SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE (which I'm beginning to believe is a much bigger deal everywhere outside Seattle than it is here), to sample street food (Mee Sum!), and generally to show off something you cdn't see in Waskom or Marshall or Shreveport. While at Totem Pole Park (at least that's what I call it; if it has an official name I've never heard it***) I enjoyed watching the bold little scavenger birds pouncing on each dropped crumb and was gummed by a horse named Officer Charlie. The one down side of the outing was that we ran into more panhandlers than I'd seen before, and those who weren't buskers or Real Change agents were much more aggressive than I've ever seen in Seattle. I mark it down to all the cuts in benefits during the current rotten economy.

waited while the rest went up the Space Needle -- see acrophobia, above. I may have been able to manage the monorail, but zipping up 500+ feet to a place full of glass windows displaying all the walls gravity cd get you just wasn't going to happen. Accordingly, I waited below enjoying a chai from Starbucks in Center House (how 'Seattle' can you get) and a visit with friend Sig, who just happened to be passing by as the others were leaving to head up.

No time, alas, for Schmitz Park (in West Seattle) or The Earth Sanctuary (on Whidbey Island). And, sad to say, the Mountain remained in hiding behind clouds the entire time of their trip.** Maybe next time. Interestingly enough, while we enjoyed all these activities, the down times of just sitting and visiting (e.g., showing Logan how to play CLUE) were great too. Kudos to Janice for having planned a successful trip.

And what did I do to relax after seeing our visitors off at the airport? Spent the next day looking after a strong-willed five-year-old while her new sister was busy being born. We had a blast. But that's a subject worthy another post.

--John R.

just finished: LEONARDE'S GHOST (1628)
started & abandoned: SEVERANCE PACKAGE (2008) [life's too short!]

*Hill also put up Fake Stonehenge down in southern Washington, on a beautiful spot overlooking the Columbia River Gorge; it's also a peace monument, this time to those killed in World War I. His mansion (now a museum) down in those parts is well worth a visit too.

**I'd thought that mountains and oceans being two things this region has to offer not to be found in their part of Texas, these wd be good to focus on. We wound up doing pretty good on the 'ocean' end, but had to give up on Mt. Rainer because (a) the snow was too deep for us to get to Paradise (a sentence that sounds really strange to type but is literally true)**** and (b) DELTA AIRLINES IS NOT OUR FRIEND, having delayed or cancelled or re-booked then to the extent that they lost a full day and a half on their way out. Perhaps the weirdest thing of all to them, in retrospect, might have been it's being forty degrees cooler here than what they'd left back home -- the temperature having hovered around sixty degrees the whole time they were here while much of the rest of the country was suffering 100+ degree days.

***Victor Steinbrueck Park, it turns out

****correction: Janice turns out we cd have gotten to Paradise, but not left the parking lot


David Bratman said...

You saw an orca? Did you also see a hobbita and an elfa?

(Looking over your list of things done, I see that I've done all of them at one time or another, except that I wasn't specifically whale-watching when I went to the San Juans; I did my whale-watching in Alaska; and I've never waited below the Space Needle while others went up it, though I have been up)

John D. Rateliff said...

"You saw an orca? Did you also see a hobbita and an elfa?"

--The orcneas were definitely out, but no Beowulf. The others, not so much.

". . . and I've never waited below the Space Needle while others went up it, though I have been up"

--fortunate art thou who knowest not the acrophobia. Though mine has been easing a bit the past five years; hence my being able to manage the monorail this time.