Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Seattle

Yes, we went to Seattle. Or, more properly, the greater Seattle area. We left Friday midday. On the way, we stopped at a view point overlooking the Columbia River Gorge, which was rather impressive. In honor of the Yarn Harlot, I took a traveling sock photo:



It's 40 stitches in Cascade 220 for Vern. I managed to get to the end of the heel flap three times on the trip. (Don't knit while sick with a headache. It just doesn't work.) It's now finished, and waiting for its mate to join it in Vern's sock drawer. Oh yes, I was talking about the gorge . . .



This is looking south, I believe. We drove over that bridge to head on toward our destination. I read at an informational sign that there are more than 50 layers of basalt formed by individual lava flows in this area of Washington, with places where an individual flow can be up to 200' thick. Amazing. Scientists believe that before the lava flows, this area was far more moist and fertile, with thriving vegetation and animal life. It's so incredibly barren now . . . although it's still more fertile than most of Nevada, which only grows sage.



There were things actually in bloom out on the volcanic basalt. These daisies, (or, more properly, Compositae blooms), were putting on a cheerful show, and there was even some pale phlox:



The views were amazing . . . sweeping and dramatic. The gorge was carved quickly and violently over a very short time (like a few years) by staggering amounts of fast-moving water.



And we were almost the only ones there. We were joined by a trio of German-speaking folks, who are included for scale here:



The only word they used that I recognized was "autobahn". I had the strangest feeling though, as I listened to them speak. I wanted to open my mouth and have German come out. I felt like there was a switch that just needed to be flipped and I'd understand what they were saying; I'd be able to slip into the current of their conversation and become a part of it. Someday . . . someday I'm going to speak many, many languages, and go to the places where they are used and become a part of the ebb and flow of thought which creates that tide.

Well, we got to town in time to get some great food at I Love Sushi (the shrimp and scallop sushi was especially good, as was the roll we had) in Bellevue, and crash for the night. Speaking of the night, here's what downtown Bellevue looked like:



Looks like a big city, doesn't it? I was sufficiently tired that it looked about that fuzzy. Considering that the shutter speed was down to 1/2 second, and I was holding the camera in a running car, that's a great shot. We stayed in Bellevue at the Courtyard Marriott, (which I highly reccomend, btw), and did a fair bit of driving. The views from our courtyard-side room were kind of neat. The first one sure cured me of any desire to go sit in the hot tub, though.



And I just had to take a picture of this huge black building. The angles and composition were fascinating. (Then again, I love good black and white photography, so the cool factor of this building may be 95% in my own head.)



After sleeping in as long as we could, (no thanks to a rather loud-voiced person in the hallway right outside our door at precisely 8:20am), we drove north to Camano Island to complete the purchase of a kayak for me. On the way out we got to see more of Bellevue in daylight. There were some really interesting things to see out of the hotel windows and along the way.



I counted a total of twelve (yep, that's 12) cranes in downtown Bellevue. They ranged in size considerably, but ten of them were these large, right-angle types. There were only two of the smaller, more traditional tractor-based types. The amount of high-rise construction going on was staggering. Looking out the hallway window nearest our room, we spotted a beautiful mature hemlock:



and then noticed that it had just about engulfed part of an abandoned house:



At least it looks abandoned. In Northern Idaho, though, odds are that there would be someone living in it still. I suppose it's possible someone was living there, since there was a city garbage can visible that looked as though it was of recent vintage, and the tarps weren't completely shredded. I haven't seen camellias as big as the ones on the left of the main wing in a very, very long time. We never got a closer look at the house, but it seemed as though it was once an upscale home. The biggest tragedy is that there's little hope for the hemlock, the camellias, or for the gargantuan evergreen opposite the hemlock in the next photo. Such gorgeous growing things . . . and they'll end up being ripped out by an excavator as the hole for the underground parking garage goes in for whatever building will end up there.



One thing I will say, though . . . Bellevue truly is a belle. It's a very clean, pretty city. (And there's a lot of affluence floating around. You should see the luxury car dealerships right in a row: Porche, BMW, and one other I can't remember. Wow.)

The view from the hotel lounge window was pretty:



as was the lounge:



There was a 24-hour sandwich/salad cafe, and courtesy computers with internet access. (I love Gmail I love Gmail I love Gmail.)

The drive out to Camano Island was just gorgeous. Here's a typical view on either I-90 or 405:



I loved the new green of the deciduous trees, and especially all of the blossoming going on. (And I'm especially tickled by the fact that dogwoods are indigenous to the region.)



Camano was gorgeous, as you can see here: (I'm sensing a theme . . . green growing things everywhere . . . )



And here:



And here:



We didn't stop much for photo ops, so there are a lot of road shots on this trip. (Note to self: take time to stop and photograph the roses.) I really wish that we could have taken some time to stop at Alpacas de la Patagonia, which we passed both coming and going. I would have loved to buy an alpaca fleece, if they would have sold me one. (I also would have loved to stop by Cascade Spindles, but I don't dare dwell on the things that I wanted to do but didn't have time for. There's no doubt in my mind we'll be going back to Western Washington. We both just loved it too much.) Oh, but back to the kayak. Vern is greatly enamored of the idea of the two of us kayaking together on the weekends; therefore I needed a boat. He found one on Craig's List that was an unbelievable deal: a man named John had bought a carbon-fiber kayak at wholesale price from a friend of a friend who worked for Necky, and decided that he absolutely hated it the first time he got in it. (It's a case of an old sea dog not liking a new trick. ;o) Vern went way out into the Sound (just a few feet from John's front door) to try out the Looksha. I could see him grinning, clear as day, from the shore. It's a light, stiff, low-lying kayak that slices cleanly through the water. It was so pretty to watch, and I'm looking forward to putting it in the water sometime soon. ("Soon" would mean after the purchase of a paddle, but let's not get picky, shall we?) I wasn't eager to get wet on that cold and gray part of Saturday, especially with John looking on and talking about how he was just sure that Vern was going to end up in the Sound. As unpracticed as I am at entering and leaving a kayak, I didn't want to try it when I was nervous. Feeling tight while working with a responsive little boat isn't a good idea. (Once again, I didn't have the camera out. I need to add "Hone blogging reflexes" to my exercise routine. Next time will be better, promise.)

On the drive back from Camano we stopped at a Quiznos in Stanwood . . . the first Mom n' Pop Quiznos I've ever seen. It was great. Mom was behind the counter making sandwiches, and Pop was out sweeping the floor or ringing up orders. A friendly couple with a clean and well-run shop. While we were eating, we watched a small group of people admire the new boat on top of the 4Runner, and speculated about their conversation.

We got back to town in time to go to the Bellevue Botanical Garden for a short time before going back to the hotel to change for the concert. There were far more things to see than we had time to truly appreciate. The place was teeming with photographers:



which made for a fun photo-op. There were others, as well, but they weren't as picturesque. There was nifty rock sculpture:





And a fun bronze frog . . .



whose name was . . .



There were blossoms . . .



and growing things . . .



(these chartreuse growing things seemed to really be going at it) . . .





. . . and there was a water garden that made for some very pretty shots.


[Download a large version here.]


[Download a large version here.]

And there was a 12' blooming shrub that immediately transported you to heavenly places where sweetly spiced vanilla breezes spirited your cares away. (No, really. It smelled That Good.) I've got to get a few of these to plant beneath my windows.



My guess is some kind of viburnum. It was sublime. Absolutely sublime.

And, my favorite picture of the afternoon: tulips.


[Download a big version here.]

This shot came in a close second.



The curators of the botanical garden couldn't have set that one up any better. I see a weathered garden bench flanked by aged terra cotta pots in my future . . . .

All too soon we headed back to the hotel, changed into slightly more appropriate clothing for the main reason for our trip: Jennifer Thomas's Key of Sea concert. You can see several of the things she played in the middle link. There are videos further down on the right hand side of her MySpace page. It was a lot of fun, and reminded me of how much I absolutely love live piano music. Jennifer's mom, Carolyn Southworth, played one of her pieces that night, as well: Where Eagles Soar. You can listen to it at her MySpace page. The best part of that song, though, was getting to see her play it. There's so much that's lost when you can only hear music. I didn't take the camera with us, partly because we walked to the concert, and partly because I wasn't sure I'd be brave enough to take pictures. Maybe next time I'll have a smaller camera, and won't feel so self-conscious.

After the concert, we drove into Seattle to see Vern's best friend from high school, Ben. He and his wife, Vijaya, live in a wonderful old home near one of Seattle's main strips, and live a life I dream of: eating out almost every night. (No dishes, no prep . . . just sit down and food appears. Heaven.) They both work in the software industry, currently from home, and are a short walk from a number of really good restaurants. We walked down to an excellent Thai place and had some of the best food I've ever eaten. Fresh and high quality, and expertly prepared, served with a quiet efficiency I have never seen before. It was wonderful. We went back and talked for a couple hours, and it was a really nice visit. Vern and Ben haven't had much contact since school, and I'm hoping that they'll keep in touch more. Ben has just accepted a position with a company that does virtual application demos on the web, and will be relocating to India sometime in May to start. He and Vijaya were married in India, in a traditional ceremony. Considering that Ben is a tall, broad, fair & red-headed American boy, that's quite the accomplishment. We were able to see photos of the wedding, and I got to ask all kinds of questions. I loved it. :o) And, once again, I forgot the camera. So, no photos of their home, of them, or of us and them. Next time. I'll try to remember next time. (Why is it I'm great at still lifes, but lousy when it comes to people?)

We made it back to the hotel and crashed by 1:30am, and then were on our way before lunchtime the next day. (Which was quite an accomplishment, considering that Vern and I were both sick.) The drive home was uneventful, but it had it's high points. For starters, Snowqualmie Pass was nice to look at.



This is Lake Kachess. It had that exposed high mountain lake feel to it.

The sky over the basalt plains in central Washington almost made up for the barrenness of the land.


[Download a large version here.]

And there was comic relief at each and every rest stop:



We laughed as we pictured travelers waging mighty battle, laptops/pda's in hand, vying for the precious 4 square feet of ground directly in front of the sign that had wireless access.

And, a more familiar shot from near home:



You have to see that intersection to believe it. :o)

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend, too!

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