"I like coffee because it gives me the illusion that I might be awake"
State 19: Washington - October 30, 2017 Lori We woke up at my Cousin Joe’s home in Lakewood, with a jam packed agenda. Today, my Cousin Joe, a 30 year Washington native, is graciously taking the Cross Country Couple to explore the Emerald City, and no I am not talking about the “Merry Ole’ Land of Oz”. I am talking about largest city in the Pacific Northwest! I am taking about a city which is home to Fortune 500 companies such as Boeing, and Microsoft! I am talking about a city that is the birthplace of Grunge Rock, and Starbucks Coffee! Seattle is the fasting growing city in the US, and serves as a major gateway to the Far East. We hopped in Joe’s car, and braved the I-5 traffic for a 43-mile drive North to the City of Seattle. Like all nighter's and coffee, heavy metal and head banging, and governments and deficits, so goes Seattle and the Space Needle. It was only fitting to make the city’s most iconic landmark our very first stop! The Space Needle is a member of the World Federation of Great Towers, an organization of the 50 tallest buildings in the world. A few celebrities whom have visited the Space Needle include; Elvis Presley, Mike Myers, Demi Moore, Melanie Griffith, John Travolta, Vanna White, Michael Douglas, Claudia Schiffer, Bruce Lee, and even the entire cast of Cheers. Over 1 million people ascend the needle annually making it the #1 tourist attraction in the Northwest, and the Cross Country Couple was thrilled to finally be among them! Built in 1962 for the World’s Fair, the Space Needle is 605 feet tall, and it is built to withstand 200 mph winds, 9.1 earthquake, and has 5 lighting rods! Two elevators carry 25 people at a time from the ground to the top in a mere 41 seconds! If you prefer a workout instead, take the 848 steps from the ground level to the top to really feel the burn! The top of the Space Needle features an observation deck, and a restaurant. The restaurant is at 500 feet, weighs 125 tons and surprisingly rotates via a 1 ½ HP electric motor! Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed for a remodel during our visit. The observation deck is at 520 feet, and offers sweeping 360 degree views which include the downtown Seattle Skyline, the Cascade Mountains, Mount Rainier, and Elliot Bay. Although the rotating restaurant was under construction and closed during our visit, thankfully the observation deck remained open. We approached the kiosk to purchase our tickets, and were shocked by the exorbitant price of $22.00 per person to take an elevator ride! I felt violated! I guess they need money for their restaurant remodel, and know tourists are willing to pay! Albeit the most expensive elevator ride of my entire life, the sky was sunny and clear, and the observation deck offered unprecedented views of the greater Seattle area! It was an added bonus to have my cousin with me to point out landmarks in the distance. Please enjoy the picture below of the Seattle Space Needle.
After departing the Space Needle, we were off to another famous Seattle destination; Pike Place Market. We had 2 scheduled stops at Pike Place: Pike Place Fish Market and the very first Starbucks. We began our visit with the fish market. The Pike Place Fish Market is home to world's famous flying fish! The tradition began years ago when a fishmonger got tired of walking back and forth around the counter all day, and discovered it was easier to instead throw the fish over it! What began as a means to increase productivity, has now evolved into a worldwide attraction! The Pike's Place Fish Market has been featured on the sitcom Frasier, Good Morning America, TLC and MTV networks, and on TV when the Seattle Seahawks host a home game. During the summer, the fishmongers launch fish high into the air for as many as 10,000 visitors daily! Here is how it works! When a customer places an order, a fishmonger in front of the counter chants the order out loud to the fishmonger behind the counter who repeats the order back. Then, the fishmonger in front of the counter takes a three foot salmon off an ice covered table, and throws the fish into the air over the counter! The fishmonger behind the counter catches the fish, and packages it for sale! The fishmongers have a reputation for being a bit mischievous, and occasionally toss a fake foam fish at an unsuspecting audience member. Another of the fishmongers antics include the attacking monk fish. There is a sign above the fish which reads "I'm a Monk Fish" and it snaps at the approaching customers via a hidden fishing line. Above the area where the fish are thrown there is sign which reads "Caution: Low Flying Fish". It would be awful to be walking through Pike Place Market listening to the Seattle Rock Band; Mudhoney on your earbuds with Starbucks coffee in hand, umbrella in the other, and getting smacked in the face by a rouge flying fish! Then again, perhaps nothing else would be more “Seattle”! Although we knew what to expect prior to arriving, it is an entirely different experience to actually watch them throw large, cold, wet and slippery fish, and then catch them with expert precision! Nate and I stood there for over 30 minutes watching the spectacle! During our visit, we actually saw them drop one, which apparently is an extremely rare occurrence. Please see the pictures below.
Nate After departing the Pike Place Fish Market, we continued on to the Cross Country Couples famous food for Washington: Starbucks Coffee. Today, we would be visiting the very first Starbucks located at the Pike Place Market! Starbucks is an American Coffee Company and coffee house chain featuring; hot and iced coffee, whole-bean coffee, café latte, full and loose- leaf teas, fresh juices, frappuccino, espresso, pastries, hot and cold sandwiches, and drink ware. Founded in Seattle in 1971, the company opened an average of two new locations daily between 1987 and 2007, and now operates 23,768 locations worldwide! Clearly Americans have a serious addiction to caffeine! How big is this addiction you ask? Second only to oil, coffee is the largest commodity imported into the US! I too was once a slave to the bean! When working 3rd shift as a Nurse, I used to drink coffee fanatically to fight off fatigue and for increased mental alertness. I was the coffee king, and told my wife when I die to bury me with a cup of joe in my hand! I used to buy green coffee beans in bulk, roast them in small batches, grind them up by hand and seep the grounds in my french press to retain the oils. Occasionally when in a pinch, I would drink Starbucks Americano, and actually enjoyed the experience. What I didn’t enjoy was the side effect of caffeine: heartburn, jitters, rapid heartbeat, and splitting headaches. About 2 years ago, I put my coffee cup in the back of the cupboard for good, and gifted my french press to a friend who was still drinking auto drip. Organic decaf green tea is now my drink of choice, and has served me well since. Today I was going to relapse! I would willfully walk into the first Starbucks, and drink my first coffee in over 2 years! Lori was never much of a coffee drinker, but decided to join me since it is our chosen "food" for Washington. As usual at Starbucks, the line was long but moved fast, and the staff were pleasant and efficient. I ordered a tall decaf Americano black, and Lori ordered a tall iced Americano with milk and sugar. The coffee was as flavorful and robust as I remembered, but the roast was too dark for Lori’s palate. In the future, we both agreed to stick with our organic decaf green tea! Please see the pictures below of the first Starbucks. (Warning: The pictures below feature the original Starbucks logo of a bare breasted Siren, just in case you find such images offensive)
After departing the first Starbucks, we meandered around the market for an hour taking in all of the sights and sounds. We were visiting on a Monday mid-morning and it was still fairly busy! I can only imagine how packed this place would be on a summer weekend! Please see the pictures below.
You could easily spend an entire day walking around looking at 3 floors of vendors, and watching all the street performers. Speaking of street performers, there saw a talented pianist, named Johnny Hahn, who was playing a 64 key piano. Apparently, he rolls the piano back and forth from his home to the market every day. Since Pike Place is located at the bottom of an extremely steep hill, I have no idea how he pushes that piano up, and down it. I am ashamed to admit, I chuckled at the notion of a potential run away piano barreling through the market!
On our way out of the Pikes Place, we encompassed the largest piggy bank I had seen in my entire life! What we happened across was the unofficial mascot of the market; Rachel, a bronze piggy bank! Since 1986, the 550-pound piggy bank has sat at the corner of Pike Place beneath the iconic Public Market sign. Rachel is named after the actual name of the live pig for whom her likeness is derived. According to a local legend, it’s good luck to donate money into Rachel! Annually, $6,000-$9,000 dollars are deposited into the bronze pig, which is used to fund the markets social services. Of course the Cross Country Couple would never pass up an opportunity for some good karma, so we made our charitable contribution!
After departing the Pike Place Market, we were all absolutely ravenously hungry. However, Seattle is a city of seafood, which is a big no no for these two omnivores! Statistically, 3% present of the population are vegetarians. Since Seattle is a city of 750,000 people, there must be 22,500 vegetarians living Seattle who have must go somewhere to eat out. After a quick google search, we found a vegan restaurant with excellent reviews called The Plum Bistro. This was my Cousin Joe's first vegan meal, and said it was “filling and delicious”. The Cross Country Couple gives Joe 2 thumbs up for being willing to step outside of his comfort zone and try something new! One of the aspects of our cross country trip which excites us the most is dining at vegetarian restaurants all across the country. Unfortunately, most restaurants have left much to be desired. The Plum Bistro was the exception, and was the best vegan restaurant we have encountered thus far on our cross country trip. Please see the pictures below of the delicious food we ate!
After departing the Plum Bistro, we drove 42 miles South to the McChord Air Force Base. Lori's cousin Joe is a retired Master Sergeant in the Air Force, and flew on helicopters helping to rescue downed pilots during the Vietnam War. He was already in the Air force when Vietnam broke out, but not stationed there. Even though his wife Suzy was pregnant with his child, Joe actually volunteered to be assigned in Vietnam. He did so not because it was his job, he did so to support his fellow service members. To your left is a picture of Joe in Vietnam. Once we got past security, Joe first brought us to an outdoor museum featuring various aircraft used throughout the history of the Air force. If you look in the far off distance you can see Mount Rainier. Please see the picture below.
Next, Joe brought us to an extremely poignant, powerful and raw monument dedicated to the Vietnam POW MIA. At this point in our cross country trip we have seen our fair share of monuments, but this sculpture will forever be ingrained in my consciousness! Please see the pictures below. (Warning, the images pictured below are graphic, and may not be appropriate to for young children)
The Vietnam War was extremely unpopular. Unlike their fathers returning from WW2, there was no fanfare and no ticker tape parades for the veterans of the Vietnam. There was no expressed sense of appreciation or gratitude for the sacrifices they made, and the horrors they endured. Back in the Vietnam war era, protesting the war and protesting those who fought to defend our freedoms were one in the same. Fortunately, America has evolved past such narrow minded thinking. Today, Americans can both protest a war, and support our troops! Let us as a nation never forget the great price of such evolution of thought, which was the paid by the servicemen whom bear the scars from the Vietnam War even to this very day! Lori We had fun making Sushi with Suzy, playing the guitar with Joe, meeting their families, watching movies, flipping through photos, and just spending quality time together. Please see the pictures below.
We will be departing my cousin Joe and his wife Suzy's house tomorrow morning, to continue on our cross country journey. We are going to miss them both tremendously, and certainly will make a point to stay in each other’s lives no matter what the distance between there home and our future home may be.