“All hail the reigning world champion of hide and go seek”
State 19: Washington - November 1-7, 2017
After spending 4 days at Lori’s Cousin Joe’s home in Lakewood, WA, we drove 41 miles North to West Seattle, and spent the next 3 days visiting with my Grandma. Since she is 88 years old and doesn’t travel anymore, I haven’t seen her in over 7 years! Compounding the problem, I live on the other side of the country in Connecticut, but not anymore! As of 5 months ago, my home is wherever I choose to park my van, and today my van is parked at Grandma’s house! From what I am told, being a grandparent is one of the best jobs in the entire world! You get to enjoy the children with little stress, few responsibilities, and if they misbehave, you get to give the little rascals back to their parents. My grandma was awesome to me back when I was a wee little Nate, and the happiest memories I have growing up were the times I spent with her. It was a special moment flipping through photo albums, cooking old family recipes, sewing together, playing games and reminiscing about the past. The 3 days we spent together went way too fast, and before we knew it, the time had come to continue on our cross country journey. We gave them a tour of Rosie and continued on our way. Please see the pictures below.
When we left it was snowing in Seattle!
After departing my Grandma’s house in West Seattle, we drove 39 miles North to Mukilteo to visit the Cross Country Couple's Made in the USA tour for Washington; Boeing. Boeing is in an American company that designs, manufactures, and sells airplanes, rotocraft, rockets, and satellites worldwide. Boeing is the second largest defense contractor in the world, and the largest exporter in the United States by dollar value. Boeing's Washington facility is the location of the 747, 767, 777 and 787 Dreamliner production lines. This felt so surreal! We were actually going to see massive airplanes being built in America, by American workers before our very eyes! According to trip advisor, the Boeing Tour had a 4.5 star rating with over 4500 reviews, and over 150,000 people visit annually. Clearly, this was going to be one of our most exciting tours ever! Please see pictures below.
We arrived at the Future of Flight Aviation Center at the Boeing Plant, parked Rosie, and made our way to the front desk. Admission was $20 per person, and included access to their Aviation Center, and the tour of Boeing's production lines. Prior to departing on the tour, we were told sternly and directly by the attendants on 4 occasions, cellphones and bags of any type were not allowed!!! Lockers were provided free of charge to secure valuables, but I opted to leave my phone inside of Rosie. Considering the sensitive nature of their business, Boeing takes security extremely seriously, and more so than any factory tour we had previously visited. The Boeing complex is in fact so secure when the US President visits the greater Seattle area, Air Force One lands on Boeing’s runway! Since Air Force One is a highly customized version of Boeing's 747, this is only appropriate!
The tour began with us being directed down a long dark corridor mimicking the appearance of an airport gangway leading to a large movie theater. Thankfully, there were only 40 of us on the tour, because we were visiting off season. During the summer months, the groups size can swell upwards of over 200 people! After taking our seats, a very large and stern security guard came out to once again remind everyone cellphones and carry on’s “purses and backpacks” are not permitted on the tour and should be stowed in the overhead compartment “the provided lockers”. The tour began with a film depicting the history of Boeing, which instead felt more like a promotional video. After the flotation device demonstration, and ensuring our tray tables were in the upright position, we all boarded a bus, and set in a course for the huge hangars where Boeing builds their airplanes.
Before discussing the planes Boeing builds, we must first discuss the building in which they are assembled. The building where Boeing builds it's airplanes has the distinction of being the largest building in the entire world by volume! The exact measurements are 472,370,319 cu ft, and it covers 98.7 acres. To put this into perspective, the size of the building is the equivalent to 276 football fields, and theoretically the NFL could play all if its 256 games in a season simultaneously, and still have fields left over! The building has tunnels underneath where the utilities run throughout. There is no air conditioning within the building, and instead features a series of massive pocket doors, which open to allow air flow throughout the building. In addition, Engineers actually had to install massive dehumidifiers, because the building was generating it's own weather patterns inside due to its gargantuan size. Can you imagine going to work inside of a building, and having it rain on you? In addition, there are 30,000 employees, its own fire department, security team, daycare center, and fitness center. The building also has 8 coffee shops, and interestingly none of them are Starbucks! While I expected the Boeing tour to be a testament to human engineering, I was not expecting such an impressive example of American architecture. I wish they allowed pictures, because the building itself was such an impressive site.
There are 4 assembly lines within the Boeing factory, and the tour took us to 2 of them. The first line we visited was solely dedicated to the production of the 747. In fact, the reason for the world’s biggest building was built was to have a facility capable of making this very aircraft. The Boeing 747 is a large-size, long-range four engine jet airliner, and was the first wide body aircraft produced!
The next assembly line we visited produces the Boeing 787. The 787 is a mid-size long-range wide-body twin-engine jet airliner. What is most interesting about this plane is it's fuselage, wings, tail and nose are each constructed from a single piece of carbon fiber! Each piece is so large, Boeing actually had to design and build an airplane called the Dreamliner capable of delivering the massive plane pieces from where they are manufactured! The greatest benefit to carbon fiber construction is a significant decrease in the weight of the plane. As a result, the 787 has a flying range of 8,464 miles, a cruising speed of 562 mph, and is capable of flying nonstop between any two cities in the world!
It is now time to answer the million-dollar question! What is the cost of a Boeing 747? Drum roll please....…The MSRP is $350 million dollars, and does NOT include the 4 jet engines and the passenger seats! Those will set you back another $100 million! In addition, Boeing does not deliver the airplane, but includes a complimentary ½ tank of fuel with every new plane purchase! Although most of Boeing's clients are governments and commercial airlines, there are actually 9 people whom have purchased a 747 for personal use! During our tour, we saw three 747's in various stages of completion, and I now can say I know what a 1 billion dollars looks like! I can’t even find the words to describe what it is like seeing a construction project of this magnitude, and regretfully I do not have pictures to refer to. If you ever find yourself anywhere in the greater Seattle area, you should definitely stop by and see the Boeing factory for your yourself! Although the tour of Boeing was 90 minutes in duration, the time just flew by! LOL
After returning back the Aviation Center, we were told a test flight for a newly constructed airplane was soon scheduled to take off. We made our way up 3 flights of stairs to a rooftop outdoor observation deck to view the maiden voyage of a 747! While this was quite impressive to witness, I don’t think I would want the job of being the first person to fly a plane consisting of over 6,000,000 individual parts! EEEEEK! We were also fortunate to see the Dreamliner plane used to deliver the carbon fiber parts for the 787. Please see the pictures below!
Next, we went back downstairs to explore the displays at The Future of Flight Aviation Center, which included the largest jet engine the world manufactured by GE, a flight simulator, and the Destiny Space Station module used to train Astronauts for the International Space Station. Nate and I even got to sit in the actual cockpit of a Boeing plane. Please see the pictures below.
Whether buying or flying, we should all make a point to support great American companies such as Boeing. Next time you book a flight, ask the airline the type of plane in which you will be flying, and tell them, “If the plane isn’t a Boeing, then I’M NOT GOING!”.
After leaving Boeing, we drove 212 miles South to visit the Cross Country Couple's historic location for Washington; Mount St Helen. Mount St. Helen is an active volcano in the Cascade Mountain Range, and is one of the 160 volcano's of the Pacific Ring of Fire. The volcano is located 96 miles South of Seattle, and 50 miles Northeast of Portland. Most famous for it's cataclysmic 1980 eruption, Mount St. Helen is the deadliest, and most economically devastating volcanic event in US history! 57 people died, and 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles of railways, and 185 miles of highway were obliterated! An earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter Scale triggered the eruption. The result was a massive debris avalanche reducing the mountains elevation by 1314 ft, and left a 1-mile horseshoe shaped crater on the volcano’s North face.
As usual, we began by stopping at the visitor center to speak with the Ranger, and get our passbook stamped. In addition, I was planning to hike Mount St. Helen, and needed the Ranger to issue me a permit before doing so! The hike is a grueling 4 miles up, and back trail which takes between 8 and 12 hours to complete! The trail features drastic increases in evaluation, and 2 miles of jagged volcanic rock to scramble over! I have been looking forward to this hike for a very long time! I was finally going to ascend to the crater and stare that killer right in the eye! Then I got the bad news! The Ranger was not issuing any permits that day due to road closures from recent snow, and a dense fog at the summit. She even showed me a live stream of the summit via a webcam pictured above, and it was so foggy you could not see anything! How disappointing! I will return one day to summit this volcano!!!!
We paid $6 dollars each for admission, watched a movie on the eruption, and proceeded on to the museum. The museum featured a geographical history of the region, and a display in a timeline format highlighting the events prior, during and after the eruption. Please see the pictures below.
Also on display was a massive 3D topography map of Mount St. Helen. Although most visitors centers have such a display, this one was of particular interest because you could actually walk downstairs beneath the map, to view the volcano from the inside! Please see the pictures below.
One of the most interesting exhibits on display was a picture of man named David Johnson. Johnson was an American Volcanologist who was manning the Cold Water Ridge Observation Post 6 miles from Mount. St. Helen the day of the eruption. Despite heavy pressure from government and local officials, Johnson convinced authorities to close Mount St. Helen to the public in the weeks prior to the eruption. Johnson's efforts have been credited with saving thousands of lives, although in the end it cost him his own. Johnson was the first to report the eruption by radioing his famous last words "Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!" before he was swept away by a pyroclastic flow. Ironically, Johnson wasn’t even supposed to be at the observation post on the day of the eruption. Johnson had switched shifts with another volcanologist named Harry Glicken, so he could attend an interview. Glicken took the above picture of Johnson at the observatory 13 hours prior to the eruption of Mount St. Helen. Even more ironically, Glicken also died in a pyroclastic flow while conducting research when Mount Unzen erupted on June 3, 1991. David Johnston, and Harry Glicken are the only two American volcanologists whom died in a volcanic eruption.
After departing Mount St. Helen, we drove 13 miles Northeast to Kid Valley to the Cross Country Couple's Famous Person for the state of Washington; Big Foot aka Sasquatch. I kid you not!!! There are more Bigfoot sightings in Washington state than anywhere else in the world! Due to the lack of physical evidence after centuries of investigation, scientists reject the existence of Sasquatch and consider it to be a folklore, misidentification, or hoax. However, there remains a small group of dedicated investigators actively engaged in hunting down Big Foot. Just in case Sasquatch is in fact ever found, Washington has an actual law making it illegal to kill him. Big Foot takes his name from his enormous footprints which measure 24 inches long and 8 inches’ wide. Individuals whom claim to have seen Sasquatch, describe him as a large, hairy, muscular, ape-like creature, approximately 6–9 feet tall covered in hair, with large eyes, a large low-set forehead, and has been reported as having a strong foul smell. Allegedly, Big Foot is also a vegetarian like us! You gotta wonder how the heck they know that, lol! During our 2 weeks in Washington, we actually had quite a few Sasquatch sightings all across the state. He really is not that hard to find if you know where to look. Please see the pictures below.
In all seriousness, if Big Foot does in fact exist, then where is he today? The number of
Sasquatch sightings peaked in the 1970’s, and have since trailed off. Rumor has it Big Foot was killed in the Mount St Helen's 1980 eruption, and to commemorate his passing, a memorial sculpture of his likeness was erected. Please see the picture below.
After departing the Big Foot Memorial, we saw a half buried A- frame house across the parking lot and decided to investigate further. The home was almost finished, and ready to be moved in, when Mount St. Helen erupted in 1980. The volcano ejected so much material the entire area surrounding the A frame was buried in 5 feet of volcanic ash. The home remains exactly as it was found in the aftermath of the eruption, serving as a lasting testament to the mountains violent temper. About 25 feet away from the A frame, we discovered the homes refrigerator still half buried in the earth. Please see the pictures below.
Washington was one of the states we were most excited to visit, but we were left with a bitter sweet experience. We were allured by Washington’s temperate weather, no state income tax, and progressive culture. Although the aforementioned were true, we also discovered 2 weeks of overcast skies and rain, an overpopulated West coast, and the largest nuclear waste site in the Northern Hemisphere! On paper Washington showed so much potential, but in actuality, the state left much to be desired. On a more optimistic note, the best experiences we had in Washington was the time spent reconnecting with family! We spent 4 days with my Cousin Joe, and his family whom I hadn’t seen in 25 years, and spent 3 days with Nate’s Grandma whom he hadn’t seen in 7 years. We cherished the time we spent with our loved ones, and will certainly make a point to keep in touch!
Our 2 weeks in Washington was coming to a close, and we were both feeling extremely road weary. Our water bricks were empty, our commode was full, and Nate and I were both fighting a bad head cold. We usually get a hotel one night every 6 weeks, but only 4 weeks have passed since our last stay. However, we were in desperate need of some R & R! We found a budget hotel with great reviews on the Washington/ Oregon border and took a take a day off the road. We will see you in Oregon!