Sleepless in Seattle

Blog, Travel, USA

Sleepless in Seattle.  Well almost, because I’m about 60 miles south of the fair city. However it is 4.30 in the morning so I guess that kind of constitutes sleeplessness.

Somewhere in the distance I can hear one of those enormous American trains blowing it’s horn, announcing it’s transit through our neck of the woods.

America is a visual feast for a Brit like me, with its wide open spaces, gun stores, proliferation of fast food outlets, and drive in everything. Talking of driving, I had my first attempt at driving on the Freeway yesterday – what a blast!

Now the dawn is breaking here in beautiful Washington State.  Outside in the woods I can hear a cacophony of unrecognisable bird song greeting the new day. Reminds me of the handiwork of our creator & and the wonder of life itself…

Truckstop

Blog, Travel, USA

Well we arrived at The Pilot Truckstop, just off Exit 99 of Interstate 5 (the road from Canada to Mexico) in Thurston County for, as my dad put it, ‘a real slice of Americana.’

This was the real deal. Row upon row of beautiful American conventional trucks (engine in front not underneath); many shiny and gleaming with chrome bumpers, radiator grills and exhaust pipes.

We went inside and soon discovered trucker land: a fast food joint, a mini supermarket, DVD’s, basic truck spares and tools, a whole array of sunglasses and of course, showers!

Whilst I ordered the mandatory fast food, my dad had already engaged one of the aforementioned truckers in conversation. I took my seat eventually and we got down to the nuts and bolts of this opportune meeting.

Turns out we were talking to Dane P Carver, one fully certified truck driver running goods between his home town of Portland in Oregon and Tacoma, Washington state.

He was a real interesting guy and he told us he was a San Francisco 49ers fan and he had lived and worked in Scotland, even visiting John O’ Groats – well that’s one up on me.

He also told us that Truckstops were often frequented by ‘ladies of the night,’ and the girls have become peculiarly known amongst the trucking fraternity as ‘Lot Lizards’ (parking lot I guess).

Dane went on to say that some drivers have a special sticker on their trucks, which is a picture of a ‘feminised’ lizard inside a red circle, with a red diagonal line through the centre – indicating no interest. In other words, don’t knock on my window!

It seems that King Solomon of old was right when he said ‘there is nothing new under the sun.’  It’s amazing what you can learn by hanging out in an ordinary place, rubbing shoulders with ordinary people.

As we left, the constant tide of trucks coming in and those departing for their next destination continued unabated. It had been fascinating & interesting to sample this particular slice of Americana indeed.

Dane P Carver – keep on trucking!

Bridge City

Blog, Travel, USA

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So we headed south on Interstate 5 to cross the border of Washington into the neighbouring State of Oregon – reckoned to be the most beautiful in the USA.

Our destination today was to be the lovely city of the Portland which spans the Willamette River. I discovered that Portland has many nicknames, one of which is Bridge City. This is due to its abundance of bridges connecting the east and west areas of the city that stand either side of the river.

This urban sprawl in the north of Oregon is apparently a desirable place to live and work, and walking around Portland it’s easy to see why. In the pleasantly intense afternoon sun, the leafy, tree-lined streets and a relaxed, slightly hippy atmosphere seem to anesthetise you to the usual rush and bustle of city life.

Portland is also home to Powell’s City of Books which claims to be the largest independent used and new bookstore in the world. Stopping for lunch at the Brasserie Montmartre, a street-side café daringly advertising a touch of Paris, I asked Emma our young waitress about Portland. She described it as ‘eclectic.’

Enough said, for as we had entered the city earlier we stumbled across a group protesting against circumcision.  One of them was brazenly holding up a placard by the roadside declaring ‘Honk if you like foreskins!’  No-one was honking.

Added to the fact that they now have an annual ‘World Naked Bike Ride’ where clothing is optional, I think eclectic sums it up well, and maybe slightly weird.  City life I guess, not what a small town boy like me is used too…

On a more normal note, according to the 2014-15 edition of ‘Travel Portland’ this metropolis is also reckoned to be the Bike-Friendliest City, with ‘318 miles of bike lanes and counting.’ Portland boasts the highest share of bicycle commuters in the US too.

Leaving the city via the iconic Marquam Bridge, one of ten over the Willamette, we soon rejoined the busy commuter traffic on the Interstate 5 Freeway to head north for home.

Glancing right we were treated to a magnetic view of Mt. Hood, part of the the Cascades Mountain Range which spans both Washington and Oregon.  It’s snowy peak rises more 11,240ft to the east of Portland and is a breathtaking sight indeed.

Further north, we crossed the I-5 Interstate Bridge over the mighty Columbia River, which forms a natural border between the two States. The journey home became even more interesting as more of the Cascades Range came into view.

Mt. St. Helens appeared on the horizon, it’s flattened peak showing clear evidence of the cataclysmic volcanic eruption that took place in 1980 killing 57 people. Mt. Adams standing at 12,276ft loomed behind it’s more famous sister but nonetheless formed an utterly engaging sight too.

Finally, as we ploughed further north into Washington State and drew near to the fair city of Olympia, the grandaddy of all the Cascades peaks interrupted our vision.

Mount Rainier, jutting skyward at a height of 14,411ft perfectly capped what had been a most enjoyable roadtrip. It’s jagged summit clearly visible against the blue, late evening sky.

On the final leg of our journey home, the sun which refused to give up, amazingly continued to sit above the horizon and shed heat and light to all. Notably, it was well past 8.45 in the evening.

We really did have a great day, and if you should find yourself in this neck of the woods, do visit the City of Portland – I think you’ll find its worth it!

Puget

Blog, Travel, USA

I’m a Pacific Northwestern first-timer, but I think I’ll definitely be back.  Compared to the endless lines of New York skyscrapers as far as the eye can see, (don’t get me wrong, I love NYC), this was a breath of fresh air indeed.

The light, airy streets of Seattle had a completely different feel to them, as you were irresistibly drawn to Pike Place seafood market.  Situated on the eastern shores of the sparkling, Puget Sound, you can wander through the fish market or just drop into one of the many inviting eateries.

It’s easy to relax and feel right at home here in Seattle.  Great beer, mouthwatering food, a view to die for and a warm welcome.  What more could you ask?