Day 21 – Saturday, July 20

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The beautiful and incredibly inexpensive flowers at Pike Place Market

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The famous Wall of Gum at Pike Place

After departing our shithole motel in Fife, WA, we made it into Seattle shortly before noon, where our first stop was the world-famous Pike Place Market. I was last here on a weekday in May four years ago, when the market was relatively quiet, but on this weekend in July it was a madhouse, with thousands of tourists overrunning the place (damn tourists!).   So after about half an hour we left the market and walked over to Seattle Center (a park and arts-and-entertainment complex), home to the Space Needle, the Pacific Science Center, the Experience Music Project and other attractions. Seattle Center is the main venue of the Bite of Seattle food festival going on this weekend, so we hung around for a while, getting free samples — mostly sweets and beverages. Then we headed over to the Pacific Science Center, where we got in for free (thanks again to the reciprocity with our Boston Museum of Science membership). Although we enjoyed our time in the science center (free is free, after all), I enjoyed the one in Pittsburgh a bit more, and neither could hold a candle to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago — still the most-impressive science/technology museum I’ve ever visited.

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Aytan testing his flexibility at the Pacific Science Center

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Toby, Aytan and me with Jay Friedman after dinner, overlooking the Seattle skyline

The next stop on our itinerary was dinner with a friend from college, Jay Friedman, and his partner, Akiko. Full disclosure: Neither Jay nor I could recall seeing each other since our time at Cornell (he graduated in ’84; I in ’85), but my brother Mike and friend Farland Chang (see Yellowstone National Park posts) have remained fairly close with Jay, so I’ve sort of kept in touch with Jay through the two of them. Anyway, Jay’s life focus these days is sex and food. Sex, because his career is that of a sex educator; he worked for many years at Planned Parenthood and now tours the country giving talks/presentations to college students about sex — because college students apparently don’t know enough about sex. And food, since Jay spends much of the rest of his time as a food writer and critic; you can check out his website at gastrolust.com. After hanging out a bit at Jay and Akiko’s beautiful home in the Queen Anne section of Seattle — and getting a brief demonstration of the amazing A/V setup in Jay’s man cave — we headed out to dinner at Bamboo Garden, a vegetarian Chinese restaurant not too far from their home. The food was good (not great), but it was nice just catching up and hanging with Jay and Akiko (including for ice cream afterwards at Molly Moon’s).

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If you look closely, you can see Mount Rainier just above the trees on the right

After bidding farewell to Jay and Akiko, we focused on our next task: lodging for the evening. We once again found out that most of the reasonably priced lodging in the Seattle area was unavailable, so we ended up driving an hour south to the state capital, Olympia, where shortly before midnight we checked into the Capital Plaza Hotel (thank you, priceline!), getting one of only two rooms remaining.  So since we are now quite a bit south of Seattle, we might end up foregoing the Olympic peninsula of Washington (which we had planned on driving around) and instead heading straight into Oregon. I’ll keep you posted…

Day 20 – Friday, July 19

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Aytan caught a fish “this big” (at the fishery visitor center)

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Carson National Fish Hatchery

We left our Wyeth campsite this morning and headed back toward Cascade Locks and across the Columbia River via the Bridge of the Gods, into Washington.  Our first stop was unplanned: at the Carson National Fish Hatchery in Carson, Washington, which releases more than 1 million spring Chinook salmon every year into the wild.

Then it was off to Mount St. Helens, or as close to it as we could get.  The road there was so twisty and hilly that Aytan and I both felt a bit car-sick, but somehow we managed to keep breakfast down.

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The Three Amigos pose in front of Mount St. Helens

So after about 20 miles we decided we had had enough of Mount St. Helens, and we continued on toward Mount Rainier, the highest peak in the continental United States.  We took a nice two-hour hike in Mount Rainier National Park, covering about four or five miles, with great views of the peak and its glaciers.

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A view toward the top of Mount Rainier

From there it was on toward the Seattle area, as we all wanted a real bed for the evening.  Unfortunately, most of the decent cheap motels in the Seattle area were sold out, and we ended up at the Rodeway Inn in the town of Fife, a bit south of Seattle.  My recommendation if you’re in Fife and the only room available is at the Rodeway Inn: sleep in your car.  There’s no other way to put it: The Rodeway Inn in Fife is a shithole.  The room we were given was disgusting: a ripped lampshade, a destroyed dresser drawer (as if someone took a hatchet to it), a non-working deadbolt on the door, a damaged privacy latch on the door that had been partially ripped off, a hole in the ceiling with exposed wires where the smoke detector should have been, etc.  We ended up getting another room, which turned out to be a smoking room, with white trash staying in the room next door and making lots of noise throughout the night and early morning.  The only good part of our evening, other than Dairy Queen on the way to our hotel, was going to the movies: Aytan and I left Toby back at the motel and went to “Red 2,” which was quite a bit of fun