It took a while to get back to the US from Canada. The queue to the border was 1.5 hours. But when I finally got to the front of the line I got through real quick. I had to explain the border people that I was allowed to keep my own plates while driving in the US for less than a year (they didn’t know that). They asked me if I knew how to type my plates into their system (they didn’t know that either). Once I got across the border there was no time for a break. The next week I was going to have a guest for my trip. Cedric is currently at Stanford and he flew over from San Francisco to Seattle to join me. The 1.5 hour border crossing delay was perfect timing so that I got to the airport when Cedric just got through security. First stop after the airport was the supermarket where they had lobster tails on a ridiculous discount so that’s what we were going to have for our first dinner (we had no clue how to prepare them). We stopped at a campsite close to the airport and made our dinner and our plans. The plan was to explore the Olympic National Park for a few days and spend the last two days in Seattle.
We started the first day with a stop in Olympia, the capital of Washington. It had a cool capitol building and governor’s mansion. Cedric was very happy to get his first hipster coffee (many would follow). The Olympic National Park is located on a peninsula between Seattle and the Pacific. It’s a bunch of mountains with rain forests. There are no roads crossing the park. Just a road going around it with some narrow dead end roads leading into the internals. We tried the first dead end road that lead us past some nice lakes into the rain forest. We had planned to camp on a campsite in the historical town Port Townsend but it was full. So we drove a bit back to a State park campground.
The next morning we went back to Port Townsend to explore the old Victorian town center with loads and loads of art galleries, a pier and more hipster coffee shops than people. We also went to the the old fort where there was a nice rusty lighthouse. From Port Townsend it was back to the Olympic National park and up Hurricane Ridge. It was a bit cloudy/foggy at the top, but it looked like the weather might improve so we went for a hike. We spotted so much wildlife… A deer (actually, it was in the parking lot, did not care about cars, so it wasn’t very hard to spot), loads of squirrels, grouse, marmots, more deer and to finish it all of a mountain goat. The goat was walking along the rocks in the distance. We tried to get a bit closer when it started to walk towards us. We made sure to move far out of his way only to end up watching it walk up to the loud tourists further down. The view from the top of Hurricane mountain was great. When the clouds moved away for a few seconds we could actually see Vancouver Island from here (and almost Russia in the distance). We grabbed a national forest to camp at and splurged on a bundle of firewood for a nice campfire. We also explored the river along the campsite, it looked a lot like Jurasic Park but we only found dragonfly cocoons.
The Olympic Park does not only have mountains but also stretches along the beautiful Pacific coast. Ruby beach was filled with driftwood and large rocks sticking out of the ocean. It was slightly foggy which gave it a nice spooky atmosphere. We located a few live crabs (and a lot of dead ones) and a starfish. We stopped at some more beaches and then drove back into the mountain part of Olympic National park and drove around a lake and followed a river on some dirt roads. On the river bed we spotted the first snake of my trip (it was only a tiny one and too quick for pictures). Back at the coast we found a state park campsite at the beach. That night we went to the beach to stare at the milky way, always a good end of the day.
For the last two days we had booked a Airbnb in north Seattle with a good public transport connection to town. On our way to Seattle on the too big and too busy highway we saw a set of 5 fighter jets fly over very low (turns out the Blue Angels, the US navy stunt team, was in town for shows). We parked the car at the Airbnb and took the bus to town. We first went to the Space Needle area which has a whole bunch of cool buildings and a musical fountain. The musical fountain is full of kids playing in it, but when the music gets very dramatic (they were playing Ode to Joy) it sounds more like a canon shooting than a fountain so all the kids ran away again. We explored the waterfront and the Pike Place Market. The market is huge with loads of good food, sadly its also very crowded and touristy.But we found a brewpub with good beer and cheap brezels (only when I ordered them, Cedric had to pay way more). After a few beers we got all excited about seafood dinner. We found a good restaurant and ordered tuna tartar and crab as appetizers. Then came our main course in the shape of a lobster roll. We took one bite and looked at each other…. The beer had made us a bit overly optimistic and we were stuffed. So we kindly asked them to pack it up for us so we could have it for breakfast the next day. We spend the remainder of the evening in a park near the market which was filled with a surprising amount of crazy people which were very entertaining to watch while they were dancing and singing by themselves.
Day two in Seattle we continued where we left the previous day. Pike Market with the beautiful street art at the gum wall (a dark ally where the walls are covered in chewing gum), some touristy piers and finally Columbia tower. The tower has a viewpoint which is cheaper than the space needle and should have better views. On our way up the people in the elevator asked us if we knew when the Blue Angels stunt show was starting. We didn’t know there was a stunt show but it turns out the tower was a great viewing point for it. The five stunt planes were doing all their loopings and other acrobatic work right in front of us. Really cool. After the tower we went for some Dutch culture and visited the public library designed by Rem Koolhaas. After all the sightseeing it was time to explore some more brew pubs.
On Cedric’s last day we went to the Boeing Airplane museum. Loads of cool airplanes, we went inside a Concorde and an Airforce One. For us engineering nerds they also had the first 747 where you could see all the control guide wires and test flight setups inside. Obviously we hadn’t thought about the fact that the Blue Angels had more shows and that they were taking off from the Boeing Airfield which is right next to the museum. So we got to see the take off and flyovers of the show again. I dropped Cedric at the airport and drove to Mike and Jamie. The original plan was that I would fly to their wedding in LA in early July, but because of my visa issues that never worked out. They had just moved to Seattle and this time the timing did work for me to go say hi. Parking was supposed to be a pain but I found a spot right in front of the house on the first try. The Saturday evening we explored the neighborhood and found a whole bunch of nice bars with loads of good beer. Sunday was a lazy day to hang around the house and make nice dinner. Both days the Blue Angels flew over again making loads of noise.
I left Seattle to head south of Monday morning. On my way out on the busy highway the Blue Angels flew over once again(5th day in a row) on their way out of Seattle to say goodbye to me.
Thanks to Cedric for joining me and to Mike and Jamie for hosting me!