In the fall of 1999 I spent four days in Seattle visiting a college friend of mine, and all I have to show for it
are some tips for tourists and
some 8" by 10" color glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the
side of each one.
First of all, bring a rain coat. It rains a lot in Seattle. It doesn't rain that hard, it's not even enough to get you wet, but it's more than enough to annoy you and make you cold. Luckily, there are plenty of indoor things to do in Seattle, the most important of which are the brewery tours. The two tours I've been on are the Redhook Brewery and the Maritime Pacific Brewery . Both are excellent and well worth the time & money. Actually, the tour of the Maritime Pacific Brewery was fast & free, but it'd still be worth it if it was a week long and cost a couple Benjamins. The Redhook tour cost a buck, but that included a commemorative glass and several beers. A bargain at twice the price.
I have to give Seattle credit for the way it's been developed. For such a large city, it just doesn't seem crowded. There are houses everywhere, but still plenty of trees and open spaces. And the houses also have an interesting variety of architectural styles; especially when compared to, say, Columbia, MD. This is not to say that traffic isn't bad; from what I've heard, it's horrendous on the bridges. But overall, the city seems well laid out.
While driving around Seattle, I noticed a large number of 50's and 60's era American cars, a much larger number than would be expected given the demographics of the city (young and upscale). It took a few beers, but eventually I figured out what was going on. It turns out that environmentalists are buying up these inefficient, smog-spewing machines from all over the country and shipping them to Seattle. The ultimate goal is to keep them off the road, but the environmentalist realize that simply junking the cars wouldn't suffice. Enthusiasts would salvage them from the junkyard and restore them to working condition. Likewise, burying them all in a deep canyon wouldn't work either, because it would pollute the groundwater and some enterprising prospector might dig them up for parts. No, the only way to get rid of them for good is to ship them to Seattle, where over time the salt and rain reduces all cars to component rust atoms.
REI headquarters is also in Seattle, and they have a huge store that's worth a visit. It includes a bike trail, a few simulated hills to test out your hiking boots on, and a three story climbing wall. And, of course, there's racks and racks of expensive "active" wear to try on. There's even a booth with a rain simulator so you can check your chosen gear to make sure it's waterproof. Apparently, standing in the booth and remarking "Wow, this is just like living in Seattle!" isn't funny.
Last but certainly not least, there's the Space Needle. You can take an elevator ride to the top and look
around for a few bucks. For only a few bucks more, you can have lunch or dinner atop the Space Needle in the
revolving restaurant, and they throw the elevator ride in for free. The outer ring of the restaurant, where all
the tables are, revolves once every thirty minutes or so. The inner part where the kitchen, lobby, and restrooms
are doesn't move. This means that if you get up to go to the bathroom, when you come back your table will have moved,
and you'll have to walk a lap around to find it. While I was doing this I passed some people doing the same thing,
but going the other way. In fact, I passed one guy twice and he said he hadn't gone by his table yet. I started to think
how that was possible, but then I went cross-eyed. Overall, the food's good, but it's not the best place to eat in
Seattle. The view is pretty good too, but it's probably not the best view in Seattle either. Nevertheless,
you should go, because whenever you tell people that you went to Seattle they always ask "Did you
see the Space Needle?;" in much the same vein that they'd say "Oh, you were in St. Louis? Did you see the arch?" or
"Oh, you were in Idaho? Did you eat a potato?"
This sculpture is located near the base of the Space Needle. Essentially, the artist took a bunch of
leftover sewer pipe, welded it together in a random jumble, and painted it red. Impressive, eh? This
type of art is very important because it will inspire the next generation of creative minds to
become artists, because six-year-old children will look at it and think
"Hey, I could do that!"
The illustrious Space Needle. Once a featured exhibit of the World's Fair, it now serves mainly as a
way for Seattle to tax non-residents. It also keeps the revolving restaurant off of U.S. land and in international airspace,
where the health codes and labor laws are more business friendly. The typically gray skies of Seattle make it
a bit un-picturesque, but thanks to the power of Photoshop...
...we can see it as it would appear on a Sunny day! The birds at the lower left of the picture
are sea hawks.
View from the observation deck of the Space Needle. Not long after we got to the top
a thick fog rolled in and covered downtown Seattle. The whole experience was a lot like being
in cloud city, 'cept that Lando doesn't swing by with a cool Colt 45
as often as you'd like.
The main exhibit area of the Boeing Museum of Flight , cleverly back-lit for that artistic
"underexposed foreground" effect. The ever-popular SR-71 is here, a long with several
experimental aircraft, a retired Air Force one, and lots of artifacts from the space
program. There's also a good bit of exhibits focused on the pioneering days of aviation.
While I was touring the museum, one of Boeing's communications satellites had a gyro failure. The
emergency announcement was made over the P.A.: "Is anyone here a mechanical engineer with experience in magnetic
bearings for flywheel energy storage?" There were still a couple of exhibits I wanted to see, but my degree
carries with it a certain responsibility, so I answered the call. After a quick flight up in the shuttle, I was
able to perform the space walk shown here and repair the gyro. When I got back to earth, the people at
Boeing were so grateful they baked me a cake. The End.
A Curtis V2C-10 aviation engine, circa 1917. This water cooled V-8 was good for about 200 horsepower
at around 1400 RPM. This info is all on the exhibit card, actually, but I've blurred it out to make me look
smart. Notice that each piston has its own separate, removable water jacket. This engine was housed
in the barn portion of the museum, which served as Boeing headquarters early on in the company's history.
A duck. On a lake.
Expressing my displeasure to one of the original Starbucks. The gesture in question has been
pixelated for the sake of the children.