Thursday, August 30, 2012

Road Trip 2012 Part One

The road trip is a brilliant idea provided you have the funds (or a decent credit card) to make it happen. It also helps to have good travel companions. This fact makes me realize why I hated car trips with the family for so many years. Being crowded into a back seat with my brothers and sister for several hours is not nearly the same as swapping driving duty with my bff Jennifer from high school for several hours. For one thing, we manage to talk a lot more about things we have in common. Plus, with good travel companions, even the shitty parts of the trip become something to laugh about and share for many years. Also, I reeeaaallly like my car, Rosalinda.

At first, the plan was to drive up to Oregon early in the morning with plenty of time to stop and stare at interesting things along the way. However, my friend's flight was delayed as she arrived at LAX airport far too late to make the departure, and therefore had to summon financial support from outside sources to make another flight. This outside source didn't take into account we wanted to go NORTH to OREGON, and instead of looking for any city that would suffice to keep us within our time frame, such as Sacramento, decided to just rebook a later flight to Reno. Killing time with taking my brother to work and double checking all supplies packed in the car, my friend didn't arrive until around 2:30 pm, so it wasn't until 3:00 pm that we were able to leave Reno.

The drive north through Susanville was very interesting, and I wish we both had been able to get better pictures, because all of the smoke was so thick the landscape looked like a post-apocalyptic setting. It also helped that it was very empty with only scattered buildings and farm houses. I had been a very good Girl Scout by the way, and had plenty of food and self-defense items should we have run into zombies or punk bikers looking for fuel.

Towards evening, we stopped in Burney, CA at a Chinese restaurant my friend insisted looked too sketchy, but that I insisted was the perfect way to get the experience out of the way early on in the vacation. It was pretty decent Chinese food, and they even had pretty good vegetarian options. The drive further on skirted past a solid chunk of national forest, and we managed to hit Mt. Shasta National Park around sunset, which still looked pretty cool with all the smoke in the distance turning the sun a brilliant shade of red. Stopping in Weed, CA, we didn't find the tacky gift shop that tried to extol the virtues of the town's name in the form of gratuitous amounts of merchandise. It was still worth a chuckle, and we made good time the rest of the way up to Bend, OR. Understand that it was past midnight by then, so we both promptly passed out.

The next morning, Jennifer found out that the bookings did not include breakfast, as she has previously thought. This was an unfortunate development for our budgets, and neither of us felt particularly excited about the buffet or breakfast menu, so off into town we went. Luckily we were both modern young women with smart phones, and could map our way a few blocks to someplace claiming to be a cafe. I say "claiming" because the place wouldn't open until 11 am. Ludicrous! So to kill about 40 minutes of time we wandered around the strip mall area, and found the awesomest spice store! We seriously spent about 20 minutes browsing and smelling and tasting. I am asking for spice blends for the holidays. So to anyone wanting to impress me, is the magical place where dreams are made. Or at least really awesome curry blends. The lady there was really nice to us two tourists not intending to buy anything, and even recommended an awesome breakfast place. McKay's Cottage is one of the prettiest little cafe/restaurants, and it helped the weather was so nice to sit under the trees. Look at all the happy customers!

Jenn ordered an Eggs Benedict served on foccacia with red bell pepper, spinach, and perfect crispy, chewy bacon, while I splurged and got Stuffed French Toast. They frickin made it out of croissants, with mascarpone! *Drool,* Sorry, it still brings good memories. Of course, that breakfast had the unfortunate result of making my friend fall in love with Oregon, when the whole goal of the trip was to visit Washington and keep it in mind as a future place to live. It became a good-natured argument the rest of the way to Seattle.

We actually had to stop in another little place in Oregon, because my shoulders started hurting, and we found the most awesome gel massager thing at Ross! We also got a skull pillow for my car, a neck aromatherapy cushion-thing, and also the brilliant invention of shoe straps to turn dress shoes into strappy dress shoes (Fact: I never thought I could wear strappy dress shoes because usually they have needle-thin heels and I feared breaking something, so I usually avoided them). And that is how I had possibly the best nap while riding in a car, ever.

It also meant my first view of Seattle was unimpeded by trying not get anyone killed with my car. Seattle at sunset was very pretty, and there was just enough light to see how the buildings and highways stacked on top of each other, and how there were so many growing things, as though all the manmade things were a new breed of organism sprouting out of the hillside and flowing down the hills into the water. There was also Safeco stadium, which I at first thought might have been a shopping center and couldn't imagine walking through it when my local Whole Foods makes me twitchy, but then my friend started trying to remember who the Seattle sports teams were and I felt silly. Also, for anyone traveling to Bothell, Washington, the area we stayed at did not have good bars. Just saying.

The next morning, we planned a semblance of an idea of how we would explore the city. Neither of us expected parking to be such an issue, but we probably spent about 30 minutes hunting for a decent parking garage to keep Rosalinda for a solid chunk of the day, and very few places were able to cover more than two hours at a time without reaching ludricrous costs. Then we wandered Pike Place for about five hours. I was on the hunt for a pelican souvenir my father requested, as well as a new hemp necklace. This excursion was actually the most fun I'd had shopping in a long while, because Nevada hardly has anything close to the kind of odd little finds that Pike Place has unless you manage to score at a craft fair in good weather, and few of those come with numerous food stalls to explore as well. So besides browsing the shops, we walked past the first Starbucks, a few promising bakeries, and managed to find our way to some awesome indoor vendors on the lower levels. I took a picture of the wall labeling the ladie's bathroom by the staircase, for obvious reasons:

Our first place we browsed after going through the obviously touristy tacky nick-knacks was Market Magic Shop where they have lots of vintage stage posters, prank products, and of course, magic tricks. I scored some hilarious postcards there:
 Next place of interest was this odd little smoke shop. Inside was no hemp jewelry, sadly, but they had really nice figurines in the windows. I was very tickled by the statue of the cat-girl fairy. Plus the monsters and things were so cute!


The next place we were intrigued by was apparently the oldest comics shop in America, Golden Age Collectables. Besides the awesome life-size carboard displays outside the shop, the inside had lots of cool things too, including one of the best Dr. Who posters I've seen. There was lots of memoribilia from various franchises, including color as well as black and white photo prints of music and movie people. I only wished I was wealthier to have such items on display at my own place, a Tardis would be very cool to show off. Still, I scored some awesome pictures and buttons.


Walking along the pier, we came across Ye Olde Curiosities Shoppe with a pipe organ outside it, so we paid the quarter and listened to the aggravatingly loud music. Browsing the shop was another fun experience, it reminded me a lot of the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum in San Francisco. There were lots of interesting things in that shop:

I even paid out a quarter for one of those vintage fortune teller puppet machines xD

We ate lunch at Ivar's Acres of Clams. I had an awesome White Peach Sangria, the Alaskan Chowder, and a summer salad. My friend ordered a beer, the traditional Clam Chowder, and these scallop slider things. Both chowders were good, the traditional being creamier than the Alaskan. The salad was the perfect balance of sweet, sour, with really creamy goat cheese. The scallops were smoked and served cold, and it was an interesting combination with the crunchy sweet flat crackers they were on. I also ordered some fried calamari because that's my favorite, but I got too full, so we boxed it up and carried it with us the rest of the time we explored the pier.

Something I really enjoyed about Seattle was how thriving the arts community was there. Among all the stalls for handmade crafts were street musicians and even street artists! The pier was very nice, and I'm a little sad we couldn't make time to go to the fairgrounds on the boardwalk. Practically every cafe also had local artwork for decoration and sale, I was severely tempted many times to make purchases, and Jenn was not helpful with resisting. While I took many more pictures of the actual city, I'll wrap up this part of the road trip recount with the remaining pictures of the pier and Pike Place: