WARNING: This is a REALLY long post, so don't even start reading it unless you've got a good chunk of time to waste. No, seriously.
You know those friends you have who you see maybe once a year and there's a fairly good chance you've barely even talked to them during that year, but as soon as you're with them, it's like you just hung out yesterday? There's no awkwardness, there's no feelings of guilt or obligation, there's no uncomfortable silences. You just fall effortlessly into the comfortable old loafer of friendship that's been patiently waiting. It's awesome.
I spent a long Memorial Day Weekend with those kinds of friends. My Hiram friends. We've been friends for like 14 years and since graduating from college 10 (oh.my.god. TEN!) years ago, we've managed to plan at least one group vacation every year.
As the title cleverly implies, we vacationed in Seattle this year. Alison moved to Seattle 6 months ago, and since none of us had ever been to the damp northwest city, we all converged upon her. (All except Janelle, who sadly wasn't able to get away this year. But the awesome thing is, when we see her next year, it won't even matter. We'll just all pick up where we left off, like we always do).
Aaaaaanyway, following is a lengthy recap of the weekend. I apologize in advance for the distinct lack of photographic evidence, but I'm just not a very motivated photographer. 1. I never seem to be able to pull my camera out at the appropriate Kodak moments and 2. I hate looking so obviously like a tourist. So, you'll have to just use your imagination. Deal.
Sara, Joanna and I all arrived at the SeaTac airport Thursday afternoonish. Alison had planned for us to meet up at the Starbucks (naturally) outside of ticketing. My flight was the last one to arrive, so after grabbing my baggage, I headed to our designated meeting place only to find Alison sitting at a table, by herself, talking on her cell phone.
Apparently, Joanna's flight had arrived over an hour ago and she had yet to show up at our meeting place. Sara was out looking for her and Alison was calling people to find out if Joanna had indeed gotten on her flight. You may be wondering why we didn't simply call Joanna to locate her. Well, dear reader, Joanna is the only human being beyond the age of 12 who does NOT own a cell phone.
After an hour or so of scouring the airport, having various airport employees page her, and calling random friends and family members, I spotted her wandering around Baggage Claim. She had not gotten the memo about our meeting place. She had also fallen asleep on a bench in Baggage Claim and was thus unable to hear her name being paged all over the airport. Joanna is the only person I know to whom these kinds of things happen on a fairly regular basis. Seriously.
So, as we drove from the airport to Alison's apartment, the weather was relatively clear. It wasn't raining but was suspiciously overcast with small patches of semi-blue sky peeking through every once in a while. Alison was practically beside herself with glee at this while the rest of us non-Seattlers were wondering what she was so happy about. (We found out the very next day...stay tuned).
After getting settled at Alison's apartment, we went for a stroll at Discovery Park, which has walking/running trails along Puget Sound. Even in the semi-gloomy conditions, it was really pretty. We ate fish n' chips at Chinook's down on the waterfront as the temperature continued to drop and the wind picked up. In addition to being travel weary, the time change was kind of kicking our butts, so we zonked out pretty early while scenes from the movie "Lars and the Real Girl" played in the background.
Gloomy view of Puget Sound at Discovery Park. Photo courtesy of Sara.
My central time self woke up promptly at 5 am - bright eyed and bushy tailed - to a gray, drizzly morning. Joy. Alison cheered us up with some kind of gooey french toast casserole deliciousness and then we trooped down to the bus stop. A side note: in case you weren't aware, as I was not, Seattle is a VERY hilly city. Another side note: Seattle has a great public transportation system.
We rode the bus downtown to Pioneer Square where we immediately bee-lined to the Elliot Bay Bookstore and loaded up our bags with books. Fortunately, we're all fantastically geeky bookworms who get excited at the mere sight of a quirky, independently-owned bookstore.
Once we were properly loaded up with heavy-ass books, we went for an entertaining and informative tour of Underground Seattle. From there we walked to the library and then to a building with a spectacular view of the city. (I can't remember what it was called - NO, not the Space Needle. sheesh). We continued walking (in the rain. uphill.) to the Pike Place Market and then to the Olympic Sculpture Garden. Without exaggeration, we literally walked from one end of the city to the other (in the rain. uphill. with heavy bags of books.) Good times.
Above is a photo of the library designed by Rem Koolhaas in 2004. We thoroughly toured the inside and discussed the design merits (yes, this is what we do on our vacations).
The picture above is us resting our weary feet at the Olympic Sculpture Garden. Photo courtesy of Sara who actually got up off of her chair in order to take this photo.
Our plan for Saturday was to drive an hour north to the town of Anacortes, board the 10:45 ferry to San Juan Island and spend the day hiking and whale watching on the island. First of all, the weather couldn't have been better. It was sunny with bright blue skies and those big puffy cotton clouds, and the temperature was a balmy 70-ish. Unbeknownst to us, everyone (yes, everyone) within a hundred mile radius had decided to also take the 10:45 ferry to San Juan.
We ended up hanging out at the ferry dock for a good 4 hours and finally were able to get on the 2:45 ferry. Once on the island, we drove to prime whale watching territory but managed to only spot a few porpoises, a harbor seal, and a log.
We finally gave up on the no-show Orcas and hiked to Lime Kiln Lighthouse.
After that we drove to a local sculpture garden on the island which was WAY cool. I should've taken pictures, but as I've already explained, I'm a crappy photographer. As part of the sculpture garden there was a forested area with rugged trails along which were great installation pieces. We were sort of like giddy children everytime we unexpectedly came across a new installation. Again, it was WAY cool.
One ice cream cone and one ferry ride later, we were headed back to Seattle.
Sunday we got to sleep in before once again catching the bus downtown to check out the Northwest Folklife Festival. It was a hippie paradise with lots of ethnic musicians, dancers and performers of all kinds. We were blessed once again with fanfuckingtastic weather.
After spending a considerable amount of time wandering around the Folklife Festival, we went to the Science Fiction Museum nearby. Despite their claim of owning the original chair belonging to Captain Kirk, it was actually a really neat museum with a heavy focus on the literary tradition of sci-fi and the history of the actual science behind sci-fi. It was more interesting than I had anticipated. Plus they had a replica Death Star, so really, how bad could it be?
We hustled ourselves back onto the bus, back to Alison's apartment and then drove to the quirky trendy neighborhood of Fremont where we took our annual group photo with a large sculpture of a troll and then shopped around the little boutique stores and bookshops before continuing on to another quirky little neighborhood called Greenwood, (I think), where we had plans to attend an Open Mic at the Wayward Coffeehouse.
Annual group photo courtesy of Sara. We're the four specks up on top of the troll's shoulder. I have no idea who the other people are in the picture but I suspect they are some kind of group photo hijackers who cleverly wait in the shadows before jumping into the photos of unsuspecting tourists.
We hung out there for a while drinking (coffee and tea) and playing Balderdash while waiting for the Open Mic to begin. It was a very disorganized Open Mic and with all the hippies down at the Folklife Fest, also very sparse. The participants ended up being one female singer/guitarist, one male singer/guitarist, and Joanna, our kick-ass performance poet.
Though the female singer/guitarist was very good (her name is Allyson McCombs and you can find her website HERE), Joanna clearly stole the show and it was so much fun to finally get to see her perform. We celebrated with dinner at a nearby Greek restaurant and then drove back to Alison's apartment, where I caught a quick cat nap before being picked up by the airport shuttle service at 3:10 am (yes, that's right, 3 o'clock in the fucking morning) to catch my 6:00 am flight back to Nashville.
Exhausting but supremely fun trip.
In case this post left you thirsting for more, you can read Joanna's blog about the absence of whales HERE