Sorry for not posting last night. The internet was a little screwy in our room and I was exhausted after a long day of driving. I’m going to try to make this one short too since I’m using the public computer in the hotel. We’ll see how that works.
After crashing in Oregon, we drove north to see Mt. St. Helens. It was a fairly short drive (not too many mountains…) and we got there a little after noon. After checking out the visitors center, which is still 50 miles from the mountain, we decided to go ahead and drive all the way up to the last observation area to look at the mountain. It was another two-lane road with hairpin curves and cliffs just a few feet from the outside lane. These roads were fun at first, but even I was starting to get a little sick of it. It took a little less than an hour to get up to the last observation deck, which is on a ridge (Jackson Ridge?) only a few miles from the summit. Now, a few miles may seem like a lot, but with a volcano this huge and standing on a good size ridge, a few miles makes you feel like you’re up close and personal.
Looking at the volcano is spectacular. There was still snow on the ground in a lot of places, including the observation deck. You can clearly see where the side of the mountain just collapsed during the eruption in 1980. There’s just a massive crater where the peak should be. It’s a little unsettling, and I couldn’t imagine being there when it actually happened. The ground directly below the mountain used to be covered with trees, but now it’s mostly just bare, dry land. On the way up to the observation deck, most of the hillsides and mountainsides only had ragged stumps where the tree had just been torn down. Farther away you could see where some of the trees were starting to grow back.
We went inside where they were showing this video about the eruption. It was a pretty good video and described exactly how this explosive eruption happened. (I won’t go into that here, but look it up. It’s pretty interesting.) The best part was at the end the screen went up and so did a curtain behind it, revealing a glass wall where you could see the volcano perfectly. It was beautiful and totally unexpected. We just thought it was a regular theater.
We walked around for a bit more, then decided to head back to the car and make it up to Seattle, which we did after a few hours and fighting traffic in the surprisingly busy Tacoma.
Apparently, according to Madison and Paw-Paw, this is my part of the trip and everything was on me to plan. I just though it would be a cool place to stop. I like big artsy cities. This morning we got up and I decided that we should check out the Seattle Center, where the main part of the World’s Fair was when they held it in Seattle (1964). All that I really knew that was there was the Space Needle, and I figured that was worth the walk. It was just a few blocks from our hotel. We got there at about 10 and bought tickets to go up to the top observation deck. Since it was fairly early there was no one around and we got there pretty quickly. The O Deck is 520′ above Seattle and gives a gorgeous view of the Puget Sound and Lake Union (which, by the way, is one of the largest sea plane airports in the country…fun fact. You could see them taking off every few minutes).
It was surprisingly chilly today — and I’m too stubborn to accept it, so I wore shorts, a polo and flip-flops — so I got a hot tea at the top of the Needle and we sat inside to warm up some. Back at the bottom, we saw this funky shaped building that I just had to look into. It was a mass of colors and weird shapes and looked like it was made out of metal. Turns out it was the Experience Music Project and the Science-Fiction Museum. Being a music nerd, I had to find out what the EMP was. Paw-Paw didn’t seem to interested, but he encouraged Madison and I to buy tickets to go check it out. The first part was a history of the Seattle Music scene. Seattle is a crazy music community, and has been for years. Just to name a few artists who grew up or got started here: Jimi Hendrix, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Presidents of the U.S.A., Heart, Minus the Bear, Modest Mouse…you get the idea. They also had a guitar room that showed the evolution of the electric guitar, along with a full room devoted to Jimi, including the guitar he used at Woodstock. In the main hall they had a statue made completely of guitars, banjos and drums that stretched from the floor and expanded like a funnel to the ceiling…and it played music. Some guitars were set up with robots that played pre-recorded music live.
On the other side there was a room with all kinds of artist interviews and performances. You just went up to a computer and picked who you wanted to hear talk and they told stories about songs, albums, music in general or personal stuff. There was even a booth where you could record yourself talking.
And my favorite part: the demo room. Upstairs there was a massive room filled with guitars, drums, keyboards, basses, samplers, mixing boards and vocal booths. You could just walk up and play anything. They had tutorials if you wanted them, or you could just play for fun. I don’t have a guitar with me on this trip, so this gave me a chance to get to play some. It was so much fun. The stations were set up so that three people on three different instruments could jam together. I could have spent hours in there.
After we left, we grabbed some lunch and headed down to the famous Pike Place Fish Market. This is the place where you always see the people throwing the fish around. We watched that for a while, then started walking around the rest of the market. It’s basically the biggest farmers market you will ever see. It has a lot of restaurants and tons of fruit and vegetable vendors. They also had a wind-up toy shop (and that’s all they sold), a magic shop and an old record store. I spent about 30 minutes going through the records. We walked around that for a while, then finally went back to the hotel.
I think Paw-Paw was pretty tired, so he just decided to relax for the night while Madison and I walked over to Lake Union. It had a little park, but nothing else there. We did get to watch a sea plane take off though. We decided to look for some food, so we went back down to the market only to find everything closed. It was only like 7:30 (it gets dark really late here…like 9:30). We talked to a cop and he said there were some restaurants down on the waterfront, so we got some seafood at this little fish and chips place on the Puget Sound.
We came back to the hotel exhausted and our legs hurting.
Tomorrow we’ll be heading out early and going to Spokane, where Paw-Paw was stationed for a while. We’ll either stay there or head a little farther east towards Yellowstone National Park, which is our next big stop on the trip.