With the presentations all finished for the International Association of Wildland Fire Conference, I didnt feel like spending the evening in my room. I was originally supposed to be going Geocaching with some other Aussies but they bailed on me – something about rain. It is only water – you wont rust.
So I donned some wet weather gear and started to walk around Downtown Seattle. I headed south towards Pioneer Square as I had heard that there was a Firefighters Memorial in Occidental Park. Not quite opposite was the Headquarters for the Seattle Fire Department as well as a lot of homeless people. This seems to be the area that there are a number of food centres for them.
Following the GPS, I found myself on the wharf area and it was getting wetter and I was getting hungry and there was a choice or McDonalds or Ivars Seafood & Chowder. I chose Ivars for a nice big steaming bowl of chowder. There is even an undercover heated outdoor eating area where you can watch the kids feed the gulls or the Fire Station next door. They even have a statue of Ivar feeding the gulls.
The Fire Station next door is Station #5 and as well as the normal Fire Truck it also houses the Fireboats out the back. Continuing on after tea, I made it back to Post Alley and the Wall of Gum looking for a Geocache on the wall. After 20 minutes I was unsuccessful – all the gum looks the same.
Up the hill and back up to Pikes Place Market for a coffee at the Original Starbucks (the place was empty tonight) and then headed back to the Hilton Hotel as it was still raining and my coat was starting to let water in.
Tomorrow is the field trip for the International Association of Wildland Fire Conference and then it will be time to pick up Jenny and the kids – they have spent the week at Whistler.
Day one of the International Association of Wildland Fire conference. It was amazing the numbers of Aussies attending, in fact around half of the presentations were by Australians. The conference was similar to the Bushfire CRC conference back in Australia with presentations by researchers into fire science and the like.
After a big day as the presentations were only 20 minutes long starting at 8:30 am and continuing til 5:00 pm, it was time to head out and grab some fresh air.
As it happened, a couple of Aussie geocachers were also in town. It was Mary and Mark of Aussie M&M. Mark does some work at Boeing on and off. Tonight we would cache around Downtown Seattle getting some of the favourite caches as decided by other cachers.
It was a little drizzly but not too bad and after caching until dusk it was time for something to eat. We chose a random sports bar called Floyds Place which wasnt too bad. It was then back out and caching until around 11:00 pm.
We even got questioned by security around the Zoo but once we explained we were geocaching he continued on his rounds.
Today was a moving day. Jenny and the kids were headed to Whistler for the week and I was heading into the Hilton for the International Association of Wildland Fire conference. After a little pushing we had the car loaded and I took them into town to catch the bus to Vancouver on time.
For me it was back to the apartment for a final cleanup and load up then spend the morning doing some sightseeing before checking into the Hilton.
After watching a few boats go through the locks, I continued around to the coast and into Discovery Park. This area includes an old Army base of which some of the land has been handed to the City. Even got to check out the West Point lighthouse.
It was then time to check in to the Hilton and get the car back to the airport before 3pm. Managed it with 1 minute to spare. Caught the light rail from the airport back to Downtown. This is a funny sight with half the train filled with people and luggage just coming off flights and the other half just normal commuters getting on and off at the stops along the way.
Tonight was spent in the hotel getting ready for the conference start in the morning.
Another day and another battle to get the kids out of bed and even with us heading to the snow at Stevens Pass. We eventually got on the road and heading through some breathtaking scenery as well as a few of those little US country towns you see in the movies.
By the time we got our skis and lift tickets it was midday. We were lucky enough to get some ski hire coupons from one of Chip and Joans sons, Bill and the ski hire cashier gave us one more as well as it was her last day on the mountain.
This meant that we got top of the line skis and boots for $22 each for the day.
Being a Sunday meant that we had to share the mountain with a lot of others but this wasn’t an issue as the runs and snow was plentiful so the lines moved quick at the lifts.
Today was one of the last days of the ski season for Stevens Pass (Australian ski fields would kill for these conditions mid season) so some novelty events were held. This kept the runs less crowded as well.
The events were the dummy run and the pond skimming. Both involved skiing over a 30 metre pond at the bottom of a run near the ski lodges.
The first runs were dummies set up on skis. It was then extended to anyone and around 200 took the challenge. Some were successful and others got horribly wet.
At the end of the day, we headed down off the mountain to a little village called Skykomish. Chip and Joan had a cabin (although it was more like a house ) in town and spent each Sunday up here. Chip is also the Captain for the Skykomish Valley Fire & Rescue.
Chip took Bradley and I on a tour of the Fire Station then we went over to look at one of their unsuccessful saves. Only last week, there was an arson attack on the Whistling Post (the local pub) following a raid on the ATM in the wall. Even though the building was lost, they did prevent the fire spreading to adjoining buildings, remembering that all their buildings are old and made of wood.
A walk next door to the Cascadia Cafe for dinner and once again, the kids had eyes bigger than their stomachs.
Bill, Lorri and Sean made it down off the mountain to meet us then it was time to head back to Seattle.
One last “highlight” for the day was being pulled over by the King County Sherriff. I had the setting wrong on the lights (not on automatic) so as it go dark I had lights at the front but no taillights. He was good about it so no spending a night in the cells with Bubba.
It turns out that Chip knows this sherrif so is going to give him a hard time for pulling over the “Aussies”.
Paul Allen of Microsoft fame began acquiring and preserving these iconic warriors and workhorses, many of which are the last of their kind. Allen’s passion for aviation and history, and his awareness of the increasing rarity of original WWII aircraft, motivated him to restore these artifacts to the highest standard of authenticity and share them with the public.
We were lucky enough to be shown around by a World War II veteran (Chip Davidson) that flew many of these planes and was also stationed at Paine Field at the time. It is complicated but we met Chip through another Australian that stayed with him and his family many years ago on a Rotary exchange.
Chip took us on a very comprehensive tour of the collection and provided a detailed background of each of the aircraft. We were then taken to sample some local cuisine at the Speedway Cafe. This consisted of burgers you couldn’t climb over as well as drinks topped with “real” cream.
While we were out and about, it was time to check out a beach at Mukilteo Lighthouse Park, although the beaches aren’t what we are used to as beaches. Instead of the fine white sand we have at home, the beach is covered by small rocks. This park had a historic lighthouse and was the landing for the ferry to Whidbey Island.
One more stop for the day. Jenny and the kids wanted to get into a Costco and Chip was a member, so they got their chance. While they checked it out, I managed to grab a couple of geocaches in the car park. After they were kicked out at closing time we headed out with Chip and Joan to Chan’s Place at Woodinville for a Chinese meal.
Chip and Joans hospitality did not finish here. One of their sons is tied up with Stevens Pass ski field so after tea, he gave him a ring to see if we could be fixed up with some deals for tomorrow. We managed to get some vouchers for reduced ski hire.
Today we started out by going underground. Seattle when it was first built had some issues – first it was on a tidal plain, second it had sewer issues and third it burnt down. When they rebuilt, there was a difference in speed between the city government and the business owners which resulted in the streets being one story above the entrances of the buildings. Eventually they filled in the gaps by bridging it which left a whole “underground” city below street level.
You can now visit these tunnels and old Seattle on the Bill Speidels Underground Tour. You not only experience the underground but also hear some very interesting stories of times of old.
Next was a visit to Pikes Place Market – this is a smaller version of Adelaide Central Market but just as interesting and colourful. Just adjacent to the market is a very popular place indeed. It is the site of the original Starbucks which has kept its original façade but is one of the most busiest Starbucks on the planet. At the other end of the market is another famous landmark – the Gum Wall.
A quick stroll along the Seattle Wharf but we didn’t have time to take it in – we will return in a week. The reason for our rush was that we had an appointment at Groundspeak HQ – the home of Geocaching.
On arrival we were met by some very friendly lackeys that made us welcome. It was then down to signing the log book for the Groundspeak HQ Geocache, leave some travel bugs, pick up some travel bugs, drop some pathtags and buy some souvenirs. The lackeys suggested some spots around Freemont to visit and once we could drag Rachael from the photo booth we were on our way to Gas Works Park.
We continued through Freemont and came across the Seattle Fire Department doing some rope rescue training at the Maritime Academy. Had a quick chat before dropping Jenny and Rachael off shopping at Cash & Carry and Trader Joes.
Jenny had met someone while shopping who suggested that we could get some good chocolates nearby. We headed that way but stopped off to view some sculptures made of scrap metal. The horse was huge.
A brief stop at Chocolat Vitale for coffee and chocolate – they don’t get a lot of tourists as it a little off the beaten track in suburbia.
By the time we got back to our accommodation it was almost time to go out again but it wasn’t far – we were meeting some Aussie expats (brother & sister inlaw of a Scout friend) at the Village Sushi Restaurant two buildings up the street.
It was a good meal and the staff were very good. After we finished Lee and PC took us on a walk around the local area including Frat House Street and the University of Washington. There was plenty of activity going on with a American themed sorority party going on.
The campus for the University of Washington is huge with some 50000 people here each day and we were living on the edge of it and never knew. There is also a lot of money here with people like Bill Gates and Paul Allen donating buildings on campus. After an hour and half walk we arrived back home and hit the hay after a big day – we have another big day tomorrow.
Despite leaving our digs at University Motel Suites around 1/2 later than planned (nothing unusual for us), we arrived 1/2 an hour earlier than expected for our Boeing Tour so we managed to get onto the earlier tour.
We visited this plant 20 years ago and it has expanded a lot since then and they are producing another different aircraft since then. Back in ’92, they had just begun on the Boeing 777 range and now they are now just beginning producing the Boeing 787 range. I wonder what they will be making if we come in another 20 years time.
Again it is pretty mind blowing the sheer size of this sort of operation particularly with the number of staff working in this facility (17000 at Everett) but it looked like most of them were just walking around. The kids were also suitably impressed.
Rachael would like to have one of the Boeing Business Jets to travel around in but I don’t think that is going to happen anytime soon. Also I don’t think we will be buying a 737, 747, 767, 777 or 787 anytime soon – my bank balance just wont go any where near.
The tour of the plant took 1.5 hours and of course the kids were hungry so it was lunchtime in the carpark – a bit like an American tail-gate party in the parking lot
Looking across to the mountains, we were glad that we didn’t go skiing as it looked like the rain was pelting down – hopefully it hasn’t washed the snow away but with a 5m base, you wouldn’t think so.
The temperature had dropped down to 10C as we arrived at the Freemont Troll. Jenny said “Oh it is an actual troll”. It is a sculpture that looks a bit like the Bunyip at Murray Bridge but this one doesnt move. Of course there was both a Geocache and a Munzee here to be found.
That was almost it for the day. We spent 20 minutes driving around Freemont scouting out Groundspeak only to find it about 100 metres from the Freemont Troll. We have a visit scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.
Another stop at Safeway for provisions and back to our digs.
So ends another 12 of 12. I know there are 14 photos but I had to prune it down from 34 so there are a bonus 2 for this month.
After a slight miscalculation on the right exit to get from the I-5 to the I-90 we were on our way east of Seattle to Snoqualmie Pass for some skiing. (Well it did allow us to take in some more sights of Downtown Seattle.
This is the way to get to a ski field – on a 6 lane freeway at 110 kph for an hour – wish Australian Ski Fields were like this.
Taking the exit off the freeway through 5 metre snow banks was amazing given that the ski season is about over here. Back home we would kill to have conditions like this at peak times.
Driving through Snoqualmie East, we were wondering if the resort was actually open today. We arrived at Snoqualmie Central and saw a couple of lifts operating, not very many people on the slopes and a virtually empty carpark.
Because the conditions were not ideal with fog and light rain, it must have scared the locals off. After getting skis and lift tickets we proceeded onto our “private” ski mountain. There were probably only 200 people on the mountain, if that.
The snow was certainly different to Aussie snow, even with the rain, it was not slushy and was fast. There were a couple of exceptions near the edges of the runs which hadn’t been groomed and were a couple of metres deep. Rachael found out the hard way of the consequences of skiing this stuff with a couple of face plants. The snow was soft so no damage was done.
We persisted until closing at 4pm, by which time we were fully saturated but had had a good day out. Cranked up the car (Ford Edge – similar to the Ford Territory in Australia) to 28C including the heated seats and we were on our way home through some heavy fog and rain.
I even attempted to find a geocache but it was under 5m of snow so wasn’t going to happen.
A quick stop at REI for the second time to grab some waterproofing stuff and a US/AUS Power Plug Adapter (had a win on the waterproofing but not the plug) then headed back to the University Motel Suites to dry off.
The plan today was to head east of Seattle and go skiing, however, the locals have had such a good season that they are over skiing so the resorts have all shut down for the start of the week. So no skiing today for us. We will get out there tomorrow though.
So what to do. Why not visit Microsoft – it is only just up the road. And what a huge complex it is – it is almost a city in itself. We spent a couple of hours in the Visitor Centre even though the kids didn’t want to go there. I had to drag them out.
Next it was into Seattle to the Space Needle. Even though visibility wasn’t too good, it was still a good view from up there. Rachael wasn’t too happy going up in the external lifts to the observation area but it wasn’t too bad as we didn’t need seat belts like Disneylands Tower of Terror. Met up with a couple of college freshmen that gave us a good explanation of what was around – we are not going to have enough time to see it all.
After getting back on ground level, a quick visit to the International Fountain, REI with its internal climbing wall, mountain bike test track and park then onto Lake Union to look at the floating houses. These are actual houses that float on Lake Union. Some have been there for a long time and there are now a lot of new expensive ones as well.
Interesting fact: I have been wondering why we seem to have a lot of fire trucks with sirens around. It appears we are just 100 metres from Seattle Fire Department Station 17 and I didn’t even realise it.
Today was a little bit different to your normal tourist type day in Los Angeles. We headed north towards Simi Valley and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Rachael wanted to do Beverly Hills along the way so we did a “mainy” along Rodeo Drive before stopping for photos at the Beverly Hills sign.
The kids wanted to see some of the stars homes so did some driving around the roads looking at fences and security cameras – that is about all you can see of them.
It was then onto Simi Valley but not before stopping at In-n-Out Burger for lunch. It wasn’t long before we were heading up Presidential Drive to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. What a great spot for this library with some great views to the north and west.
Prior to this visit, we only had a general knowledge of Ronald Reagan and this was certainly an interesting place to visit and find out a lot more. He certainly was a remarkable man. No wonder a lot of Americans would like him back. The kids got a lot out of it especially Rachael who read just about every panel during the walk through.
A highlight of the visit was to get to go aboard Air Force One. Of course this is not the current one but the Air Force One that flew from 1973 to 2001. This one is a Boeing 707 which had the callsign SAM 27000. It is not as big as the current Boeing 747′s but they still jammed as much into it as they could.