Experiencing Seattle and the Great Northwest
Bob and Terry on Tour 2013, with Kris
Days One and Two


We are about to depart on one of our greatest trips ever.

I’ve been giving it a lot of thought as I approach this diary. (Yeah… yeah… years’ worth of thought. Go ahead. Make jokes. It’s funny.) When we left, Terry and I were near the beginning of one of the most unreal stretches of time we ever experienced… a stretch of hurdles, obstacles, challenges and headaches that continued into (and beyond) 2015. (That means for well over two years for anyone scoring at home that doesn’t want to do the math.) And while the scenarios and situations involved behind the scenes and within our daily lives aren’t that important as contributors to these travel stories, it is important to know that as we began moving toward the airport we were in need of some great experiences.

The northwest region created feelings that are difficult to describe. There was an atmosphere of comfort from the moment we got off the plane. It continued throughout the visit. The environment and surroundings were stunning, brilliant and breathtakingly beautiful… and the entire trip was filled with a sense of peace and simplicity. It was about as perfect as one could ever hope.

Day One -- Saturday, August 17, 2013

I’m thinking about some of the things I miss or don’t get to experience or offer myself up for as we set out this morning.

No… no… not a bad thing. A general thing.

One example? I don’t believe Terry should have to carry her own luggage when we’re on vacation. I take my job as pack mule quite seriously. It is a small thing. In return for my efforts, she lets me step aside when she wants to unpack and pack. We each do our part. Just a small thing here or there to make the other comfortable. None of it takes away from our own enjoyment of things. (Even though she can pack one hundred pounds of souvenirs into a bag that only weighs fifty when being checked.)

Today the wandering mind is watching Terry settle in next to the window. I absolutely love sitting next to the window on a plane. Love it. Levels of cannot explain it love it.

I don’t believe I have ever sat next to a window on any plane since the first time she and I traveled together way back in 1997, when she and I took Jay and Justin to Disney World.

This time we’re headed off to Seattle. We’ll be staying with my sister, Kris, for most of our trip.

The flight itself is pretty routine as flying goes. In fact, considering it’s 2013 and I’m carrying an iPod for music and my first iPhone for entertainment, one could argue its almost old school compared to how many others fly these days.

Our connection is in Denver. For some reason I notice a ton of musical instruments in hard cases around the waiting area as we prepare to board. Also a couple of dogs.

I need to nod in the direction of some special ladies. Jackie, Natalie and Tracy are working as the attendants on our flight, and they are awesome. We have a few eye-roll moments with some passengers… nothing significant enough to document here… but the three of them handle things wonderfully and professionally, while passing along to us that we are not mistaken for rolling our eyes.

One of the funny parts about flying east to west is the time difference. Not jet lag difference. Just plain old clock difference…

If you head to an airport in Warwick with plans to head to Seattle—It’s NOT Providence, the airport is in Warwick!—you are likely going to be on at least two planes with a layover involved. Let’s just say it takes six hours from the time your first plane takes off until the final flight lands. So…

10am departure means a 4pm landing. But… with the time difference… clock says a 1pm landing. Neat!

Why funny? Reverse it… Seattle to Providence… six hours. Check the clock to find your 10am departure means a 7pm landing.

It’s a six-hour experience. But in many ways it’s either a three-hour or nine-hour flight.

Kris has a nice, though small, apartment in the Queen Anne area of Seattle. As we’re going to learn, it is merely blocks from some great places. It’s also a really wonderful collection of twists and turns to navigate judging by the way Kris is maneuvering us from the airport to her home.

She shares the place with Missoula and Fenway… a cat and a dog, both awesome. Fenway is smothering us with hello when we arrive, but Missoula is hiding for now.

As we settle in and relax a bit, Kris is asking questions and outlining a few things for our stay. Nothing serious or major, but a bit on the weather… a bit on her work demands… a bit on meals… a bit on places to see… a bit of this and a bit of that. And for tonight, she’s got us heading out to a fabulous place, with a breathtaking view from the outside deck.

Ray’s Boathouse is amazing. (I have notes saying we ate at the Boathouse. Checking the facts out seems to indicate we may have eaten in the Café section of the property.) Food was delicious, and we enjoyed our meals. But it is the views that create the biggest impression, and they are fantastic. Puget Sound. The Olympic Mountains. Honestly… there are simply not a lot of places where seaplanes are landing while you enjoy your entrée.

We started out with calamari and chowder. (Both were really good.) Kris went with shrimp for dinner, Terry had a crab and shrimp cake, and I played the odd choice by selecting a burger.

During the drive home, Kris decides to bring us around to some local curiosities. (Mainly around the Fremont community.) We head over to see the Troll Under the Bridge, out near the Aurora Bridge. We stop at the Lenin statue. And we check out the bus stop display (officially called the “Waiting for the Interurban” group). Give a moment to look into these points of interest, because the stories are almost as cool as the statues.

Kris plays drop-off and pickup when she needs to so that we can step out and get some pictures at our stops. The reality is that there is art of some type in virtually every direction, in every sightline.

Another little item noted… bike lanes. Lots and lot of bike lanes.

We’re home. Busy day coming up tomorrow, with one of the greatest items ever found at any restaurant waiting to be served.

Day Two -- Sunday, August 18, 2013

I’m always amazed when I have a chance to write these journals.

Part of it is when I get to go back, read them, and stir up wonderful moments. Yes, I enjoy sharing them. I hope readers smile and have some fun as well. But if you told me when I began the first one that there would be absolutely nothing else to them except that five years… ten years… more years down the road I’d be able to look things over and relive some fantastic days, I could never have imagined at that time how terrific that would be.

Another part is the strange details I pick up and have in my notes. Terry and I singing a theme song for a reality TV show we created featuring Ellen and Richard. A game of shuffleboard with Jay and Justin in San Clemente, California. Generations of family visiting Disney World in matching t-shirts. Details that might otherwise be lost to time (and diminished memory).

Today brings pondering shower heads… forgotten jokes that remain forgotten… and the most brilliantly beautiful pie ever made. We start in Kris’s apartment.

I have never been able to figure out low shower heads. Why were they installed so low? Why? Was it something designed on purpose? Is this shower the moment where a few projects reached their end, and the length of pipe remaining was about six-inches shorter than expected so the plumber just made do with it? Was it done to save money? Were the blueprints drawn by someone that stood five-foot-two?

I don’t know. But Kris has a really low shower head, and it’s in a fixed position, and it’s annoying.

We’ve decided today will basically be a national park day, but we’re not sure which direction to drive. We go over to a local REI store to stop by the ranger station and get some information. (Yes… the flagship store.) The plans are arranged for Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens.

In the margin of my notes, it says “Aurora joke”. I wish I knew why. The joke isn’t included. Doesn’t matter right now… we need to pick up Fenway and get on the road.

We stop at Smarty Pants to eat. I have the Ms. Piggy. Terry orders a turkey club with avocado. Kris gets eggs benedict. According to what I have written down, the chili was spicy and the hash browns were fabulous.

We get caught up talking and playing on the drive. This is the west coast, which brings on a completely different version of the license plate game. (Mainly caused by what constitutes the majority of local plates when you are just about always playing in the northeast and now find yourself in Washington.) And we haven’t seen Kris in person for quite some time until we arrived yesterday. And… we miss our exit.

It’s not bad though. We’re only off by one exit.

Our destination right now is the Johnston Ridge Observatory. We plan on taking in the view of Mount St. Helens from there… but right now a different view is catching our eyes.

The trees.

They don’t look right.

It’s kind of hard to explain… they’re basically so perfect, they’re all wrong.

We come across some signs that seem to explain the phenomenon. It would appear that the trees in question are noble fir that were planted in 1983. I could be wrong about the specifics there, but the signs are all over. Noble fir… Douglas fir… planted and harvested… planted and fertilized… 1982 and 1986… even a blast zone sign.

From what I have been able to learn since our trip, the trees appear to be part of the revival and recovery of the wilderness since the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. And that eruption is the blast zone reference in the sign. According to some reports, the region continues to stun and amaze scientist in many ways, such as the trees growing at a rate far more rapid than other area forests (which includes local commercial-based tree farms).

The eruption took approximately 1,400-feet off of the top of Mount St. Helens. It roared across the land, toppling just about anything and everything in its path. If you want an estimate of that path, just consider these numbers… evidently some winds were measured at more than 300 miles per hour, and some temperatures soared about 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Around the area, there are evidently three forests that are utilized for structure and measurements. One is effectively run by Mother Nature. A second was set up by the federal government. And the third was established by a logging company. So you have the results provided by the natural environment, some with federal protection, and some from commercialized efforts.

One idea I have come across is that the stunning visuals we are being treated to are a result of the cultivation of the trees, and that this is the area run by the logging company. The trimming, pruning, growth and such being used to prep these trees for the future also produces a steady growth pattern resulting in what can best be described as blurred vision. It is quite an optical illusion.

After some quality time looking around, we get back in the car and head toward Paradise… or more accurately, the Paradise area at Mount Rainier. And what a drive.

If you want to see some of the most intimidating, awesome, fascinating, beautiful trees in the world, here they are. It is a gorgeously mysterious road, with some twists and some straightaways, and these trees simply stretch out along the edges. They block out the sky and wrap you in their quirky magnificence. Some quick looking about revealed they may be old-growth Douglas fir trees that thrive around Mount Rainier.

Unfortunately, the fog building up has different ideas about our visit than we do… it’s getting thicker and seems to be spreading along our path. Eventually we have little choice but to turn back.

On the drive away, we have the chance to look at Christine Falls. And this amazing viewpoint is basically presented as just a roadside attraction. No question… jokes aside… this is Paradise Road in more than just name.

We’re getting a bit hungry now, and pull over at the Copper Creek Inn. It is one of the greatest happy accidents Terry or I have ever experienced on any trip.

We did no set out for the Copper Creek Inn. We just happened to see it.

Our meals? Pretty basic. Terry enjoyed a beef stew. Kris chose trout. I had a delicious chicken sandwich served on focaccia bread. Good stuff. Sandy took care of us during our visit, and she was really nice and attentive.

From the moment we stepped inside the door though, there was this pie on display. Slices of pie. Whole pies. Waitresses carrying trays of pie… plates on the counter… pie a la mode. You couldn’t escape the fact that this pie was just all over.

Apparently, the Copper Creek Inn is famous… and I do mean very well known, famous… for its blackberry pie. To say it can be enjoyed hot from the oven is an insult to the phrasing “hot from the oven”, since it is brought out tauntingly, blisteringly, gorgeously hot and fresh from the oven. I am certain it quite literally could not arrive at your table any faster or more directly out of the oven than it already does.

With a lovely scoop of ice cream on the side.

I’m going to share something. It’s not something I am particularly proud of. It’s not a perfect something to explain how incredible this pie is. But it’s our something. And it’s true.

We ordered slices of pie after finishing our dinners. Terry excused herself to head off to the ladies’ room, with the pie being placed on our table before she could have even entered the restroom. I was so literally floored by this marvel of perfection that I finished mine and pulled Terry’s plate over to me. It was irresistible. I waved to Sandy, ordered another fresh piece for Terry, and dove into hers.

As Terry returned to the table, Sandy was arriving with another blackberry pie a la mode for her. I tried to explain that I had to eat her original slice, as it was so hot the ice cream was melting. I didn’t want her to have pie a la soup. And she almost bought it… until she took her first taste and realized why I could not turn away from temptation.

I have lots of dining establishments that I would recommend to people. I have literally eaten in places around the world. There are only two absolute musts. Yes… yes… I have several I would highly recommend and tell you not to miss. I may have even labeled a few as must-do locations. But only two would I feel badly for you if you decided not to enjoy them during your visit nearby.

Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room in Savannah, Georgia, is the only restaurant that I would place in this rarified air.

The blackberry pie at the restaurant of the Copper Creek Inn might just be the only specific food.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com