While I have not been purposely putting off a county collecting trip to the Pacific Northwest, it’s hard to believe it has taken me close to 10 years to get to that part of the country. I first thought of mailing postcards to document my visits to all the county seats in the USA about a year after I moved from Seattle to central Ohio, so despite traveling extensively in western Washington between 1997 and 2006, I didn’t ‘collected’ any counties in the region until now. What finally prompted me to return to my old stomping grounds was the introduction of a daily nonstop flight between Columbus and Seattle on Alaska Airlines.
Springtime is not necessarily the best time to visit Seattle because rain is likely almost every day, though as anyone who has lived in the area knows, while it will probably rain every day, that doesn’t mean it will rain all day. I picked the first weekend in April because for some reason, it was cheaper to fly that weekend. Whatever the weather, I’d manage.
The Friday evening flight arrived at SEA around 8pm and I immediately hopped the light rail into downtown for my stay at the W Seattle. This was my first chance to ride the Central Link which was just beginning construction when I left Seattle a over a decade ago. It was also my first W stay, and while my room was very nice, I’m not quite sure I understand the brand. It’s clearly designed to be modern and trendy, so I’m assuming the targeted demographic is millennials seeking luxury (“Westin for the Moxy crowd” was how johnnyk60 put it). I enjoyed my spacious corner room, though I didn’t spend any time exploring the rest of the hotel. My first order of business was to grab a late dinner. As I mentioned in several prior blog entries, during my time living in the Seattle area, I developed almost an addiction to the fish burritos at Taco Del Mar. I did my research before the trip and knew there was a location in the Belltown neighborhood about ¾ of mile from my hotel which was open until the early hours of the morning on Friday and Saturday night, so I hoofed it past the Pike Place Market (closed at this time of night) and on to the restaurant. Another half a mile and I would have ended at the Space Needle. Though the evening was cool, at least it wasn’t raining. The burritos was fabulous, just as good as always.
Early Saturday morning, I was back on the light rail heading to the airport to pick up my rental car. By waiting to get the car until morning, I avoided the (outrageous) cost of overnight hotel parking in downtown Seattle. The rain (as expected) was a steady accompaniment on the drive south through Tacoma and Olympia. From there it was on to Montesano, South Bend and eventually across the mouth of the Columbia River into Astoria Oregon. By midafternoon, the rain had stopped however it remained overcast as I drove along the Oregon coast. No visit to this part of the country is complete without a visit to the Tillamook creamery, at least it isn’t as far as I’m concerned. Even when the factory floor is quiet, as is was on this Saturday afternoon, there are always free samples of Tillamook cheese (yum!) . The line for ice cream must have been 50-60 people deep, so sadly I passed on that.
From Tillamook, it was into the Portland suburbs for the night. Another fun dining experience in this part of the country is kaiten or conveyor belt sushi restaurants. Popular for lunch, they can actually be an even better value at dinner when some restaurants offer happy hour pricing. As the plates of sushi go past on the conveyor belt, you select whichever ones you want. At the end, the server adds up the number plates to total up the bill. I’m sure the quality of the food is much better at full-service Japanese restaurants, but the sushi was decent and the price was amazing, probably half of what I might have paid elsewhere.
After a quiet night at the Aloft Hillsboro, it was back to Washington for the duration of the trip. Knowing the difficulty of visiting the count seats of Olympic Peninsula, I made sure to stop in both Port Angeles and Port Townsend. Getting back to Seattle would not be as difficult as making a return trip to the counties along coast, and I never like leaving ‘holes’ in my map if I can avoid it. Of course visiting these cities put me on the west side of Puget Sound late in the afternoon, leaving me the choice of driving south and across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and back up to Seattle (about 100 miles) or taking the ferry across the Sound. Even with the 1-hour wait at the Kingston ferry terminal, that option would still put me in Seattle sooner, so I paid my fare and parked in the waiting area around 5:15pm for the 6:10pm sailing.
There wasn’t much to do except wait, but at least it wasn’t raining. While wandering around the ferry terminal, I noticed Mt. Rainier peeking through the clouds in the distance beyond the Seattle skyline. That’s always worth a picture. Before long, the ferry arrived and little more than half an hour later, I was driving south from Edmonds into Seattle.
I know many Insiders love visiting the Seattle area, but I wonder how many know about the Fremont troll. Located just north of downtown in the Fremont neighborhood (naturally) underneath the Aurora Bridge. Look closely and you might notice the Volkswagen Beetle clutched in his left hand. This is one of those sights many locals know about even if few tourists do.
Unlike the Space Needle, which is visible from much of downtown, finding the Fremont troll takes a bit of effort or at least some forehand knowledge of where he is. Speaking of the Space Needle, a trip to Seattle would hardly count without a photograph of the city’s most iconic landmark.
From downtown Seattle, it was back to Sea-Tac to drop off the car so I wouldn’t have to worry about it in the morning (and so again I wouldn’t have to pay for overnight parking). Though the morning flight to CMH was delayed by about 45 minutes, I still managed to get home in time for dinner Monday evening.
Over the course of the weekend, I added 18 counties to my tally, 13 in Washington and 5 in Oregon. If you look closely, you’ll notice in before and after maps below, that of the counties I visited (the ones colored blue in the second map), all but 2 were green in the ‘before’ map. For those who are new to my blog (or have just forgotten what the colors mean), the green counties indicate places where I have visited the county seat but from where I have not mailed and received a postcard. My visits to these cities dates back to the early 2000s when I lived in and around Seattle. For reference, the cyan colored counties indicate counties I’ve been in without visiting the county seat. Okay, enough of that. These 18 counties bring my overall totals up to 2,379 county seats ‘collected’ leaving just 770 to go.
This trip also included my first Marriott stays in both Washington and Oregon. Now the only state in which I have not stayed at a Marriott property is Montana. I’ll get there soon. In fact, the next county collecting trip is scheduled for mid-June when I’ll be in Montana, Idaho, and possibly eastern Washington. I’ve got a few trips before that (London, Kentucky, and NYC) but none will include any new county seat visits. Perhaps I’ll post some sort of update from those trips elsewhere. As far as this blog goes, look for the next entry in late June.