Thursday, September 28, 2006

Washington: Scraping the Zest

Oh, where to begin?! Last Thursday morning I got on a plane, sans all liquids, to spend some much anticipated vacation days visiting my TU friend Heather in Washington State. I returned to Chicago Tuesday night, grateful for the edict given over the weekend that allowed me to bring my little bottle of eyedrops on the plane (carefully enclosed in a ziploc bag, of course).

In between these aeronautical bookends I ventured here and there, by car, foot, and ferry, experiencing as much of Washington as possible, while at the same time feeling curiously relaxed. Trying to capsulize my vacation for a friend, I came up with this: if Washington were an orange (I know, an apple would be more appropriate given the state's agricultural reputation, but stick with me here), if Washington were an orange, I feel like I was able to scrape off a nice little pile of zest while I was there: enough to get a good taste of the local flavor, and enough to reveal that there is so much more beneath the surface to see, taste, and enjoy. That said, all it took was this brief visit to place Washington high on my list of favorite states, and I certainly hope to return and take in more of the natural beauty and the PNW culture. Granted, I'm pretty much a sucker for mountains and shoreline, so it's not like there was anything holding it back from my affections to begin with, but I am nevertheless surprised to find myself a bit smitten, if a person can be smitten with a state of the Union.

In addition to the purple (more blue really) mountains' majesty and abundant verdant vegetation, what did I LOVE about Washington and my time spent there? (in random order)

1. Pike's Place Market - a veritable smorgasbord for the senses with so many vibrant colors, interesting people, tantalizing smells, intriguing textures, ethnic foods, and diverse merchandise it made me giddy and almost a little a good way.

2. The bouquet I bought for Heather at Pike's Place Market (which earned me the nickname "Sugar Mama" for the rest of the weekend) that was quite possibly the most beautiful arrangement I'd ever seen, all for the astonishingly low price of $15.

3. The fact that there's espresso EVERYWHERE you turn. While the abundance of little independent coffee stands is quite remarkable, what drew my attention and amused me considerably was how all the other stores seemed to sell whatever they sell...and espresso. Some of my favorites:

  • Tires, Brake, Transmissions...and espresso
  • Top Soil, Gardening Supplies...and espresso
  • Pumpkins, Corn, Squash...and espresso
  • Live Bait...and espresso

3 1/2. The fact that the baristas take their coffee and their work very seriously, and that when you order a latte what they hand you a few minutes later is nothing less than a work of art. The vegan pumpkin loaf was really tasty, too.

4. Taking the ferry to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island and wandering around, leisurely reading a book over a tasty lunch, browsing in the quaint little shops, and then eagerly settling in at a little table on the front porch of The Doctor's Office (a coffee shop), which overlooked the harbor, to journal and muse on what life is like for the people who actually live there...only to have a local sit down at the table next to me not 10 minutes later, strike up a conversation, and occupy my attention for the next 2 hours, during which he squealched my cynicism toward island life (a good thing), bought me coffee (a welcome thing), asked for my number (a shady thing, considering how in the course of conversation he told me the story of how he met his current girlfriend), and introduced me to his 3-legged dog named Annie (at which point I remembered a line from the novel I'd started on the plane, in which the main character says something like, "I wouldn't have believed it, except it's my life").

5. The fact that Heather and I decided on our way to church Sunday moring to count all the motorcycles we saw...and that we didn't stop (or at least, Heather didn't stop) until we'd hit 1,600. In all I estimate we saw at least 4,000 that day, come to Anacortes for the annual Oyster Run, which pretty much seems to be an event where a huge wave of motorcylces come to town, everybody eats some oysters, and then they all go home again. I don't get it, but it was fun to count and watch them all go by.

6. The fact that despite Washington's reputation, it was all blue skies and sunshine, which showed off both Mt. Baker and Mt. Ranier, as well as all the rest of God's gorgeous creation.

7. The fact that I was able to do some exploring on my own for some recharging alone time (feeding my "I") AND hang out and reconnect with a friend who makes me laugh and makes me think (in excellent balance), and who also made me spicy peanut chicken stirfry. Her friends were rad, too.

Ack, this post is really long, and I haven't even mentioned the Seattle Public Library, the independent bookstores, the hiking, the sunsets, the salmon, the locks... Sigh, Washington was just wonderful. Thank you, Heather, for being a fabulous host and guide!


jimbo said...

How cool! I find a strange lure to visit the PNW now!

allison said...

Sweet post my friend.:) Sounds like your trip was everything you were hoping it would be.Thanks for sharing the stories and the photos.:) love you!

Bethany said...

Wonderful storied and beautiful pictures! So glad you had the chance to relax and recharge...Can't wait to see the rest of the pics sometime!!

hmb said...

You're welcome.

And I apologize on behalf of my state that you were accosted by so many hoodlums. I'm ready to start a campaign for social activism for more proper treatment of tourists. Then again, I was accosted by that motorcyclist too. Man, the men in this state need to learn better manners.