We made it! After all of our planning and preparation for months on end, we are finally embarking on our great American road trip.
As we danced in our seats to celebrate the border crossing, the weather seemed to brighten and allowed a brief respite from the rain. We drove down the coast in a state of euphoria and took in the beautiful wooded scenery en route to our first destination: Seattle.
After a quick stop at the outlet malls to buy some running shoes, we arrived in the early evening hours hungry and eager to explore. We rolled into the Pike Place Market area down by the water and found some free parking after considerable searching. The quest for free parking consumes us now.
Unfortunately, in his haste to get our and explore the city, Dalaney ripped our LED lighting strip in half! Luckily it still provides enough light, and hopefully should be an easy fix. So, we wouldn’t let a minor setback like that dampen our spirits on our first night on U.S soil though. We leisurely strolled the boardwalk, tantalizing our taste buds trying to decide where to eat. Our seafood options are a bit limited due to Dalaney’s shellfish allergy, but we somehow ended up in an upscale lobster joint overlooking the harbour. We sat down and immediately regretted our decision, as the more hip place seemed to be right below us. The lively brewery covered in beer kitsch from all eras beckoned to us. After exchanging a few quick glances, we knew we had to leave before it was too late. Apologizing on the way out, we made a break for the stairs and settled into a cozy booth at the Pike Brewing Company. We ordered a flight of beer and some delicious food and savoured our victorious day.
After supper it was early and we were still in the mood to explore so we checked out Unicorn: a circus themed bar that lived up to it’s strange reputation. We ate a Deep Fried Snickers Bar and drank a Pink Flamingo, but didn’t stay too long as it was absolutely jam packed in there and we remembered we don’t really like bars.
We looked up which areas of the city were safe and van-dweller friendly and Reddit directed us to Green Lake where we (metaphorically) crashed for the night with no issues. Early the next morning we headed back to Pike Place Market for a walking tour with an energetic and knowledgeable guide Shawn from Free Walking Tours. He led us around the market, stopping at certain locations to get us some primo free samples and telling us tidbits of history along the way. We saw fish flying through the air. We sat on a big ol' copper pig. We stuck bubble gum to a wall. We were scandalized by the purported “first” Starbucks which isn’t the first Starbucks at all, but a mere stand in for the one that burnt down. Shawn also taught us an important lesson to remember when visiting Pike Place market: “remember to turn.” So often people just stroll through without really exploring and they miss out on a lot of really cool stuff. We vowed to heed his advice and implement it throughout our trip.
All in all, our first experience with a Free Walking Tours was a good one. These free walking tours are pay-what-you feel, so we slipped Shawn a crisp $20 and parted ways to explore on our own and circle back to some of our favourite stops. I’ll admit it: we stopped by Beecher’s Handmade Cheese for free cheese samples twice.
After our Pike Place excursion, we had some business to attend to. For far too long we had been on the road without wifi. Now we were in the land of cheap data, and it was time to change that. Bonita had already done a bunch of research prior to going to Verizon, so when we walked in she rattled off exactly what we needed. Being Canadian citizens with no social security number made it a bit tricky for us to set up an account, but Brandon B. was up for the task. Our friendly associate was from the South and we made small talk while our account was being set up. He was very excited for us to see his ancestral homeland, and suggested that we try to make it down to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Little did he know that he planted the seed of that idea deep inside of our brains....
We purchased a Jetpack Mifi and Bonita got an American phone number and data plan, so now we are connected to the world wide web inside our van! No more frantically searching for a cafe to work from every morning, hallelujah! Once we were finished at Verizon, we had more touristing to do.
The law mandates that when you’re a tourist in Seattle, you must visit the Space Needle, so we headed over that way. From the ground, it looked strange. Not at all like the pictures..We didn’t think too much of it as we purchased our tickets and headed up. Once we arrived at the top it all made sense: the space needle is under major renovations! Only about half was open to the public. Also, there was plywood everywhere which doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence when up so high. The views were nonetheless astonishing and we got some great selfies, which is what it’s all about.
As the sun was going down we strolled through the sculpture garden back to our van and contemplated fulfilling a lifelong dream of Bonita’s: jumping onto the back of a train. We chickened out of the latter, thinking it would set a bad example for the kid watching. Exhausted from our day wandering around the city, we collapsed back in our van which had been parked at a free meter all day. Here we made some supper and watched Netflix with our fresh wifi connection. When the time came for us to go to sleep, we figured we should get out of the downtown core and set our sights on another Reddit recommendation: Ballard Street: a vandwelling paradise, apparently.
Along the way we stopped in to meet the Fremont Troll, an enormous sculpture underneath an underpass. Looming ominously in the dark, we cautiously exited our van to get a closer look to find a small group of likeminded tourists clambering all over the troll. When they left, we had him all to ourselves for a mini photoshoot. The solitude and darkness really added to the ambiance of our worthwhile visit.
This had been a long day and we were ready for sleep, so we headed on over to Ballard where we did indeed find multitudes of van-dwellers of all shapes and sizes parked along the road. However, we discovered something ironic about ourselves that evening: all these van-dwellers made us uncomfortable. We tried to park amongst them but at that very moment saw a sketchy character looking in the car parked immediately in front of us with a flashlight. He tried all the doors and then saw us and walked away. Soooo, we drove a few blocks into a nice residential neighbourhood with respectable non-van people and slept like little van babies.
The next day was largely uneventful and mostly devoted to working. Even though we had wifi in the van now, our solar panel wasn’t getting much of a charge because of the overcast weather in Seattle, so we had to find somewhere to plug our laptops in. We tried to find a cool cafe to work in but instead found the Jibe Espresso Bar. I ordered a coffee and found out too late that it was devoid of plug ins, and more importantly: bathrooms. Much more suitable was the Ballard public library, which thankfully had everything that we needed. This started a trend of us finding libraries around the country to work in, and made our lives so much easier.
That evening we decided to embrace our van brethren and returned to park alongside our people, which turned out to be a mistake. At around 4:00 AM a group of intoxicated revellers took up residence right outside the back of our van beside our sleeping heads. I think one of them sat on our bumper. We sat frozen and freaked out, wondering if these were the types of Americans with guns. As time wore on though, they sounded harmless enough, just some young folks out for a night on the town. They were eventually shooed away by an unseen hero, telling them to go home to bed.
The next day was to be our last in Seattle, and while Dalaney again worked at the public library Bonita went on an Underground Tour with forgotten saloons, shopfronts, and even a hotel after a huge fire led to the streets being raised. Thanks for the recommendation by our good friend Lisa C! Shoutout to the gym gals back home in E-Town. Represent. *Complicated hand gesture*
We had planned on driving through Olympic park, but since the ferry from BC was closed we were unable. C’est la vie. We packed a lot of sightseeing into our little visit to this great rainy city (still no leaks), but it was time to say our goodbyes to Seattle, and hit the open road again. We set our sights south, onwards to Oregon!