RTW Day 54 – Seattle to Vancouver

We got up pretty early, and caught the Amtrak Cascades train from Seattle’s King Street Station to Vancouver. I suggested to Kathryn that it might be more fun catching trains between distant cities and then driving around, since the views from the train really were awesome. You certainly don’t see much of a country when you’re driving in the rain, in fact, most of my views were towards the brake lights of the car ahead.

Anyways, we eventually made it to Canada. Getting through customs was a breeze, though the Customs Officer did wonder why we came all the way to Canada just to hang out for 3 days, so we had to explain that we were at the end of our Round The World journey. Turns out the Customs Officer was born in Hamilton New Zealand, so small world.

From the train station, it’s a brief walk to the Skytrain, which is the Metro in Vancouver. A few stops later, and we were at the Pac Pacific Hotel in Vancouver, which we purchased with Airpoints. It’s a five star hotel on the waterfront of Vancouver. It’s really nice. We paid $30 CAD more a night to upgrade to a waterfront room, and it was totally worth it. We have this massive view of the Vancouver waterfront, watching the seaplanes take off and land, and great views of North Vancouver.

From the hotel we checked out some of the downtown Vancouver area, like the main shopping street, Granville Street. Unfortunately, I had a little accident, and ripped a hole in my pants right around where my bum was, so we were in urgent need of replacement pants. I wouldn’t suggest this is because of my tough bum, but when you wear the same pair of pants day in and day out for 50-odd days, then it’s no surprise they started giving up the ghost.

We went for a walk further down Granville Street, as it transitioned from high end department stores more towards bars and cheaper hotels. We saw more and more homeless people on the street, though there were still lots of families out and about with their kids, which helped me to feel safe in the area.

Then I saw one homeless looking guy who was looking for change in a parking meter, and was carrying around a hammer. That freaked out Kathryn, though the next time we saw him he was carrying an ice cream, so who knows. It was like 9pm at night, so a weird time for a hammer.

RTW Day 53 – DUKWs and Daleks in Seattle

It was a tourist day for us in Seattle, where we did a Seattle Duck Tour, and checked out the Experience Music Project (EMP) Museum.

IMG_3718The Duck Tour is named after the vehicles on the tour, the DUKW. These are amphibious vehicles that are slow on land, but, can work on the water. Sure, a Ferrari is fast on land, but on water, it just kinda sits there.

Anyways, it was good to see a bit more of Seattle. I didn’t realise that Seattle was a smelly swamp back in the day, and they built over the top, so there’s a big underground in Seattle. There’s a tunnel being constructed but the Japanese tunnelling machine has broken down, and is costing a lot of time and money to get back up and running, so people are angry at the city. I thought this was amusing since we’re also doing some tunneling in New Zealand, and I figured the difference between China, America, and New Zealand is clear when it comes to tunnels. In China, they’d just do it. If anyone had a problem, they’d be moved along, with force if required. If a mistake was made, they’d build another tunnel. In America, it’s a bit slower, but at least they’re doing something. In New Zealand we’d talk about building a tunnel for about, 40 years, but once we start, it’d go relatively smoothly.

IMG_3727We saw more of Seattle, and then we headed onto Lake Union. It’s pretty nice going out onto the water, Seattle is a water focused city. Because it’s just about Christmas, there’s heaps of boats with Christmas lights which make for an interviewing view. There’s also truckloads of houseboats and floating houses. What’s the difference you may ask? You probably didn’t really ask, but the difference is that the floating houses own the land under the lake, while the houseboats just float on the surface.

After floating on the lake for a bit, we then headed to Seattle’s Experience Music Project (EMP) Museum. If you’re a music fan, this place is pretty awesome. I’m not super into music museums, but this is also a pop culture museum, so there’s a good Indie Game section I really enjoyed. But the highlight for me, was having a turn on the Oculus Rift. This is a virtual reality headset which gives you a 360 degree immersive view. The view I saw was of the Ice Wall, and with a fan set up blowing on your face as you climb it, it was super realistic. So much so that Kathryn got motion sickness using it, and wasn’t so much of a fan.

RTW Day 52 – Kathryn’s Dream(liner) day in Seattle

Washington is the home to Boeing, and it seems rude to come to Seattle, without visiting the Boeing factory in Everett. Here they make Boeing 747s, 777s, and 787s. The building used to make the 747s is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest building in the world by volume, which could fit Disneyland inside it, and include the carpark as well. It really is a very big building.

IMG_3681Driving around the outside is one thing, but another is stepping inside the factory. To see the place that planes are made really is fantastical to me; Kathryn wasn’t so impressed. In my mind it seems a bit beyond comprehension that there’s a place where planes are made, they just always seem to exist. I think it’s because they’re so massive and complex, they go beyond the thinking of a New Zealander. I don’t think we’d ever dream of building our own airplanes, and yet, there’s an airplane factory in Hamilton. Sure, the planes are a bit smaller, but same thing.

From here, we headed back into Seattle, and went to the Seattle Pike Place Market, which is the home to the original Starbucks. I can see the original appeal of Starbucks, a place to chill out and relax, even if the coffees are a bit more expensive. At least they don’t shoo you out after 30 minutes like McDonalds.

IMG_3694But for something actually delicious, at the Seattle Pike Place Market, you can buy Alaskan King Crab, a small paper plate for $20 USD. It was delicious, sweet, salty, really just delicious. Sure, $20 is expensive for a bit of crab, but if you want expensive, then pay $80 NZD for the same thing back in New Zealand.

Also near the Pike Place Market is Gum Alley, which is where people put their chewing gum on the side of buildings. I’m not sure why that’s an appealing thing, Kathryn really wanted to check it out, and I thought it was disgusting. It looked like people had spewed on the side of a building. Literally looked disgusting.

RTW Day 51 – Our Portland to Seattle Roadtrip

Thankfully, our final day of driving was upon us, with the journey from Portland to Seattle. The drive is about 180 miles, or about three hours. And with the drive being a daytime drive, I didn’t even mind the fact the rain was so hard I couldn’t see the car ahead. The worst is when grey or silver cars decide not to use their lights in heavy rain. That’s the best because then they’re stealth cars that can’t be seen. Useful if you want to be invisible, not helpful if you don’t want to get crashed into.

IMG_3664The weather was actually appalling enough that Kathryn saw a car spin out on the freeway. All I saw was a wall of brake lights lighting up in unison like a tidal wave of red. Weirdly, no one was hit, the car was undamaged, it turned around, and continued along its merry way. I’m not sure why it spun around if nothing touched it.

Since we’re soon to be car-less, it was time to do our final big shop, and there’s no better place to do it than Walmart. When it comes to having the largest variety of foods that aren’t good for you, Walmart does take the cake. Though to be fair, that’s not specific or unique to Walmart, I believe it’s more of an American phenomenon to have these hyper-produced foods, like Miracle Whip. That stuff has like 30 ingredients, and is intended to replace sweetened whipped cream, which has two ingredients. I don’t understand why Miracle Whip exists as a product.

Anyways, I ended up buying about $150 worth of various interesting foods. The novelty of foods in America delights me, but only because it’s novel. If I lived here, I’d quickly grow tired of all the manufactured crap that people have the eat, and would start to long for just vegetables and fruits.

We made it to Seattle, and pulled up to our hotel near the Space Needle. Seattle is a really nice place, it’s like half way between Portland and San Francisco in terms of casual vibe versus having a bit of life and excitement. Not that I’m saying that Portland isn’t exciting, but it’s relaxing vibe might get too relaxing after a while.

We walked around the Space Needle, then hung out at the Armory, which is a food hall that sold pies! Kathryn thought her chicken pie tasted ‘earthy’, but I thought it was delicious. Maybe because it’s been the first pie I’ve had in two months!

RTW Day 50 – Grumpy Portland

When you’ve been travelling in each other’s faces for the past seven weeks, sometimes you get a little grumpy at your travel partner. It’s nothing personal, it’s just spending so much time with someone else without getting a break. So we were in a bit of a grumpy mood, but we got over it because we were in Portland.

IMG_3640Portland is a great city, full of great people. It’s probably the city closest in vibe to Wellington, full of super hip people drinking their super hip coffees, living their super hip lives. We headed to a random coffee shop that was full of people on their Macbook Pros, others looking down on their luck having a plain coffee, and kids sitting and playing cards. It was a nice relaxing atmosphere. People were laid back, there was none of the hurry or stress of Los Angeles.
From there, we walked past all the food vans in Portland. They look like the best way to good food in the town, with so much variety, including my all-time favourite, a Hawaii Teriyaki Chicken Plate. However, instead of going there, we decided to head to Lucky Labrador, a beer hall for some Pizza and beers.

We caught the Portland Streetcar to Lucky Labrador, which I think is a great way to see the city. Even with a car, I think catching any sort of loop public transport in a new town is a great way to get your bearings and discover interesting places around.

Kathryn loves beer, and this place didn’t disappoint. I had a cider, and I should have learnt better. It’s a brewery, not a cider-ery. The pizza slices were nice and big, and the base was crisp. The guys next to us brought their own board games, and started playing which was good. There was an office Christmas party happening at the table across us, you could tell, because everyone was bored, didn’t want to be there, and brought each other crap gifts.

From there we headed back to the Holiday Inn Pony Express, and Kathryn decided to head to the restaurant next door, selling all American food. Like Denny’s, the food was average, salty, and fattening. I went for a crab salad that was really nice, by virtue of the fact that I didn’t ask for dressing or sauce. Kathryn went for the Chicken Steak, which is basically Chicken Schnitzel, except the meat was grey. Grey is not a good colour to describe chicken. I laughed at Kathryn’s food order, and I’m pretty sure she was jealous of my salad.

RTW Day 49 – A 17 hour drive from San Francisco to Portland, or, never again

Things I never want to do again, drive 17 hours in a day. We’ve been a bit jetlagged in America, which means we go to bed at 8pm, and get up at 4am, so we decided to take advantage of this, and leave San Francisco at 4am bound for Portland.

IMG_3613There’s not too much to see between San Francisco and Portland, but one outstanding thing is the Avenue of the Giants, which is features massive redwoods, including some trees over 900 years old. It was a significant detour, but Kathryn did say when would we ever do this again, so we went for it.

Because we left so early, we breezed easily through San Francisco, driving north over the Golden Gate Bridge. We drove through many small towns in North California, where the land changes from the bay area towards massive rural areas, a few communities, a vast open spaces. One thing I underestimated was just how vast America is. It’s soo easy to look at Google Maps, zoom out, and say, oh, I think I could travel that in a day. Sure, some of these things are technically feasible, but they don’t take into account the largest rainfall in a 100 years, the darkness, the tiredness of travelling for the last seven weeks, I was optimistic in my travel planning.

IMG_3631We got close to the Avenue of the Giants when we discovered the road was closed. Again. While we had checked the Internet for road closures, this one wasn’t listed. We could have waited for 4-6 hours, as many were doing, or we could drive back about 2 hours the direction we’d come from, then cut across to the main freeway, which is what we did. In times like those, what can you do?

We then drove for ages to reach the Interstate, which was then a big giant relatively straight road bound for Oregon. Sure, you’re going 70 miles per hour, but with 500 miles to go, that still takes a while.

My favourite driving combination is straight roads, sun, the beach, and great music. My worst driving combination is darkness, rain, corners, and fog. This was what we encountered on our drive to Portland.

I think I lost track of a couple of hours as I just followed a car in the rain. You can’t see anything, so I just found the brake lights of the car ahead, and stayed there. By the time we made it to Portland, I felt like a zombie.

RTW Day 48 – San Francisco’s crooked street, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Golden Gate Bridge

Our accommodation, the Francisco Bay Inn, offers a complimentary breakfast, which for me consisted of a bowl of Coco Pops, and a doughnut. There’s a really good reason why people don’t eat doughnuts for breakfast, it’s both bad for you, kinda gross, and a heavy way to start the day. But when in Rome…

IMG_3579While our accommodation, the Francisco Bay Inn, was tired and super noisy due to the highway next door, the one redeeming feature it has is its location. We were only a minute’s walk from the crooked part of Lombard Street. This was basically a street that zigzags down a hill. It reminded one of someone’s driveway, but it’s a big tourist attraction in San Francisco.

From there, we walked down the street to the Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s a really nice area, filled with tourists and homeless people. I guess if I was a homeless person I’d want to hang out in a really nice part of town. We then caught a ferry trip around the bay for $28 USD each. For an hour, we cruised out along San Francisco Bay towards the Golden Gate Bridge. It really is a magnificent bridge, I know bridges are boring, but they decided to make it really beautiful, not just another boring bridge. And in return, it became the most iconic thing in San Francisco. As the boat was turning around in the bay, the water was super choppy, and we were going up and down about a metre. That was pretty exciting. We sailed past Alcatraz which was interesting to look at, only three people escaped, yet, it’s relatively close to San Francisco. It must have been painful knowing you were so close yet so far.

IMG_3599We then had some food at Fisherman’s Wharf. Of course it was overpriced, it was in the tourist part of town! But, the crab and shrimp chowder, served in a sourdough bowl was delicious!

We then walked around, and checked out a Trader Joe’s supermarket. This is where white people shop, and was full of nice, and good priced foods.

Finally, we did some life administration, which means finding a laundromat, and doing laundry. This gets pretty tiring, so a great way to pass the time is to annoy each other. We played knuckles, watch the video to see the results.