Saturday, August 21, 2010

Days 15, 16, 17 and 18– August 13, 14, 15 and 16 Seattle and Olympic NP

Day 15
to Seattle
We drove all morning and arrived to the hotel we’ve booked (College Inn) without loosing ourselves in the city and almost an hour before check-in (or so we thought). Check-in starts at 3 pm. But… when Stepan stopped next to the hotel, we realized our reservation didn’t say August 13 till 15 but August 12 till 14.  Which meant we were early for the check-in but a day late. Ouch.
The manager guy was kind of nice (at 3pm) since he didn’t cancel our second night. We were happy. There was a very odd smell in the hotel, probable coming from the restaurant, pub and deli downstairs.
Well, our arrival wasn’t the best at first. Then we had a great Thai meal and Seattle was getting better.
After this first adventure, we parked the car and went downtown. There was no one in the streets, just some very strange people and we didn’t like it all that much. We even cancelled our planned anniversary dinner and decided to do it elsewhere because the place and the city didn’t appeal to us.
After this dinner cancellation, we decided to have a drink in a bar. There was one, called Blue Moon, not that far from our hotel (about a mile), recommended by Lonely Planet for a nice creative atmosphere (people are supposed to recite poems there). The neighborhood was quite strange around there and when we saw the bar, we didn’t find the courage to get in. Most of the people there looked more like Hell’s Angels than poets.
Unfortunately, most of the pubs we saw on our way were about to close (why when it was 10 pm on a Friday…). We bought a beer and some chips and were off to the hotel. Funny day.

Day 16
in Seattle and to the Olympic Peninsula
Since our first day in Seattle wasn’t all that nice and the hotel didn’t have any vacancies for Saturday night, we decided to leave for the Olympic Peninsula in the afternoon and sleep in a campground.
Our second day in Seattle was way better. We started it at Jiffu Lube’s, changing the oil in our car (which requested it the previous day). First we wanted to change our car at the agency but the nearest available convertible was probably in San Francisco (not one in the Pacific Northwest area) so we went for the oil change. Which was a great idea. The whole process, which takes about a day or three in Czech Republic and France and costs an awful lot of money for what it is, took about 15 minutes at Jiffy Lube. For 39$ they changed the oil AND the filter and checked about everything in the car. The didn’t do tire repairs but sent us elsewhere (Les Schwab). Our left rear tire was loosing a bit of air and we had to fill it up every two days. It turned out there was a nail in it (which Stepan discovered the day before). This reparation took about 30 minutes and it was for free. “We don’t charge for this kind of stuff”. We gave the guy at least a tip (which he was reluctant to accept…)
After these car adventures, we went Downtown again and to the SAM (Seattle Art Museum). We went mostly for Modern and American Art (nothing against 18th century European paintings but…). There were two great exhibitions – one about Kurt Cobain and art linked to him and one of Andy Warhol’s motion art.
We also bought delicious Salmon at Pike Market (where the guys throw fish for those who know the place).
Then we were off to the ferry and out of the city.
Even though the ride on the ferry lasted just about 30 minutes, we saw several animals one of which was a whale (it had this water fountain coming out of its head!)
All the campgrounds on the peninsula were full but the volunteer ladies managed to squeeze us in with on a campsite with another guy. It was a campsite where a dozen tents would fit easily… After preparing our tent, we drove to nearby Port Townsend. Nothing was happening there - just a great milkshake and a crazy punk group playing in a space that wasn’t a bar.

Day 17
Olympic NP
In the morning we went back to Port Townsend for two equally important reasons – gasoline and shoes. We bought a nice pair of dark blue cowboy shoes.
Olympic NP has three main (and very distinct) features to offer – mountains, rain forests and wild ocean coast. Since alpine meadows and peaks is something you can actually see in the Alps, we opted for the latter two. First on our itinerary was Hoh Rain Forest where we decided to stay for the night and plant our tent on a very nice campsite under huge trees, innumerable stars and next to the Hoh River.
We hiked on two trails and the trees and the whole rainforest was huge and stunning. It’s an impressive place to see. Many of these trees date back to the age of European cathedrals.
We spent our anniversary evening talking around fire and eating beans and bananas. It was a nice (and warm) night.

About wood
At the campgrounds you have to buy your wood because picking it up is forbidden, the camp being in a National Park. In most of the parks, there is a shop or a ranger you can buy it from. In Hoh Rain Forest, you just put 5$ in a box and take a bundle of wood. This same system can be seen for trail brochures (in most of the parks) and we even saw a flower shop next to the road where you choose your flowers, pay for them and leave, all of this without a vendor. We are very sad such a thing can’t work in Czech Republic or France because some idiot would just abuse of it. It’s a pity.

Day 18
Olympic NP Coast and down to Oregon – our first day in the FOG
In the morning, we went to see the third part of Olympic NP - the Pacific Coast. Actually, we didn’t see much of it since it was very foggy. That was the moment we entered the fog and it’s just a little exaggeration if I say we’ve been in it ever since.
Even in the fog, the coast is beautiful with black sand, big rocks, very cold wavy water and white-washed logs around the beach.
Columbia River is the border between Washington and Oregon where we crossed it. It doesn’t look like a river at all. You can’t even fit it in the frame of you picture when driving across the bridge.
Down the coast, we stopped in the Oregon city of Seaside. Not because it’s a major sight but because of food again. Our Roadfood friend recommended us Norma’s Ocean Diner. We had delicious albacore fish and chips. Fresh and very tasty, they were a complete opposite of the weather outside – grey, foggy and very cold.

About fog
Most of the Pacific Coast we had the chance to experience is almost continuously hidden in the fog. It's funny, when you get but a mile or two inland, the fog disappears and it's sunny and warm again. It's crazy. And this description includes most of what we experienced here in San Francisco :)

PHOTOS to come later (they are still in the camera...)

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