Friday, September 28, 2012

Washington to Montana

Well, I'm quite pleased that my studying on Tuesday paid off and I managed to do quite well on my German test! Now, to keep it up for the rest of the year... :P
I'm just going to quickly wrap up the last few days of our road trip - we saw some pretty epic scenery coming through Washington State, Idaho, and Montana.
I don't remember where this was - about half-way between Seattle and Spokane. It was very arid and barren, and very beautiful.

We spent one night at a KOA in Spokane, which was my favourite of the three we stayed at. Partly because it was almost totally empty, mid-week after the long weekend. Also, it had VERY nice bathrooms. :) The only problem was the Union Pacific train line right across the edge of the property...but at least thanks to Hell on Wheels I knew to totally blame Thomas Durant for my lack of a decent sleep. :)
Our KOA in Whitefish was at least free of trains, planes, and automobiles, but the SPIDERS. Oh my, I do so hate spiders. The year that both Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets AND the Lord of the Rings with the giant spider was a traumatic year for me. Blech!
Anyway, Whitefish itself wasn't that exciting - we spent most of our time in Kalispell. The hike up the Whitefish ski hill was probably the highlight of our couple of days there - the weather was lovely the day we went (it rained the day before so we went shopping and to see the new Bourne movie...) and I took tons of pictures.
You know you're in a ski town when McDonald's feels like they need to put this sign on the door....
Using the timer setting on my camera...
I had a moment when I felt like we were on Endor...I'm not sure if you can see it in this little photo, but there's a moon in that sky. I'm pretty sure it was a moon and not a battle station, anyway...
View of the ski hill from the shore of the lake that was behind us in the photo above.
Fearless duck! There was a lady who kept trying to give me bread to feed the duck and lure it closer, but there were also about 40 seagulls lurking in the general vicinity. I was all like 'lady, you want to start a seagull feeding frenzy? Are you crazy?' Oy...
Llama at our campground. I think he was an actual llama and not a demon one....although I have this one photo of him where he's literally glowing, so I'm not toally sure...

 (And now I have the urge to watch the 'Llama Llama Duck' song, which I haven't watched in years and years, except I'm in the library at school and I don't have my earbuds. :(
Steampunk Buffalo. I have 'Guy on a Buffalo' stuck in my head everytime I see it, but it's more like 'guy on a steampunk buffalooooooooooo!'
We drove back on 'Going to the Sun Road' through Glacier National Park. I was pretty cheezed, because we found out after we were stuck in a huge morass of traffic with no signs whatsoever, that unlike Canada, you have to pay to even drive THROUGH a national park. So we had to pay $25 for the pleasure of driving at a snail's pace through a winding, white-knuckling, acrophobia-inducing, two-lane back road. Blergh! Still, it was some of the most impressive scenery I've ever seen in real life - it reminded me a lot of the New Zealand scenery you see in Lord of the Rings.
We made it home safely - they let us back in the country - and immediately got back into school. It was only yesterday when I actually finally moved the last of the camping stuff out of the dining room and down to the furnace room! Ooops...
Last weekend we went on a beautiful hike, so hopefully that'll be the topic of Tuesday's upcoming post!
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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

See school interfere with my online life!

See Michelle.
See Michelle study.
See Michelle study hard and avoid novels, tv shows, Facebook, fan sites and Twitter as much as possible.
See Michelle still struggle in German.
See Michelle write a super short blog and go back to studying for German.
(First quiz tomorrow. Ahhhhhh! See Michelle panic and freak out.)

Dammit Jim, I'm an English major, not a linguistics major!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Waterfront in the Seattle Area

School is in full swing! I have a heavy course load this semester; German, English grammar/linguistics, Canadian history of the arctic, English lit theory, and historical English lit. It's keeping me pretty busy...despite loving school, I think longingly of the few days I spent alternately reading novels and gazing at the ocean....
After escaping hilly downtown Seattle, we heading for Gas Works Park, which I'd read about in a guide book. It's a city park on a large body of water (I thought it was an inlet of the ocean, but it turns out it was just a large lake...), and it's main feature is an old gas plant. It's rusty urban decay at it's finest, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. We were there late on a Friday afternoon, and it was full of couples gazing at the water, families having picnic suppers, people flying kites, and even a wedding being photographed.

The blackberries are doing their darnedest to reclaim the structures for nature. This is behind a chain-link fence, and I nearly cried at all of the blackberry goodness going to waste...
Just a lake, not ocean - but a lovely view none the less!

We also visited Dash Point State Park. We had tried to go one day before, but I didn't realize you had to pay admission in the form of a day pass. We were only going to stay for an hour or so, so we went somewhere else and came back another day. It was a wee bit chilly, despite the sun, because of the wind off the water. Trevor went to read in the car because it was too cold for him, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. :) Then we went and got subs for lunch and came back for the afternoon, when it was finally warm enough for Trevor. Towards the late afternoon the beach got REALLY crowded, as the tide came in and more families arrived after the work day. There wasn't much sand to begin with, and quarters got very cosy. I'm not sure that I'd go there again - the next beach we went to was my favourite!
After we left the beach we had dinner at Salty's at Redondo Beach. It was a lovely seafood place on a pier - we had a corner table by the window, and we watched the sun set over the ocean, while I stuffed myself with some of the best clam chowder I've ever eaten, complete with little oyster crackers. I ADORE oyster crackers, and I can't seem to find any in Calgary. :(
Dash Point State Park - also known as 'the seaweedy beach'.
Caught a glimpse of Mt. Rainer on our way back. I'd forgotten the sheer immenseness of Baker and Rainer! Albertans like to think that we have 'real' mountains, but these are breathtaking.
Seahurst Park was beautiful. There was a river with a pond, lots of rainforest, lots of sand and not too crowded, and no admission fee! I loved it there. We met a random guy who came over to talk to us because he noticed Trevor reading Biblical Greek, and me reading a Star Wars novel. We'd actually noticed him earlier when he arrived at the beach, because he said to his toddler daughter that he didn't like water because he's a nerd. Which made me snort... :)
The river leads to the sea.
I'll have to go back and check my photos, but I think that's about it for the Seattle area - on to Whitefish, Montana, next!
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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Underground Seattle

The Underground Seattle tour is brilliant. I would have liked small groups and more time underground, but it was still pretty great. :) I love old stuff, and being totally not claustrophobic, I'm quite fond of small, dark, enclosed spaces, so as soon as I heard that there was such a thing as an underground Seattle, and a tour thereof, I put that at the top of my 'to see' list.
It starts out in this old bar/pub with an orientation from a guy, who clearly moonlights at comedy clubs, talking about the history of Seattle and what its initial construction problems were. Mainly that the first settlers were prairie people who didn't know about the ocean and tides, and so they had a bit of an issue with sewage disposal and it washing back in with the returning tide. Let's just say it sounds really gross and leave it at that... Anyway, eventually there was an accident in a shop, and the whole town burnt down. Thankfully no one was killed, and the officials took the opportunity to literally rebuild not just the city, but the ground it was on. They brought down dirt from the cliffs and raised the level of the city, but this took years (7, I think) and while it was going on business rebuilt. But they rebuilt planning to have the bottom storey of the building buried eventually, with the second floor being the new first floor when street level was raised. Does that make sense? Even standing there looking at the evidence myself it was hard to wrap my mind around! It was very cool!
Maybe this interpretive signage will explain it better!
Those glass squares are part of the sidewalk - we walked over them before going into the tunnels!
Lower level of the bank where the vaults were - miners returning from the norther gold rush would store their booty here! There's a ghost story too, of course!
I would definitely go on the tour again if we ever went to Seattle again - I feel that it's a bit like Disney's Jungle Cruise, where your experience is different each time based on the tour guide. They also have a night tour that's just of adults, which might be spooky and fun.
Unfortunately after the tour we encountered a bit of drama. Usually I'm so prepared that I would have already found a place in the vicinity for which we had a coupon from the Entertainment Book, but alas... So we tried to use the coupon book and the GPS to cross-reference a nearby location. We found a place about eight blocks away, which isn't bad in Calgary...but when you're in Seattle and it's uphill both ways, it's a lot of work. Then when we got to where it was supposed to be, the place was closed down and gone. Grrr....I'm one of those people who says cranky things out of hunger, and I know I do it so I try not to, but it was becoming a loosing battle when we stumbled on this little cafe place that had a picture of a burger in the window. And it was a darn good burger, too! I can't remember the name of the place...but it may have saved our lives! :)
Then I realized that while I may not be claustrophobic, I do apparently have a really bad phobia of driving on big hills (and that there's no word to sum up the phobia...yet, anyway). When I was a kid in Halifax, they scared me a bit, and I used to have nightmares about being in a car that was driving sloooowly up a hill, sloooowly loosing traction until it got to the point where the front wheels left the road, and then the back wheels, and then it tumbled slowly, uncontrollably, backwards and forever into nothingness. Even just typing that out I feel queasy and faint...eeeps... So we're trying to get out of Seattle and the hills are even worse then the ones in Halifax and every time Trevor braked I'd jump and whimper, and I swear I left finger dents in the car door. I've never had a reaction like that to anything, ever, but I was starting to hyperventilate by the time we got on flat ground again. So that's why we probably won't go to Seattle again! :P
And after that I needed some time on the water to restore my equilibrium, so we found a waterfront park and headed there...
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Sunday, September 09, 2012

Seattle Aquarium

On Thursday, August 30th, after the EMP, we went to the Seattle Aquarium. (I can't believe how long ago that was already!) Waterfront Seattle was a bit of a culture shock for me - there were SO many people begging, and so many of them had signs saying it was because of medical bills. There were even several veterans begging, saying they'd been discharged from the military for disability reasons and were unable to survive. The Canadian military has its issues, but I don't think it's like that here - I've never seen that before, anyway. It really upset me and I had a hard time enjoying the rest of the day! The 'otter cuteness' at the aquarium helped a bit though. :)
There were two massive touch tanks of starfish, shellfish, anemones and other sturdy creatures. There was a really neat tube of jellyfish lit with coloured lights. There were many, many tanks of fish, and there were a few things I'd never seen before. My favourite part was the second building, with all of the animals. There was also this really neat underwater dome/seating area with the sun shining in through the water where I probably could have spent the day...


Seals! They were really hard to get shot of because of where they were sitting in relation to the mesh fencing, but they were super cute.
Sea otters - they were adorable - there were three of them, and they were just having SO MUCH fun.
River otter - he was a swimming machine - he was SO HARD to get a photo of. This is the best out of Trevor and I both trying for about twenty minutes!
Soft otter, warm otter, little ball of fur.
I'd definitely go back there again to bask in the oceany goodness - if you go to Seattle, and if you like critters, I highly recommend it!
We checked out a lovely junky antique store, where I scored an old Currier and Ives print of Canada - their Canadian ones are really hard to come by, and it was only $3, so I was pretty happy about that! We hiked up the ridiculous hill to check out the famous Pike's Place Market, but it was just about to close for the day, and it was such a zoo. I was having major sensory overload issues from the long day and all the people, so I wasn't super happy with it. :) We were trying to use the GPS to find a place to eat dinner, but I was worried I wouldn't have enough energy to hike back down the hill to the car after, so we went back down right away and found a place on the waterfront. I can't say enough good things about the Garmin we bought - it didn't always steer us in the most efficient direction, but it meant that I didn't have to stress about maps and navigating, which was so nice!
What a crazy long day! Those first few days in Seattle I slept like a baby, despite the noisy campground located between a highway, a train track, and an airport. :)
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Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Kelowna to Seattle

Finally at a campground with half-decent internet! But this will still be short as I'm sitting at a picnic table in the dark, luring bugs from miles around....

One week ago today we left Kelowna! But on the Monday afternoon while we waited for our friend to get off work, we wandered around the lakefront, and discovered something that we, for all our trips to Kelowna, didn't know about the place...

Kelowna has a Japanese garden! Right downtown, behind city hall! And it's beautiful....

Our first day of sightseeing in Seattle was Thursday - we spent Wednesday recovering from all the driving on Tuesday, as well as shopping for a GPS to help us navigate the mean streets of Seattle...and it did a great job of helping us find our plan B first stop (don't ask about plan A :), which was the EMP, otherwise known as the 'guitar museum'.

You can just make out the back of my head in the bottom left corner, next to the giant art installation.

Yes, I'm wearing a Star Wars shirt next to Data's uniform. I'm an equal-opportunity fangirl, ok?

Stargate props! They also had weapons from various characters from both shows. Yay. :)

Trevor getting up close and personal with a stack of Marshall amps in one of the soundbooths.

Next we went to the Seattle aquarium, and I have LOTS of photos from that, but I don't think this internet connection is up for that, so watch next week for more! :)