Wednesday, June 4, 2008

East Coast vs. West Coast

There really is no comparison between the two, as it's like being in two separate worlds. The EC, as I know it, is VERY flat, and quite hot and humid, even in May. The WC, as I just saw it, is anything BUT flat, and very cool. They are both beautiful in their own rights, but vastly different from each other. There is something soothing about being able to park, and walk onto a sandy beach, and just walk for miles while staring out at the ocean on the EC. The WC has cliffs and mountains that go straight into the ocean, and has mesmerizing Sea Stacks. The scenes are spectacular.

I'm glad for my trip out west to see all the sites I got to see. But I'm glad to be back home, and see my very flat town.



What a great city. There is soooo much to see and do, that it would take MUCH more than the one day we had there. We had great guides with us that knew where everything was that made it much easier to get around. And we packed an awful lot into one little day. So here goes....

The Seattle Underground Tour - this started off our morning. Very interesting stuff. First 20 mintues were history and background. Then off to go underground. This is where it started getting REALLY cheesy. While still enjoyable, our guide was Mr. Cheese himself. After so much of it, and getting the jist of the tour and the underground, we left at the first sight of the main street.

Headed to the ORIGINAL STARBUCKS in Pike Place Public Market. I'm no coffee drinker, but this was cool to see. The coffee drinker went to town, and bought a TON of souvineers that can only be purchased at this location. I got to meet a really cool GoldenDoodle named Pepper that reaffirmed that I really do want one of these dogs!

Then it was off to Groundspeak Headquarters for a brief tour. To most of you, that doesn't mean a thing, but to us, it's the HQ for our hobby, and was very cool to see where the hub of it all is. No need to bore you all with the details here...

Off to the Space Needle! We took a monorail ride down directly into the center of the Space Needle stuff. We tried to get seats at the restaurant, but they had just stopped seating for lunch and wouldn't be seating for dinner for a few more hours. We went to the nearby food court to wolf down something to give us some energy to keep going. We got our tickets to go up, and waited about 20 minutes before we got an elevator. The view from the top was spectacular, and just barely clear enough to see Mt. Ranier. It was packed up there, but was still fun to see some pictures in all different directions. Imbedded in the floor, were compass points to let you know which way you were facing. That was a nice touch.

Pike Place Market was the last stop of the day. Unfortunately, we only had about 1 1/2 hours until they closed (you could spend a FULL day here!). I so wish we had something like this at home. But nothing compares. This is the place where there are several fish markets, and they throw the whole fish around. There are flower vendors set up with some of the prettiest bundles of fresh flowers for you just to pick up, purchase and take home. Fresh veggies line tables around every bend. Vendors selling everything you can imagine are there, just waiting to lure you up to their booth. We bought some fresh goat cheese, and some fresh salmon to bring home. If we had known then that we had extra room on the way back, we likely would have bought much more there. But it was a great way to end the day in Seattle.

I know there were a ton of things that we didn't get to see, and know that we didn't even scratch the surface on this fine city. But it was fun!

And no rain! It didn't rain a drop the whole time we were there.....


Eating on Vacation

Ooooh boy! Do I love to eat! Ok, so on vacation, you know you have to eat out fairly regularly. Not too many places to cook a home cooked meal. Now, in general, I prefer to eat at mom&pop type places, or local owned places as opposed to chain restaurants. I will eat at chains, I just prefer to support small local business.

This trip, we ate at our share of chains, simply because sometimes that was the only thing available. We did find some gems along the way...

In and Out Burger - ok, so this is a chain. But it's one we don't have on the east coast. We saw quite a few of these around the Sacramento area. Popped into one for lunch on a Friday. The menu - simple. Burgers, Cheeseburgers, Double Cheeseburgers. Limited options. They were packed, and were turning over burgers at a pretty good clip. The parking lot was PACKED, so the "In and Out" part were a little tough going.

Eel River Brewery - This place is a local brewery in Fortuna, Ca. It was a little bit of a wait on a Sunday night, partly because a lot of locals visit this establishment, and partly because it's walking distance to at least 3 chain hotels. They have a huge selection of Seafood on the menu, nightly specials, traditional fare, and a whole line of beers! YUM! We each had a "California Blonde" beer. A pale ale. The seafood was fresh, lightly breaded, and plentiful. We could hardly walk out of there, we were so full. Luckily, our hotel was across the street.

Beacon Burgers - This little bitty dive (said affectionately), was in Crescent City, Ca. We looked on the GPS for a burger joint and this came up. We almost didn't find it, as it was a small shack tucked away near other larger restaurants, and near a marina. We got the "special" and then were asked if we wanted: fries, onion rings, "jo-jo's" or "jims". HUH? Jo-jo's or Jim's? One was potato wedges, and one was tator tots. We each got one of those.... The burger was big and juicy and messy. Everything we were looking for. The Jo-jo's and Jim's were delicious. One of the favorites of that leg of the trip. Will head back there again, if we ever get back to Crescent City.

Mo's - In Newport, Oregon we stopped for lunch at a place called Mo's. Looked promising from the outside. Appeared to be your local dive. Inside was a little unorganized, but the atmosphere was pretty cool. The food was fair (although fresh and local) and the service was a bit slow. The place was pretty full at lunch time with what appeared to be locals and tourists mixed. A semi-chain as they have about 6 or 7 locations along the OR coast. The best part was dessert - peanut butter pie, and triple leches cake. Both were scrumptious!

JJ's Fish House - in Poulsbo, WA. YUM! Best seafood we had out west. Perfect little local owned place. In an awesome little Scandanavian town that was picturesque. It looked like we walked into a villiage in Norway somewhere. The architecture, the shops, the whole experience. But back to the food. They had the best Fish and Chips of any restaruant we had tried, and the Fishwich was superb as well. Some else with us had the grilled Halibut and said that is was excellent. BIG thumbs up for JJ's Fish House.

One last thing... At the friend's house that we stayed at outside of Seattle (Shelton, WA to be more precise), our friend cooked breakfast for us each morning. Eggs one day. French toast another. But the icing on the cake were the pancakes. So, this sounds gross... But it's good! These folks put peanut butter on thier pancakes. Yes, you read that right. Peanut butter. Not instead of syrup, but in addition to. I was not going to try this, as it sounded downright un-appealing to me. But curiosity got the better of me, and so here I sit, blogging about peanut butter on pancakes topped with syrup. Yep - it was good. Pancake on the plate, thin layer of peanut butter, top it with syrup. Really adds great flavor and creaminess to the pancakes...

Well - sadly, I think the longest post for this trip so far has been about food.......


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Sea Lions

Somewhere along the Oregon coast, we turned a corner on Hwy 101 and there was a Huge building with huge signs for the "Sea Lion Caves". Decided to pop in and see what all the fuss was...

WOW! So glad we did... What we found here was simply amazing. Not nearly as cheesy as we first imagined it might be. Yes, it was a roadside attraction, but it was much more than that. This place had a stellar spot to view Sea Lions in their element. They've built a viewing platform with amazing views of the ocean, and back in the 60's, an elevator was put in to take you down to a cave where the Sea Lions spend most of thier time in the winter. It was a sunny day, so most of them were outside. We could see pods of them swimming and playing in the ocean, tons of them sunning on rocks below, and some jumping in and out of the water onto the rocks. They were very vocal, and could hear them almost from the parking lot. We managed to get a few good pictures, and some very limited video.

Once again, the pictures don't do this area justice. You have to see it to believe it...


The Oregon Coast

So vastly different from the Virginia Coast. Unfortunately, it was overcast most of the drive for us, but we did manage to get a few pictures... Enjoy.

Doesn't do justice at all, and these aren't even a 1/4 of the pictures that I took, just a sampling....


Redwood Forest

One of the stops on our 10 day journey out west was a trip to the Redwood Forest in Northern California, near the coast. Avenue of the Giants, to be exact. What is Avenue of the Giants? Here is their definition:

This world-famous scenic drive is a 31-mile portion of old Highway 101, which parallels Freeway 101 with its 51,222 acres of redwood groves. It is by far the most outstanding display of these giant trees in the entire 500 mile redwood belt and is accessible to all with convenient services provided along the way. The Avenue of the Giants is surrounded by Humboldt Redwoods State Park which has the largest remaining stand of virgin redwoods in the

We took our time driving through here, and stopped to snap some pictures on some of the trails.

We also managed to drive THROUGH a tree.

Sometimes as you drove, the trees were RIGHT at the edge. You wonder if you can pass if another car was coming at the same time. There was no curb, just tree.

We stopped at a couple of the cheesy shops along the way, although most of them were closed for the day. Fun to see all of the things made out of redwood, though.

The Humboldt Redwood State Park was truly beautiful and a pleasant drive, on our way to Seattle. So glad we made time for it!



So, on our trip out west, we stayed in several hotels. We stayed the first three nights in a Super 8. Yep, we flew first class, and stayed in a Super 8. We were splitting the room with another friend (whose coach flight out didn't go very well), so it was cramped quarters. The hotel, and room were nothing to write home about. There were issues with the bathroom floor, and the tub floor. It was a tight but manageable few days. The 4th night, we stayed in another Super 8 (yes another one) but the difference was huge. The room was twice as big, and the hotel was twice as nice (at least). And this is the same chain. It amazes me the differences within the same chain. 5th night was in a Casino hotel, as we found Casino's along the way to throw away our trip money. This was probably the nicest hotel we stayed at for the same price as the (2nd) Super 8. The 6th night was a Days Inn. Nice enough hotel, but absolutely NO signs to tell you how to get there. Must have done 3 U-turns trying to find it. Checked into the first room, and it was unbelievable small. Called downstairs to upgrade, and were quickly moved to a much more spacious move. No charge.

The 7th, 8th, and 9th night, we stayed at a friends house outside of Seattle, and the accommodations were supreme!

In short, I guess it's a crap shoot. We've stayed at GREAT Super 8's. And not so great Super 8's. All in the name of earning free nights...


Flying: First Class vs. Coach

Yeah, Yeah.... We all know what a huge difference it is. For me, it was a first, because I had never flown First Class. From checking in, to boarding, to leaving. It's a breeze. Checking was as smooth as you can imagine. Standing in the first class line bumps you to the front. Boarding the plane bumps you to the front of the line, and you are less rushed, and can stow, and relax with a drink while everyone else is boarding. The seats are definitely bigger and much more comfortable, and the attendants come by seemingly non-stop to make sure you are having a pleasant flight. We had a hot meals served on two of our flights, one being a breakfast quesadilla with fruit and a bagel. The other was dinner of salad, pot roast, mashed potatoes, veggies, a roll, and chocolate cake for dessert. I almost forgot I was on an airplane. When it was time to get off the plane, you are the first ones off, avoiding the hassle of standing in the aisle waiting for the folks in front of you.

The ONE downside that I wish I knew in advance: Luggage weight limits. Yes, the airlines have them. BUT! Did you know they are higher for First Class???? Yeah, neither did we! And we didn't find this out on the way out of town. We found this out while returning home after packing, and repacking, and repacking some more, to try to distribute the weight if the bags. Only to be told when we checked in that we had almost a 20 pound leeway. 20 pounds!!!! Sheesh! I could kept shopping, or packed more into the bigger bags.... I'll know for next time!

Will I travel first class all the time? Nope. Can't afford it. Will I splurge the next time I have to go cross-country again? You bet! Made all the difference in the world...

As an aside to this post: One of our friends we were meeting in CA flew coach. When we arrived at the airport, and met up with her, her first words to us were. "I AM NOT HAVING FUN YET!". Hmmm.... to tell her about this post, or not??? We'll see.... :)



I will be updating the blog over the next few days with posts about my recent trip out to the West Coast. I will attempt to give some comparisons on different things, as well as share experiences and try adding in pictures for the first time! Here's a sampling of what to expect:

Flying: First Class vs. Coach
Hotels including differences within the same chain
East Coast vs. West Coast
Oregon Coast
Food along the way as well as DIVES
Redwood Forrest
Sea Lions

There may be more, or there may be things mixed in together. Who knows what will be jumbled up in here.... After all, it is just RANDOM THOUGHTS...