Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Road Trip: Seattle - Space Needle... in Space

A night of sleeping in a car is hard, probably not so hard as sleeping on an airplane, but it’s definitely not bed-status, nor even as good as a floor. Nevertheless, after finishing working on the blog I posted last night I settled into a relatively comfortable position and then, with the help of rain pattering on the roof, I finally fell back to sleep and didn’t wake again until morning. Normally I can sleep soundly pretty much anywhere… if I feel tired, but my body decided that feeling sleepy in a car at night was a bad idea. The same thing happened to my friends, unfortunately,  and they had a more difficult night than I did, but they managed to get some sleep. So now it’s morning, we’re driving along on the freeway, and it’s time to finish yesterdays story.
Driving up to Seattle proved rather uneventful, Nate read more of Halo: First Strike, and I read for a while myself until car sickness started to make that impossible. Our route was nothing near as striking as the Oregon coastal route, though we got some stunning glimpses of white and blue of Mt. St. Helens through the tall green trees that lined the freeway.

The jutting retro-futuristic spire of the space needle came into view around two in the afternoon. Finding parking proved in some ways as difficult as it had been in every city, but we had a bit more experience by this point and were familiar with the pay-to-park system used for street parking, as we’d encountered it in Portland. We ended up parking some distance from the Space Needle and walking there. Naturally, the entrance fee for the famous landmark was outrageous, costing a full $15 just to ride up on an elevator at get a view of the city, but of course we bit. You can’t go to Seattle as a tourist for the first time and not go on the Space Needle. Getting the gorgeous views of the Seattle skyline, bay and mountains was quite worth it though, and perhaps more interesting to me was the information posted up on the history and construction of the building.

 At the time the Space Needle was built, Seattle had won the right to host the World Fair by pushing its commitment to science and to becoming a 21st century city… almost half a century early. As part of this World Fair, the Space Needle was built to exhibit the grandeur of Seattle’s vision for the future, just as the Eiffel Tower had been built for the World Fair in Paris. One fact about its construction that I found very interesting, was that they decided to have the center of gravity be only a few feet off the ground, this meant they had to have a massive amount of steel and concrete underground as a counterbalance for the Needle. Ultimately, they spent 24 hours pouring concrete for the foundation, which is still the longest time on record.
After our journey up the Space Needle, we went across the street to a little café to have lunch. It was a pleasant little place, with outside seating giving us a good view of the Space Needle. Nate and I had a Chinese dish that was quite good, while Tyler had a BLT. I also had a honey nut latte, which was way too sweet. Though we had a good time, the cashier at the place seemed like she really didn’t want to be there, so that put something of a damper on the experience.

Our bellies fed, we walked back to the car to get more time in our parking spot and then went to the most amazing place ever (well… the second most amazing, the most amazing place ever is Powell’s Books) – the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame. We all had a blast walking through the place, looking at all the sci-fi props, signed first edition books and the plethora of information on the history of science fiction. They also had some bits of advice on writing science fiction from some of the greats, most of which was absolute crap, but hey, just because you can perform it don’t mean you can teach it. For example, Ray Bradbury mumbled some mystical mumbo-jumbo about how you had to let the inner-man, not yourself write, and Harlan Ellison said profoundly that the deep secret to writing good was to hear the music. Whatever that means. He repeated the statement several times without ever explaining what he meant by it, and he also managed to call community college writing teachers worthless hacks.

Attached to the Sci-fi museum, and entered on the same ticket, was a musical experience museum on the history of Rock n’ Roll. It was cool, and I think Tyler really liked it, but I wasn’t nearly as exciting for me. Mostly, it consisted of lots and lots of displays of different guitars, and information on the instrument and the musicians. It was real cool, but seemed a tad monotonous to me.

Having gotten our money’s worth and more out of the museums, we set out to find dinner, a task which ultimately took us two whole hours. First, Tyler decided we’d eat out of downtown, and we agreed to try and find something we hadn’t had before. So, we asked our GPS to list restaurant categories in the area, and African cuisine came up. That sounded cool, so I clicked on it and found a lot of places, mostly Ethiopian. We decided on one of these, and drove about a half of an hour to get there, only to find it closed. Nearby, Maggie said, was another restraint called Zulu East African food, so we headed out that way and found… a house. Close to an hour wasted already, I began searching for food on the web using my phone and we finally decided on a German Sausage place, which turned out to be in downtown Seattle. Luckily, it was late by now and parking after six is free, so we drove the half-hour back to downtown and parked. We never did find the German place, and most of the places along the street were far too expensive, but we finally found a neat little fish taco place where we all ordered big fish burritos and had a hearty meal. It was also nice to see that the fish they used was caught sustainably.

Finally, we set out to find a place to sleep, heading to a truck stop I found by way of my phone… only it turned out it was a park-and-ride, not a truck stop, and that it explicitly forbade overnight car sleeping. Lame. We searched around on the net for a while to find a camp site or rest stop we could go to, and I finally called Ernie’s Truck Stop to see if we could park there and sleep the night over. It was not, I gathered, something they did on an official basis, but they told us to park in the employee parking on the side and let them know we were there. After rearranging our luggage so we could all get at least semi-recumbent, we set to the difficult task of trying to sleep.