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Sep 3, 2003

Road Trip : Part 1 Seattle

The Road Trip - Part 1(Washington) Seattle
(Not the movie !!!) 

Journey is a revelation in itself and when it comes to revelations, road trips are the best. What can beat an eight hour drive from midnight till morning, riding high on caffeine,watching light blobs speed past at eighty miles an hour, listening to snores from passenger side and mindless croons on the FM, your car on cruise and the only working part of your body being your hands on the steering wheel, that has to be the best pose for receiving a revelation.

And where else in the world is a better place to undertake a roadtrip than a nation whose religion is motoring and peopled by denizens whose lives are goverened by commute times, gas prices and automobiles - yes, the good old US of A. How long can you hold off the lure of millions of miles of asphalt, disposable cars and cheap gas prices and ofcourse not forgetting the endless hours of watching the Travel Channel on exploring and discovering the North American continent. Finally, we succumbed to the temptation this September and here we are at the threshold of a West Coast Discovery Road Trip, trying hard to keep our eyes open after a four hour red eye flight from Anchorage, Ak to Seattle-Tacoma, Wa.

It was 6AM PST, we were at Seattle-Tacoma (Seatac) Airport , haggling at a Hertz (rental car operators) counter. Like all the web savy people out there we had booked our rental car from one of those websites which competes to offer you the best deals in the universe. The deal was not bad, if not the best in the galaxy, but we thought it included a GPS in the car, which the Hertz employees assured us always came at an additional charge. But then what is a Global Positioning System compared to weeks of research, printed maps and info and extra good human navigational ability, eh? That meant a no for GPS and some extra dollars saved right at the start of our trip. Ain't we brilliant or what?!!?!!!

Two huge suitcases heaved into the trunk of a white Ford Taurus and we were ready to go. But where do we go? The hotel check-in time was around 3pm, that meant we had 7-8 hours before we could harbor any thoughts of a nice rest and a warm shower. While driving towards Seattle from Seatac we could see the famous Space Needle from a distance and we decided to make a beeline for it.

The Space Needle along with various other attractions are housed in a complex called the Seattle Center . Yeah, it is the center of Seattle as far as tourists are concerned, even on a working day like today we saw many ambling about with nothing better to do. We parked the car in one of the one hour curb side parking spots near the Seattle Center, decided to walk around a bit and find a place to grab some breakfast.

Seattle looked a bit like San Francisco, but it was different at the same time. Maybe it was because of the roads with steep gradients reminded me of SF, here most of them sloped down directly towards the waterfront. A couple of blocks down we found a place called Cafe Minnie's (now closed) (101 Denny Way), a 24 hour restaurant, which looked ok and showed the possibility of offering us a decent meal at an affordable price. The crowd inside looked ok too, there were a few cops and some office goers, which meant that it was a place favored by locals and then a few wide eyed tourists like us. We had pancakes, omlette with some italian sauce, cocoa and orange juice, with the tip it came around twenty dollars, not bad considering the close proximity of tourist spot.

Reparked the car at a three hour spot a few blocks away, that gave us enough time to roam around. The entry fee to (click on the link if you want to know more about Space Needle) Space Needle is $12.50 per person.They also offer you deal where you can buy tickets to 5-6 'touristy' things like Space Needle, a ferry ride in the Puget Sound, Seattle Aquarium, Pacific Science Center etc for a $80 or so, which would be cheaper than buying individual tickets if you intend to visit all these places.

What were you supposed to do on top on Space Needle ? Walk around the observation deck taking in a birds eye view of Seattle, there is an inhouse guide who'll narrate the history and point out various Seattle landmarks for you, if you have an extra heavy purse, splurge on a $5 latte at the rooftop cafe and when all is said and done, come down to earth on one of the elevators doing 500 feet drops in 43 seconds.

We took a 10 minute monorail ride (2 way for $3) to the International District and back. The monorail wiggles its way between the highrises and is a purely tourist thing. Next stop, Experience Music Project (EMP) (<< must visit)  founded by one of the founders of Microsoft, Paul Allen. Housed in a modernist building sculpture conceived by architect Frank Gehry, its a must visit for all the music afficianados. The collection of music memorobilia and the exibits are really impressive and you also get to go behind the scenes and make your own music, I liked the second part the best. The admission costs $20 per head and you can come back anytime during the day you purchased the ticket. Check out EMP here

A full day exploring Seattle Center culminated in a drive to Everett, about 30 miles north of Seattle, where we had booked our hotel. This again was a move towards staying cheap but decent. Stricly acting upon the conclusion that you tend to get better hotels at a cheaper rate when they are further away from downtown or tourist destinations and a preplanned visit to Boeing Factory at Everett being on our agenda, prompted our decision to stay at Extended StayAmerica at Everett, Wa.

Ofcourse we, like typical Indians had some home cooked food(this was the first time we were carrying food on a trip, otherwise we used to scoff at such people and their insistence on eating 'home cooked meals') with us, which required a micorwave, that meant we needed a suite not just a room. It was $54 for a suite, with microwave, dataport, fridge and a queen size bed. By the time we checked in, we were only too grateful to hit the sack at about 6 o'clock. That winded up our first day in Seattle and the first day of our road trip.

(Link to all posts of Road Trip)