Thursday, September 1, 2016

Day 8, Wednesday, August 31, 2016 - returning home

Everything went smoothly for our trip home.

We returned our rental car at the airport and checked in for our flights. Carmen and I had TSA Pre-Check which had almost no line while the regular line was very long. Unfortunately, Anna had quite a wait to get through security.

Our flight left on-time at 10am. Anna left at 11:30.

We had two hours between flights in Chicago. Unfortunately, the United Club was not accepting the one-time passes that I received for having a United credit card.

Our Albany flight was delayed by half an hour, getting us in to Albany at 9:30. Getting our luggage and the parking shuttle went quickly and we were home at 11pm.

Day 7, Tuesday, August 30, 2016 - Mt. Rainier, back to Portland

Amy and I got up at 6:15 and left for the airport at 6:30 for her 8:30 flight back to New York. Fortunately there wasn't much traffic going to the airport although it was already quite heavy on the I-5 going in the opposite direction. I took a different route back to the apartment that wasn't quite as congested.

We packed up and had a nice breakfast at the Admiral Bird Cafe before heading out for good at 10am.

We planned to visit Mt. Rainier on the way back to Portland but were a but concerned that it was overcast and we wouldn't see anything. Fortunately, by the time we got to the Henry Jackson Visitor Center, the sun had come out and we were able to get spectacular views of of Mt. Rainier and surroundings. Even though it was a Tuesday, the parking lot was completely full and we had to park along the road leaving the visitor center.

After watching a movie about Mt. Rainier in the theater, we got lunch at the cafe and ate at the picnic tables outside - quite a spectacular place for lunch.

Christine Falls

 Narada Falls
Mt. Rainier from our picnic table

We made a wrong turn on the way out and ended up taking the longer route out the west exit to the park. It was a scenic drive but a bit nerve-wracking as the gas warning indicator came on saying we only had gas for 40 miles. By the time we got to a gas station outside the park, the car said we only had 10 more miles before empty.

The rest of the drive back to Portland was uneventful. We stayed at the same Comfort Suites near the airport and had dinner at the Portland Seafood Co. I had Alaskan razor clams which I probably wouldn't have again - they were quite chewy, as Calamari sometimes is.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Day 6, Monday, August 29, 2016 - Bainbridge Island and Seattle

Another cool and cloudy morning although it is supposed to be warm later.

Carmen, Amy and I decided to take the ferry to Bainbridge Island and Anna wanted to explore in Seattle so she hopped out at the ferry terminal.

It is only a 35 minute ride across the bay to Bainbridge. We went up on the sun deck but it was very chilly with a strong wind blowing - it wasn't too bad in a sheltered area on the sunny side.

We stopped at the Chamber of Commerce in downtown Winslow which is right near the ferry terminal and got maps of the island. We drove along the shore and through some of the residential areas. The island gets lots of rain and doesn't get very cold so it is very verdant - many large cedar, pine and other trees. There were lots of beautiful flowers in bloom.

Back in Winslow we stopped at the Mora Iced Creamery to splurge on their famous rich ice cream - we decided to do this for lunch as we probably wouldn't have room otherwise. The ice cream was very good!

Banana split 

We walked down to the Harbor Public House for lunch. There is a nice walkway along the harbor leading to the restaurant. We had a delicious lunch of seafood and local draft IPAs.

We called Anna to let her know which ferry we were taking back and she met us on the other side. While in Seattle, Anna visited the Space Needle and some restaurants that she wanted to try. Unfortunately, the museum she wanted to visit was closed on Monday.

Coming back to Seattle

We decided to have a simple "tapas" dinner here. The girls went to a local market and picked up sushi, poke, ceviche and other dishes that we had with wine and beer on the roof. We could watch the sun set over the Olympic mountains to the west, the lights going on in Seattle and Mount Rainier in the distance to the south.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Day 5, Sunday, August 28, 2016 - In Seattle

Another chilly morning, cloudy and only 60 degrees.

The girls didn't come back until early this morning and are moving slowly.

The wedding guests were invited to brunch at Andy and Sarina's house in Shoreline, WA, about half an hour north of where we are staying. Even on a Sunday morning the traffic on the I-5 through Seattle was very slow - can't imagine what it is like during rush hour - not likely anyone is "rushing".

Andy and Sarina's house is in a quiet neighborhood and they have a nice backyard with fruit trees and a vegetable garden. The apple trees are absolutely covered with ripe apples as is the ground below - we are so jealous as we haven't gotten any apples in years due to the squirrels. Dave Noone's sister-in-law made quiches and other dishes for the brunch, along with smoked salmon and turkey. It was nice being able to visit with the other guests in a less formal setting.

At Matt and Neesa's wedding a year ago at the Noone's house in CT, they had a bonfire around an old apple tree which just left a small charred stump. Betty had Dave cut the stump off and ship it to Andy and Sarina as a gag wedding gift. They made a bonfire around the remains of the stump which should be fully consumed this time.

The girls were not up for coming to the brunch and relaxed at the apartment until we got back in mid-afternoon. It was chilly and occasionally sprinkling so we stayed in and read most of the afternoon.

Amy found good reviews for the Seattle Fish Company which is about a mile from the apartment. The girls walked down and when they got there called us to drive down. The seafood was very good - I had large grilled sea scallops which were very tender.

After dinner, we drove back along the shoreline around West Seattle. There were beautiful views of the Olympic mountains across the bay.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Day 4, Saturday, August 27, 2016 - Wedding Day in Seattle

Thankfully, the temperature dropped considerably over night. This morning it is overcast and only 60 degrees, quite a drop. There is only a small chance of rain in the forecast.

After a restful night, we had a delicious and filling brunch at a cafe just a few blocks from our apartment. The girls went for a mani-pedi while we did essential shopping at the Safeway across the street - wine, vodka, Bloody Mary mix, snacks (and fruit).

After a mostly relaxing day, we caught the free 3:30 shuttle to the Seattle water taxi and then the 4:00 taxi to Seattle. The taxi arrives at the south end of the harbor and we walked north along the waterfront where there are many restaurants and shops - a bit like Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. It was about a 20 minute walk to the elevator taking us up to the shopping level of the Pike Place Market.

Seattle waterfront from water taxi

The market is famous for the seafood vendors (one is a tourist attraction because they toss the fish that are being purchased), flowers, vegetables and crafts. It was exceptionally crowded, more with gawkers than shoppers. Across the street is the original Starbucks store which had a long line of people waiting to get in.

Finding the wedding venue at the market was a bit of a treasure hunt. We weren't successful until we spotted Betty Noone being dropped off and followed her in to the event space on the 2nd floor. There were about 80 guests from all across the US, many from the east coast. The ceremony was officiated by a Skidmore college friend of Andy and Sarina's. Betty Noone did the famous reading about marriage from Corinthians. Sarina's grandfather did a traditional Indian mantra and explained the significance.

Hudson the beagle was the ring-bearer. Halfway through the ceremony he let out a loud woof which lightened the solemnity of the ceremony. Everyone had a good laugh.

After an hour of socializing with cocktails and appetizers, we headed downstairs for dinner which was followed by speeches by family and friends extolling  Andy and Sarina's long friendship and wishing them well in their marriage.

Anna arranged an Uber ride for us back to our apartment while the girls stayed on for the music and dancing.

Day 3, Friday, August 26, 2016 - Mt. St. Helens & Seattle

After breakfast and checking out of the hotel, we got the shuttle to the airport and then picked up our car, a Toyota Camry, from Dollar car rental.

The temperature was comfortable when we left but was predicted to be record heat. It was 93 degrees much of our route although a bit cooler at higher elevations.

Mt. St. Helens is on the way to Seattle and I had always been interested in visiting it so we decided to check it out on the way up. Using Google Maps for directions was a bit confusing as it said that it was 3 hours to Mt. St. Helens and 1.5 hours to the Mt. St. Helens visitor center, with very different directions. We decided on the visitor center.

The visitor center is just off I-5 and is run by the state. There was an interesting video about the eruption in the theater and exhibits on the events leading up to the eruption on May 18, 1980. The devastation that it caused is hard to imagine, with many square miles of forest destroyed, lakes and rivers filled. So much debris washed into the Columbia River that the draft was reduced by 20' and ships were stuck because there wasn't enough clearance for them to get through. Many miles of highway disappeared under the rubble. One place we stopped the original road was buried under 45' of rock and mud.

All trees from here destroyed, 15 miles from volcano, 

It took over an hour to get there from the visitor center and we were hungry by 3pm. Fortunately there was a food truck in the parking lot where we got overpriced but filling "Volcano Dogs".

A new road of about 40 miles was constructed in the 1980s going up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory. This is an interesting drive, much of it following the Toutle River which was filled by the eruption. The Observatory is a National Monument and we should have been able to get in with our Senior Pass but we forgot to bring it. The admission for the 4 of us would have been $32 but I was able to buy a new Senior Pass for only $10 - one of the best deals from the federal government.

There was a short walk up to an overlook which gave a 360 degree view of the countryside. It is interesting to see the different terrains. Much of the land was/is privately owned by Wyerhouser and was replanted with 14 million trees in the 1980s - this is now bright green and covered with trees that are now 50-60' high. After the eruption, they tried to salvage as many trees as possible, bringing out 600 truckloads of logs a day - hard to imagine. The federal forest service land was allowed to recover on its own which has more sporadic tree growth with a variety of species. Much of the land closer to the volcano looks like a moonscape with only scrubby grass and wildflowers growing. The red, purple and yellow wildflowers growing along the path were beautiful. The naturalist at the overlook had a telescope through which we could see a herd of elk grazing below. She said that a glacier has been growing in the volcano and now had 600' of ice - the cone gets 60-70' of snow each winter! There is a "bulge" in the center of the volcano that has grown 1200' since the eruption in 1980. There are a number of active vents with steam and ash coming out of them.

There was also an interesting video of the biological recovery after the eruption, with some small animals surviving underground and poking up in areas where there was only a few inches of ash. In only a few weeks, native purple lupines sprouted and there were images of solid purple fields of flowers.

We left a little after 5pm, catching I-5 for the trip up to Seattle. At one point, the arrival time increased by over an hour due to an accident but Google was able to re-route us, saving considerable time. We arrived at our AirBNB a little after 8 in a pleasant residential neighborhood. It is perfect for us, with a master bedroom, a living room with bunk-beds and a small kitchenette. It has a great rooftop deck with spectacular views of the Seattle waterfront on one side and the Olympic mountains on the other side.

Sunset from our deck

Checking the TripAdvisor app, we found a Thai restaurant just across the street. Some of the reviews weren't that great but we thought the food was exceptional. After dinner, we came back and relaxed on the deck, enjoying the views of the downtown lights reflected in the harbor.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Day 2, Thursday, August 25, 2016 - Portland

The Comfort Suites has a nice complementary breakfast, as do most of the hotel chains these days. Anna was the only one of us with the dedication to spend 20 minutes working out in the gym before breakfast.

We had heard that the traffic and parking in Portland is difficult and the public transportation is very good  so we decided to delay renting a car and take the train into the downtown area.

The hotel provides a courtesy van which took us to the nearest train station. The trip is normally 35 minutes on the 'red' line but they are currently doing major work on the train lines that required us to take the 'red' train a few stops, then change to the 'blue' line for a few stops, then take a bus shuttle to another station and get another 'red' train to the downtown Pioneer Square. Things are supposed to be back to normal on Sept. 3, after we leave.

There is a nice visitor center at Pioneer Square where we got information on what to see, maps and directions. In the 1960s, as in other cities, the downtown 'blight' was demolished as a part of urban renewal and a multi-story parking garage was built in the center of the city. Around 2000 in the phase of more enlightened urban renewal, the parking garage was demolished and replaced with a very nice public space for events. The day we were there, there was an Italian festival with food vendors, music and other things.

Portland is very much a "foodie" city. We passed an entire city block and then some that was devoted to food trucks (mostly permanent) offering all kinds of ethnic foods. Amy and Anna stopped at a Korean vendor and got kimchi fries that had hot sauce, melted cheese and kimchi on top of french fries.

We went a few blocks up to the famous Powell used and new bookstore. It takes up most of a city block and has 1.5 acres of books. It is very popular and it is nice to see an independent bookstore being so successful. Anna found a book to help with treating depression in her clients.

One of the famous attractions in Portland is Voodoo Donuts which has all sorts of fancy donuts and usually has a long line. The person at the visitor center suggested going at midnight but that didn't work for us. When we stopped by the line was only about 20 minutes and we got an interesting assortment of interesting donuts.

From there we strolled over to a park on the edge of the Willamette River.

One of the "must see" attractions in Portland is the tram/gondola that goes from the river to the top of a mountain - the top end is actually in the OHSU (Oregon Health & Science University) hospital. There is quite a spectacular view of the city below, the river, Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens in the distance. The trains and trolleys are convenient for getting around but the intervals between them seemed quite long - we often waited 20 minutes or so for the next train.

Portland is famous for its micro-breweries - there are supposed to be over 70 in the city. We did our own brewery tour, stopping at the Fat Head, Deschutes and Rogue breweries where we tried at least 15 different types of beer. Some were very good and some we (I) didn't care for too much. We also had bar snacks like fried mushrooms, fried onion rings, homemade chips, etc - a bit too much fried food and we were then too full to have a "real" dinner.

We then reversed our travel to the hotel, again taking 3 trains and the bus shuttle. We were ready to call it a day by 10pm.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Day 1, Wednesday, August 24, 2016 - Converge on Portland

We are having a family trip around the wedding of David and Betty Noone's son Andrew and Sarina Sheth in Seattle on Saturday.

As they say, "All's well that ends well". Carmen and David were leaving from Albany, Amy from Brooklyn and Anna from San Diego. All of us were scheduled to arrive  between 4:57pm and 5:20 pm.

We left home at 7am and arrived at the Albany park and ride at 8:30. Check-in went smoothly and the TSA pre-check line opened up just as we got to security so it was relatively quick. Carmen had to go through a different line due to the metal screws in her ankle. Carmen had her TSA pre-check interview the previous Friday and got her background check approval on Monday so she was "good to go" on Wednesday morning.

About 10 minutes before departure, there was no boarding announcement. The pilot came out and announced that when the pilot comes out to talk to the passengers, it can't be a good thing. There was bad weather in Chicago and our departure was being delayed by 3 hours. This would be a major problem as we had connecting flights to Denver and then to Portland. Miracles can happen. The pilot came back out about 10 minutes later and said that there was a small window if we hurried to board. We all hurried on and took off about half an hour later than scheduled.

Our Denver flight was scheduled for an hour later but this was cut down to 30 minutes due to our late arrival. When we got to the gate, we discovered that our departure as delayed by an hour which gave us time for lunch.

We arrived in Denver at 3:05 and our flight to Portland was scheduled to leave from the other end of the terminal at 3:18. Carmen ran and David hobbled as best he could to the gate where we were the last passengers to get on. After we boarded, it was announced that the pilots had not arrived and the flight was delayed by 30 minutes.

We arrived in Portland only 15 minutes late and by the time we got to the security exit, we got a text from both Anna and Amy that they had both landed as well! We were able to meet the girls at their gates.

We are staying at the Comfort Suites at the airport and managed to reserve the suite that has 3 queen beds so it is very comfortable.

One of Anna's friends had recommended a Lebanese restaurant in Portland. It wasn't convenient to get there by public transportation and we won't get a rental car until Friday so we called an Uber driver. The driver was very chatty and told us all about his extended Indian family that was in business "flipping" 7-11 stores and gas stations. He loves it here and said he really was living the American Dream. He was also driving a Mercedes!

We had a delicious  Lebanese dinner at Ya Halala and afterwards went to the Montavilla Brew Works micro-brewery where we sat outside drinking beer and playing Uno until they closed at 10pm. We took Uber back to the hotel.