Saturday, 31 August 2013

Bigger in America

They say everything is bigger in America.  Well here are three sightings from the last two days to support that claim.

This road train was heading west on the I-84 in Oregon yesterday

I've seen many variations of this, a big residential motor home, towing its own smaller vehicle, in this case a 4x4 Jeep; can't imagine what this set-up must cost.

But the biggest was this huge freight train, running parallel with the WA-14.  I saw it in the distance, caught up fairly easily, drew a mile or so ahead, and then snapped it as it came past.  It is pulled by two engines from BNSF, with a third at the rear.  In between I counted 105 of these black tankers.  If each one is 50 ft long overall, that makes the whole train over 1 mile long. 

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Leaving Seattle, on to the coast

I liked Seattle.  A nice place, with very friendly people, who look fit from the outdoor and sporty life, seem happy, and mostly young. Clean wide streets.  In the centre, almost all buildings appear to be from the last fifty years. Regardless of their claim to be a hugely cycle-friendly city, there are many fewer cycling than in London. Nobody jay walks (except me), with all drivers all considerate towards pedestrians.  On Saturday morning I picked up my car, a Chevrolet Captiva, put bike and bags in the back, and reacquainted myself with the pleasures of an automatic gearbox - and the challenges of driving on the right.

Seattle in its wider setting.  The black line is the US/Canada border.

It is time to head south and then west to the Pacific coast.  Over the weekend I visited three small coastal towns.  
Astoria. Population of only 9,000. Sleepy, on the wide Columbia River estuary.  My hotel is on the edge of town, and I chose to leave the car there and walk in.  First impressions are that it has seen better days. On this sunny Saturday afternoon, shops are closed, if they had ever been open, quite a few leases for sale, lots of holiday traffic passing straight through for somewhere better, livelier such as Seaside a few miles further down the coast.

I felt increasingly that I was in a dead town, not a great start to my coastal expedition.   And then round a corner I saw this interesting looking place, with some signs of life.  

I wandered over and saw a discrete notice...microbrewery...wandered up the ramp, now being led by my nose and the smell of fresh dough, tomato, mozzarella and salsicci.  Onwards into this first floor industrial space... About 30 people, more than I'd seen in the town in the last hour. 

 Big communal tables, music not too loud, four guys making pizzas, and 14 beers on tap - all made right here. I tried two (well it was going to be a long walk back).     Quick Wit, made in the Belgian style, pale and cloudy, made with two wheats, ground coriander,  lemongrass and elderflower. Followed that with a real discovery. It's called Working Girl Porter, 4.6% abv, has coffee beans added to the mash which gives a lovely coffee aroma.  I could almost drink it with my toast and the Guardian crossword each morning.   

Downstairs is a cafe, bakery, small restaurant, and when I came back on Sunday morning they were all packed.  This little group of business, all under the same ownership, must be reinvigorating this town.

The next morning I cycled from one end of the town to the other, and back.  A busy Sunday market, jobbers, fishermen, some activity in the dock area, timber being loaded.  Astoria has more life to it than I had first realised. 

Other images from Astoria.

Cute fish and chip stall

Freighters in the mighty Columbia River

Looks like a scene from a Scorcese film

Sea lions on the dock

Big skies over the Columbia River estuary at Astoria

At noon on Sunday I drove 25 miles south to Seaside (population 6,000).  Now I really appreciated Astoria.   I followed Tripadvisor ( my first reference for accommodation on this trip) booked into a well-regarded, and good value, hotel, where I got the noisiest room - between reception and the swimming pool.  I seem to have taken not a single photograph in Seaside: a measure of my regard for it.

Continuing south on Monday morning, just 15 miles, I came to Cannon Beach, a tiny place of just 1,600.  A sense of a quite wealthy community, 'upscale new-agey', tidy streets, low rise buildings, lush planting everywhere.  A lovely quiet beach (it was a weekday morning, I imagine the weekends are different.   Stephen Sondheim and Oscar Wilde at the local theatre. 

Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, 235 feet.  Accessible at low tide, and home to many birds, including puffins, gulls, and cormorants

JD at Cannon Beach

In the afternoon it was time to leave the coast for a few days, turn east, and drive to Portland, the other big city of the north west.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Seattle, Friday. August 23rd

Today, in great weather, I set out on my bike to visit one museum, and then see where my spirits took me.  First, to MOHAI, the Museum of Heritage and Industry, an old naval training base on the edge of Lake Union.   It has a very comprehensive and engaging presentation of the history of Seattle, and the wider area, but I was disappointed that there was little on the industries of the late 20th/21st century.   Some names we all know, based in Seattle, Microsoft (40,000 employees), Amazon (15,000), Boeing (70,000), Starbucks, Corbis, Getty Images, and many more.
I found the current special exhibition very interesting "Still Afloat: Seattle’s Floating Homes" the story of the many small residential communities that have grown up around the lakes and waterfronts around Seattle.  In Europe the Dutch are seen as the leaders in homes-on-water.  Apart from the delight of living on or at the water's edge, we in the UK could do more to understand the potential opportunity for more homes this way.

After the exhibition, i set off to cycle right round Lake Union, with a pause for lunch in Fremont, which clearly has a friendly rivalry with its bigger neighbour, Seattle.

Next stop was Gas Works Park, a 20 acre public park on the site of the former gas generation plant, which opened in 1975.  It's an early example of regenerating an old industrial site, leaving some impressive traces of the former life.  Contrast with the banks of the river Clyde in Glasgow, or the Olympic Park in London, where almost all signs of former life and industry have been swept away.

I then rode down east side of Lake Union, spotting some of the many houseboat communities.

Finally, back to my hotel, shower, and then off out to sample the fare at another of the city's microbreweries.  
Some other images from the day.  
My new Trek

My route around Lake Union

Friday, 23 August 2013

Thursday in Seattle

First call this morning was the Barnes and Noble bookstore

The Plymouth Congregational Church, 1965, is dwarfed by its newer neighbours

Seattle Public Library, 2004, by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas.  Apparently a very popular building with the people of the city,and in the top twenty of America's top (modern) buildings

The main entrance

A slightly bonkers carpet design

Not the most restful space in which to read

An alternative to the Space Needle (see yesterday) for a high level view of the city is the Columbia Centre's Sky View.  It's on the 74th floor of this office building, which is twice the height of the Needle, costs only 9 dollars to get in, and with only a couple of dozen people there today had no queues.

I liked the smiley

I didn't like hat these guys were doing

You can just see them in the very top of this photo

One stadium hosts the Seattle Seahawks and the Sounders FC.  The other is home to the Seattle Mariners baseball them. 

Recycled Cycles, in Fremont, from whom I've bought a secondhand bike.

This afternoon I put my feet up in the back seat of his trolley bus and took a guided tour of the north of the city

And that was so strenuous that I needed a beer at 5pm.  This small bar has 18 guest beers on tap

And the day was rounded off at adjacent The 5 Point Cafe.  More beer, burger, bacon, chips, and John Updike