30. June 2009 05:57
No one in Seattle stands still for long. In less than two days here, we've seen two parades and a marathon. Not to mention hundreds of weekend boaters and dozens of incoming and outgoing seaplanes.
I'm writing this from the dockside bar at Duke's Chowder House, a maritime institution of sorts here on Seattle's Lake Union. It's Sunday afternoon around happy hour and the seaplanes are coming in from the San Juan Islands at the rate of one every ten minutes or so. Most, I'd guess are bringing people back from weekend homes out there where they also keep their boats. In fact, here at Duke's, we're directly in their flight path and most pass maybe 50 feet above my head during a steep descent into this sunlit lake before flattening out to create little more than just one more wake in this busy stretch of water. That's because at the same time there are dozens of sailboats, cruisers and runabouts plying Lake Union. In sum total, the scene that unfolds is definitely worth a cold beer and a few minutes of wistful relaxation.
Since we had to fly into Sitka from Seattle for a cruise of Alaska's Inside Passage on Monday, we spent the weekend in Seattle. We arrive on Saturday and had lunch down at Pike Street Market, then headed over to watch the annual Seattle Rock and Roll Marathon. More than 25,000 runners took part in this race that gets its name from this city's celebrated claim as an incubator for cutting edge rock music that has only grown over the past couple of decades. By the time we got there, the runners were finished and the walkers had center stage. Most of them waved and shouted to friends high above in the market area where we were.
On Sunday, we followed a group of green clad soccer fans who were walking and cheering in unison towards the city's Safeco Field. These fans were enjoying a rare daily double--not only were their Seattle Sounders playing Colorado, but this was the day of the final in the Confederated Cup international soccer competition. The United States had shocked the futbol world and were meeting Brazil in the finals. So this crowd was pumped up.
No more so than the second parade we bumped into that day. The annual gay pride parade made its way through downtown and thousands of marchers in a blazing array of colors and costumes took part. We left them in Pioneer Square and could hear the revelry for blocks afterwards.
But now it's happy hour on Lake Union and the sun is setting fast. I have a great seat for watching a weekend in Seattle come to a close and there's no place right now I'd rather be.
11. May 2009 18:02
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- It’s 10:30 p.m., and the First Class Lounge at the AMTRAK depot here in St. Paul is starting to fill up. Outside, a few dozen coach passengers sit in the waiting area; there are maybe a dozen more of us in the First Class Lounge. We’re there because we’ve booked sleeper cars for our trip West. And when the train arrives in about a half hour, we’ll be ready to call it a night.
I’m at the beginning of a five-day journey West aboard the Empire Builder, one of AMTRAK’s premier lines that connects Chicago with Seattle and Portland, Oregon. I will spend tonight and all of tomorrow on the train, stepping off in Whitefish, Montana late tomorrow night. The plan is to spend a couple of days exploring Whitefish and nearby Glacier National Park before rejoining the Empire Builder and continuing to its terminus in Portland.
It’s been a long day already, but a good one: after leaving Lexington this morning, I took advantage of the few hours of free time I had in the Twin Cities to visit my old friends Audra and JP, who live just outside of Minneapolis with their two young daughters. I don’t get to see them nearly often enough these days, but whenever my travel plans bring me through Minneapolis, we always make an effort to get together.
Today’s visit was simple: We had dinner at their place, and then spent an hour or so driving around the countryside in an RV that JP just picked up for a song yesterday. It was great to catch up, to get to know their awesome little girls, and to get a home-cooked meal before hitting the rails.
This time tomorrow night, I’ll be at a hotel in Whitefish. But what awaits in the next 24 hours – life on the train – is anyone’s guess.