Well, it has been a very interesting last few weeks! Mom and dad arrived a bit earlier than expected and spent two weeks with me in Seattle and subsequent travels. First, of course, I showed them around town a bit. They had already been to Seattle before, so we skipped the Pike Place Market and the Space-needle and went straight to Alki Beach – like a little bit of California transplanted to the PNW, it was a sunny late-summer day and we took their dog, Spanky, for a walk along the beach before going to eat dinner at an outdoor Mexican restaurant where Spanky could sit near us and we could enjoy the lovely weather.
In the morning I took them to Seward Park where Spanky dipped into Lake Washington and mom and dad foraged for blackberries, gleeful about such a late berry season. Foraging was a major theme of the trip!
I wanted to take them to the International District for lunch, but couldn’t think of anywhere to go, so instead I took them to Ethiopian food, which they enjoyed immensely (also the cheapness was right up their alley).
The next morning I took them to Kubota Gardens, a beautiful and old Japanese garden not far from my house in Seattle.We all enjoyed the gardens (and more blackberries were found and consumed). Spanky liked the water features especially.
That afternoon we went to Ivar’s Fishbar and Restaurant so they could sample some of Seattle’s famous seafood. It was another toasty day and we enjoyed being on the water. We visited the Fremont Troll and then I dropped them off in Downtown Columbia City before heading to work at the Triple Door.
The next day was the anniversary of Erika’s death, so we got some supplies to celebrate her: a tin pan to be our firepit, some sparkling rosé (of course), yummy bread to make her favorite radish crostinis and I had bought radishes and green tomatoes at the farmers market, so I fried up the tomatoes, just as we had done with the ones from Erika’s garden six year ago, after she died. Our feast was spectacular and then we set fire to this year’s Burning Woman effigy – a hot air balloon with a wine glass instead of a basket, which my mom cut out and painted on cardboard. We played music from her memorial and drank our pink bubbles and cried and remembered her. I still had some candles from her memorial service and we lit one, tucked into a bottle of wine from her extensive collection, now finally nearly exhausted after 6 years.
It felt really good to be with my parents for this ritual. I played some songs on my guitar and “The Rainbow Connection” on my banjo uke – a song mom has come to associate with Erika.
In the morning, we packed up to head out to the Olympic Peninsula for several days of camping and exploring. Our first stop was Port Townsend, where we got pizza for lunch and browsed around a bookstore Sarah and I discovered on our trip out there in July. Then we drove through Port Angeles and by Lake Crescent to Sol-duc hot springs, where we had a site reserved. I forgot to mention that mom and dad drove up in a truck with a camper on the back, so we just had to pull in and pop it up! Then mom and I went for a soak in the hot springs before foraging some firewood and eating a light dinner before heading to bed. It was a chilly night in the mountains after the heat of Seattle summer.
We hit the road to drive toward La Push, but we saw signs for the Makah Reservation and decided to take a detour to visit the museum there. It was a lovely drive up to Neah Bay and as we drove, the phone rang. It was my aunt and uncle, concerned about my grandmother and sister, who were in the path of hurricane Irma in Florida.
It all felt very scary and especially so for my grandmother, who is 95 and very attached to her home. But here we were on the opposite side of the country, unable to do much but advise and commiserate and worry.
We made it to the museum and again mom and dad found some berries to forage before we went in. It was a really interesting museum, focused on the Makah people and the artifacts found when one of their ancestral villages was uncovered by erosion. It was one of the places I had hoped to take dad, and I’m so glad we made the detour.
Then we headed south toward our RV park up the road from La Push. Once we had our site, we hopped in the truck and headed to the beach, which was misty and windy, but very majestic with large driftwood pieces and stately rock islands, big enough to grow their own little forests. We collected pebbles for mom’s Party Patio mosaic and Spanky frolicked with joy along the beach, sniffing everything in sight. On the way back to camp, we stopped to get some smoked salmon from a local Native – it was over-priced, but certainly the local economy is pretty tiny, so any bit we could contribute seemed worth it.
Back at the campsite, I made dinner of morel mushrooms and green beans with pasta and a butter/wine/cream sauce. It came out really deliciously (if I do say so myself) and we had just enough time to enjoy it before the weather changed and it began to rain.
In the morning, we decided to go to the beach once more and then checked out a second access, which (we didn’t realize) was about 7/10s of a mile hike in, but was well worth it, as mom spotted a hen of the woods mushroom (which we took home with us). There the beach was different, a fresh spring running across it and some cool anemones and mussels growing on a big rock on the beach. The tide was out, so there were tide pools and I spotted a dentalia shell in one of them – something my mother had been looking for since we saw them used as jewelry at the Makah museum. Yoink!
We hiked back up to the truck (it was harder going up!) and headed off to the Hoh Rainforest. There we picnicked and dad joined us for one small hike and then retired for a nap in the truck (Spanky was already doing likewise). Then mom and I checked out the Hall of Mosses (“Holy Moses” as dad insisted on calling it) before we continued on to our campground for the night in Kalaloch, another beach.
When we arrived and got settled, we walked down to the beach, again covered with driftwood and interesting rocks.
Then we returned to camp to make dinner of jambalaya with veggie sausage and some of our hen of the woods mushroom, plus some black beans and a heavy dose of creole seasoning. It was very hearty and rather spicy and even my staunchly meat-eating dad approved.
After they went to bed, I stayed up a while longer to sip some wine and write in my journal. It was beautiful to be among the trees, under the dark sky and the bright stars.
The next morning we headed out of Kalaloch and made a brief stop at Lake Quinault to visit their historic lodge.
Ocean Beach to explore and have lunch. Mom spotted a place that had all manner of (fried) seafood and also happened to have a veggie burger for me, so everyone was happy (especially Spanky, who enjoys fried food).
Then it was back to Seattle to change clothes and get ready for an evening of Patsy Cline music at the Triple Door. We got a nice table at the back of the theater and enjoyed drinks and some light apps during the show. It was fun to see my dad singing along and enjoying himself – not a lot of live music opportunities in Green Forest, AR!
We headed home and spent the next day packing up the camper with the remnants of my life in Seattle – all that I wouldn’t be taking with me to London or shipping home in boxes. I also managed to sell Erika’s broken car for $300, which was a nice and unexpected turn of events!
We finished early enough to head downtown to take the Underground Tour of Pioneer Square and then strolled along the waterfront to meet up with my cousins for dinner. It had been years since they saw my parents and the only bummer was that no one thought to take a picture!
In the morning we made tracks for Portland to visit my friend Jenna before continuing south to Crater Lake. We had a lovely brunch with her and stopped by a European meat store for dad (he needed some real sausage).
Then it was off to Crater Lake.
The drive was lovely, if a bit long, and we made it to the south entrance to Crater Lake that afternoon. As we got closer and closer to the campground, we saw smoke from nearby wildfires and my parents voiced concern, but we had checked out the visibility with their webcam, so I knew the smoke wasn’t bad at the lake itself.
We finally pulled into the campground around 7pm and set up camp and poured ourselves some sundowners (aka wine with some other stuff mixed in to make a sort of sangria) before foraging for firewood and making up some dinner. We decided on grilled sandwiches and pea soup, but unfortunately it took longer to cook than anticipated and we ended up with slight crunchy pea soup. Ah well – not every camping meal can be gourmet!
The next morning we got an early start and drove up to Crater Lake – further from the campsite than I had thought and also much bigger than I had thought! It was like seeing the Grand Canyon, filled with the clearest and purest water! It was honestly breathtaking and we didn’t even get to go down to the lake, but just seeing it and the crater left by the volcanic eruption was very impressive, and knowing that only a week before it was impossible to view because of the smoke made the sight even more amazing.
Then it was time to go. We drove out of the park and continued south and east through Nevada. It our longest day of driving, nearly 6 hours. We stopped for the night in Elko at a cushy RV park with showers and a hot tub and coffee in the mornings. There we whipped up our last big camp meal of the trip – morels with more of my veggie sausage and tomato sauce served over pasta.
Mom made sure to awaken early with one thing on her mind: baking cookies!
The final day of our roadtrip, we headed to Salt Lake City (where I was set to fly out the next morning). We got there relatively early and claimed a campsite at Great Salt Lake State Park before venturing into the city for a late lunch/dinner at an Indian restaurant.
I introduced my parents to the thali (and they made sure to order something they could share with Spanky after) and once we were all properly stuffed with curries we went to the Museum of Natural History to check out an exhibition on Vikings and their collection of Native American artifacts, plus some minerals and dinosaurs, of course.
After the museum we went to the center of town to check out the Mormon bit (though we didn’t feel like getting out of the truck and subjecting ourselves to potential conversion attempts (lol). Instead we went to the Gilgal Sculpture Park, which reminded me of the Coral Castle outside of Miami, which mom and I went to visit a few years ago.
It is another example of an eccentric loner making an odd sort of fervor into a stone monument to his eccentricity. It was bizarre, but more appealing than the creepily majestic Temple Square.
We bought some essentials at Trader Joe’s and made our way back to the campsite in time for one more round of sundowners while we watched the sunset.
A friendly Native man who worked at the site offered us some free firewood and I stayed up again, enjoying a bit of solitude with the lake and the stars till it was time to climb in for one more night in the camper with mom and dad.
I awoke around 6 am and slid out to take photos of the sunrise around the lake. It was a glorious morning and the rain that had come in the night cleared up just in time to let the sun peep through.
I had one last morning with my parents, sipping coffee and strolling on the beach one last time before it was time to head ’em up and move ’em out, as the cowpokes say.
My flight left around 11 that morning to take me back to Seattle for a few more days of work and packing up and goodbyes.
I had my last few shifts at the Triple Door and went out for some final hurrahs with friends and the fella I’ve been seeing for the last six months or so, on and off. He was kind enough to give me a ride to the airport (and help me load up all my heavy things like a champ). Nice to have a friendly send-off instead of a stressed cab ride, though Seattle gave me the final flip-off of making sure we hit nearly every red light on the way. File under things I will not miss!
I made it just two minutes before they closed check-in and some sympathetic airline employees really helped me out. Then it was just dealing with curious baggage scanners (apparently largish crystals in one’s carry-on need to be scoped out, even though they’re basically just rocks?) and walking for an eternity with heavy (crystal-laden) bags in a rush, just to find that the plane hadn’t begun boarding yet. Whew!
I earned my in-flight drinks!
I’ve met so many lovely people and had such a great time in Seattle over the past year, but I can’t say that it ever felt like home, exactly. However, I will miss many of the people – the friends and coworkers – and I even managed to date two different people for more than a couple of months each, not long distance! So hey, there was some progress from New York.
But I didn’t fall in love – not in the way I want to be – with the city or with any thing or anyone I encountered there. It was a very beautiful and inspiring way-station, however, and I am glad I called it home for the year.
And now I am in London, mostly recovered from jet-lag, registered for classes, and ready to start my year at UCL! Tomorrow, if all goes well, I will get the keys to my new flat in Camden Town – three years after I last spent some weeks there, so it still feels somewhat familiar, as does the whole city, in fact. I wonder if I would feel as comfortable here if I hadn’t lived in cloudy, rainy Seattle for a year, softening my memory of the other big city I used to call home, New York.
London’s not bad – and already I feel that I know more people here than I did starting out in Seattle. Plus it makes me think of Erika, who studied here for a semester in college, and who, I think, was always a bit more partial to the city than I.
More to come – time to wrap this one up!
Love and miss,