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SnakePit Road-trip: Seattle

From gum walls to trolls (no, not the annoying Dodger fan type), we took in a chunk of what the Northwest had to offer. Not least: temperatures below 120 degrees!

The city

It was quite warm in Phoenix last week. You might have noticed. Fortunately, we were able to escape for a few days, having previously arranged a trip to Seattle to visit the Snakepitette in her new environment. It was a blessed relief to be able to open car doors without over-gloves - though by Seattle standards it was warm enough. Indeed, our final day there on Sunday set an all-time high for a June temperature. That may have been only 98, but it’s certainly not a dry heat. Because - and never say the SnakePit is not informative - Seattle resides beside a large body of water, which locals refer to as “the ocean.”

It’s also a good deal hillier than we expected. I don’t know why: we should have learned from our trips to other West-coast cities. San Francisco = hills. San Diego = hills. Should not have been a surprise. I think it may be coming from a country where there’s usually a wide coastal plain, and most seaside towns are relatively flat. But in Seattle, the streets going down to the harbor are usually quite steep, and the sidewalks on them sometimes slope off in another direction. This can make negotiating them quite tricky, even when you’re sober. If you should happen to have had an adult beverage or two... #SaveYourselves

Seattle’s iconic building is the Space Needle. a 520 ft tower, built for the 1962 World’s Fair. Its main purpose is as a gift-shop. There’s also a rotating restaurant at the top, and have to say, the views are stunning (above), all the way to Mt. Rainier. Rainier is a dormant volcano, which is one of the two major threats to the city - the other being North Korean ICBM’s. I expected the Needle to dominate the skyline, in the same way the Eiffel Tower does in Paris, visible from just about everywhere. But I didn’t even glimpse it the first day: downtown Seattle is a very vertical city, blocking the view. There are now half a dozen buildings taller than the Needle in downtown.

The ballpark

Safeco Field is fractionally newer than Chase Field, having opened the year after us, in 1999. It has a retractable roof, but is largely open on the sides - the aim of the roof is to stop rain, so there’s no air-conditioning. Based on our small sample of one game, this does seem to render it vulnerable to wind. This was the only time in our four-day trip that we had to pull out the mainstay of Seattle fashion (according to the SnakePitette), the hoodie. The other negative is the area, which really doesn’t seem to contain much of immediate appeal, based on the (moderately lengthy and ramp-y) walk from the Link metro station. Maybe there’s another route?

It does have a couple of very nice features. The right field area doesn’t have bleachers: it’s just a standing area, which seems popular, and is well-filled with bars and concession stands [Contrast the ghost town of La Terraza, not least because it’s way off in the upper deck]. Rather than looking down into the bullpens, you also get to look into them from the level the pitchers work at (below), which gives you a really good view. The pitcher below is the Tigers’ Chad Bell. Mrs. SnakePit knows him, having rented Chad houses back in the day, when he was a minor-leaguer, as part of the Texas Rangers organization. Small world.

Speaking of which, inevitably, we bumped into the only person we know in Seattle, Mrs. Dbacksskins, a.k.a. Jenna. We hadn’t planned anything, but were just walking around when this woman pointed at us, and yelled “I know you!” Fortunately, it wasn’t a disgruntled Giants fan, and it was lovely to catch up with her. Nor was that the end of the SnakePit randomness. At the end of the weekend, waiting for our plane at Seattle airport, who did we find ourselves queuing behind, but Turambar, who was returning from his Canadian fishing trip. he ended up sitting in the row ahead of us. Some may joke about SnakePit One, but for this flight, it became a reality.

I should quickly mention hot dogs, although in this particular case, I did not get to try the Seattle version of the ballpark staple. The key ingredient for this variation is cream cheese. The sausage - generally a Polish, though a brat is sometimes used - is cut down the middle, and both it and the bun are grilled. The cream cheese is added as a topping - Wikipedia informs me that devices resembling caulk guns are common! - and whatever other things you want, as optional extras. Unfortunately, on this trip, my appetite never managed to coincide with an opportunity to indulge. Still that gives me a reason to return. So next time, Seattle.

Other things to do

You mean, outside of the drunken sing-along? We will draw a polite veil over that, although Mrs. SnakePit has pics on Facebook, for those in the know! [Seattle is good at beer, I have to say!] But there is certainly no shortage of interesting things to do. We particularly enjoyed MoPop, the Seattle Museum of Pop Culture, which is “Dedicated to the history and exploration of popular music, science fiction, and pop culture.” This means all manner of exhibits and hands-on displays, featuring props from movies and TV (below), as well as the ability to try out various musical instruments. It’s the kind of place in which Mrs. SnakePit and I could easily spend an entire day.

We are sorry to announce the death of Gizmo. He was found passed out in a motel room, but could not be resuscitated by first responders and was pronounced dead on arrival. Foul play is not suspected; however, police are waiting on a full toxicology report. He was 32, and is survived by about three million evil siblings.

You can also get out of town for a bit, when the crush of buildings (and let’s be honest - other tourists, particularly around Pike’s Place market downtown) becomes too much to handle. We took a water-taxi from Seattle across Elliott Bay to West Seattle. It has the feel of a small island, with beaches and amazingly expensive shorefront property. But this is actually just the other side of the U-shaped bay on which Seattle sits, and you can get there by car as well. Going by boat is likely better, as you get some nice views of the city as your boat heads away from the wharf (bottom). It’s only about $5 - must say, the city does have public transport sorted, far better than Phoenix.

With only three nights, we likely only scratched the surface of the city, but we were never short of things to do. We saw the Fremont Troll, an 18-foot high statue tucked away underneath the Aurora Bridge, which clutches a VW Beetle (with a California license plate - a subtle dig at Washington’s southern neighbors, I suspect). We watched the Seattle Pride parade, which basically shut down the center of the city on Sunday. We visited the Gum Wall (which is now more of a Gum Alley), which is exactly what it sounds like. And we went on, then quickly abandoned, a Seattle Underground tour. Hey, can’t win ‘em all.

But it was a blessed relief to be out of the furnace which was Phoenix, and have to think of nothing more taxing than “Where should we have lunch?” for a few days. For that alone: Seattle, we thank you.