Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The First Two Weeks

The timing of the move to Seattle worked out strangely.  Two weeks after driving across the country and settling in a new city about as far away from my former home as I could get, I was scheduled to leave the country for two weeks.  My trip to Tanzania to climb Mt.  Kilimanjaro was planned for almost two years and was paid for well before the move was scheduled.  If we did not move then, it would be over one month before we could move and I would have to face that after returning from a fun, but physically exhausting vacation.

So we arrived in town only to find that our place had not yet been painted as promised, and the people were not present to give us our keys.  And the landlord was out of town.  We were meeting the driver with our stuff and after two hours, we would have to pay hundreds of dollars extra.  We began unloading our things on the sidewalk and grass.  It was going to be a long day.

When we broke for lunch, we had our first meal in Seattle at Taco City USA at 23rd and Cherry.  We heard it was good from our friend Jamie.  He was right.  It was good.  The menu is more varied than the taco trucks I was used to.  Luckily, the weather was nice enough to eat outside.  It was a rare warm and sunny day, as I later learned that summer would be a couple more months away.  It was already in the 80's back home.

Dinner that night would be at the Bottleneck Lounge on Madison.  It was nearby and cheap.  It had a nice laid back atmosphere and decent beers.  I just knew that this would be our regular local hangout.  We have not been back since.  Nothing against Bottleneck, but we have since wanted to see the rest of what  is out there.  I am sure we will be back to Bottleneck soon.

Our first weekend in town, Jamie and Mike hosted a garden party and we got to meet some great locals.  Some of those people would turn into friends a bit later.  We ate at 611 Supreme on Pine.  This is a great little crepe place we discovered when we visited Seattle over a year ago.  It was as delicious as we remembered.  We ate at the tiny Thai Curry Simple at 12th and Union and Madison.  The name says it all.  Cheap food.  Five choices.  Great taste.  The only place to sit and eat is a little counter on the front of the hobbit-sized building.  I was sad to learn that this little building is supposed to be torn down eventually for new development.

I did not have a job lined up, but I did not have much time to look for a job during the first two weeks.  Most of the time was spent unpacking and preparing for my trip.  I became intimately acquainted with the REI FLAGSHIP STORE, as I visited there numerous times for gear and supplies.  Not only is it an awesome store, physically, I was able to find knowledgeable employees who could offer advice and  encouragement.  Normally, when I told someone I was climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, they would give me an incredulous look to see if I was joking, and then ask "Why?"  When I told an employee at REI the same news, he or she would always say, "That's great.  Are you doing the seven peaks?"  (the answer, by the way, is "hell no").

Besides buying and packing supplies, I needed to get back in shape for my trip.  For more than a week, I had mostly sat on my butt in the car.  We tried to get in some hikes and walks along the way, but they were time consuming and we were on a schedule.  I could feel a difference in my body when we moved in than when we moved out of our old house a week before.  So, each day, I went for walks around the neighborhood or hikes in various parks.  It was a great excuse to begin exploring the city's awesome array of parks.  I discovered Discovery Park early on.  It is very large and natural.  It has spectacular views of the sound and a great diversity of vegetation and scenery.  I spent hours wandering its miles of trails.

My friend Charles introduced us to Washington Arboretum early on.  He took us on a very nice walk, leaving the park and skirting Lake Washington and the Montlake Cut.  Gorgeous.  It seems there were many trails and different gardens to explore there.  We came back a week later and explored some more.

A few days before my departure, just a day after we adopted a dog, we drove out east of the city and climbed Mount Si.  It was not easy.  Not for us anyway.  There were octogenarians jogging past us, so perhaps I was not in such great shape after all.  I was carrying a moderately heavy pack, but it was a bit of a struggle.  It is four miles straight up, but the first part was the worst.  I would discover in Africa that this was the same each day.  Once we got going, it was just a grind.  We had a great sense of accomplishment when we reached the top and enjoyed some breathtaking views.  We even managed to avoid being pulled off of the steep rocks by our new dog chasing chipmunks.  The physical shock of this climb turned out to be awesome experience in preparation for my nine day climb a few days later.  It was a small taste, but enough of one to make me more comfortable and confident with the whole undertaking.  It turns out that vertical climb really makes a big difference in a hike.

The next day, we were sore and tired, so just did some neighborhood walking, and I took our dog to Magnuson Park.  I have never seen such a dog park in my life.  It is very large and has a beach just for dogs to swim.  On the way to the beach, you can even look through the fence and see the Sound Garden that inspired the band's name.

The final day, I chose a flat walk of about 2.5 miles around Seward Park.   Another gem.  It juts out into Lake Washington and started with amazing views of Mount Ranier.  As we walked around, we were treated to views of Mercer Island and Bellevue.  Then we were looking back on Seattle itself.  I could not believe what cool parks the city had, and I did not even know that we were just getting started.

It was strange leaving a city to which I had so recently moved.  Had I moved or was this just a vacation?  It was even stranger to return, knowing I had been in Africa as long as I had "lived" in Seattle.  I was happy to get home, but it felt much differently than it usually does returning from longer trips.  I was not returning to a familiar routine, only a familiar mate and a dog who may or may not remember me,  (luckily the dog was very happy to see me).  I was certainly excited to explore a new city.  It was like leaving one vacation for another.  That seemed like a fantasy, but it was a mixed blessing.

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