Travel Series: Seattle, Day Two (Then Home)

This is day five, and the final installment, of my series about my trip to Portland and Seattle. Start with day one here.

Monday, Oct. 6

The fish guys at Pike Place Market.

The fish guys at Pike Place Market.

I woke up before my alarm on Monday morning, momentarily confused about where I was. Slowly I remembered I was in Seattle, and specifically in Evan’s apartment, and I got up to get ready for the day. I was flying home on a 2 p.m. flight, but I had until noon to see more of Seattle.

Evan and I left his place with my stuff and got on a bus to go downtown. He took me to his office, where we stowed my luggage, before walking to get coffee and see Pike Place. It was pretty early for a Monday, just after 8 a.m., and a lot of the vendors were still getting set up. We did walk into the original Starbucks, just to see it, and I saw giant bouquets of beautiful flowers I’d never seen before, for $5 each. I remembered a co-worker had told me a story of a friend who’d gotten married in Seattle and was able to get all of her wedding flowers at the market for something like $75. If I hadn’t been about to get on an airplane, I’d have been tempted to buy some for myself. We got some amazing cheese curds from a friendly vendor and continued to walk around the area.

The view from the public space on the 17th floor.

The view from the public space on the 17th floor.

Evan took me to a really neat feature of Seattle: In this one building downtown, anyone can access the 17th floor and enjoy a beautiful public space, overlooking the city and Puget Sound, complete with picnic tables and a landscaped patio. It was stunning.

“This really is a beautiful city,” I said to Evan, and he smiled.

I’d made plans the night before to meet up with my high school friend Jesse before his class at noon. He commutes from Lacey to Seattle five days a week for school, where he’s getting his masters in Middle East studies. He’s learning Hebrew and told us about his recent trip to Israel, and also about his wedding from this past June. It was very surreal to see a friend I only ever see in Ohio in a city I’d never been to before, and it was nice to catch up. The three of us ate breakfast together at a French bistro Evan liked, and it was delicious food in a cute atmosphere.

Jesse left for class, and Evan took me back to his office to get my bags. He walked with me to the train stop and waited with me on the platform until the train heading to SEA-TAC arrived. I hugged him goodbye and got on to head home. I was sad to go, but also relieved I had my passport and a way to get back to Chicago. It had been great to see Seattle with a guide, and especially one so excited to be in the city in which he lives.

I left Seattle feeling happy, thankful, and full of amazing food.

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Travel Series: Seattle, Day One

This is day four of my series about my trip to Portland and Seattle. Start with day one here.

Sunday, Oct. 5:

The water everywhere was so blue in Seattle.

The water everywhere was so blue in Seattle.

I woke up late Sunday morning. I am an idiot and set the weekday alarm for 6:15, not the weekend one. I woke up instead at 7:39, about 20 minutes after I’d planned to leave the airbnb for downtown. My heart stopped. I asked Siri to call a cab, trying to remember how much cash I had remaining from what my bank had let me take out. A cab had definitely not been in the budget, but I couldn’t think of another option. The buses only run every half hour or so on Sundays, from what it looked like, and I’d missed the one I had planned on catching.

The cab company told me one would come for me in 10 minutes. Luckily the night before I’d packed everything and left out a note and some small gifts for my hostess, so all I had to do was get dressed, strip the bed, and start a load of laundry before leaving. I did all of this running back and forth like crazy, and I hurried while trying to make sure I wasn’t leaving anything behind. It occurs to me now that I did leave some half-and-half and a chunk of brie from Trader Joe’s in the mini fridge.

Under the bridge.

Under the bridge.

The cab got there just when I was told it would, and the driver loaded my bags into the trunk. He was taking his time, not seeing my panic, so I told him my bus was leaving in a half hour. He told me not to worry, and he was right. We got downtown maybe 10 minutes later, and I was one of the first to board the Bolt Bus. I tipped him 25 percent despite my dwindling funds because he saved me a huge headache. There’s no way I could have purchased a second ticket for a later bus online without my debit card, and I’m not sure they let you pay cash for a ticket on the spot.

My carelessness was once again rewarded, so I’m sure this means I’ll learn nothing from the experience and continue to blunder through life relying on the kindness of strangers.

As I stepped onto the Bolt Bus, I dropped my wallet on the floor, my hands too full of luggage and my giant pink Voodoo Donuts box. I bent over to pick it up.

“Oh no, you don’t want to lose your wallet,” someone already seated joked.

“Yeah, that would be bad!” I replied, laughing a little too hard.

A park near Fremont Brewing.

A park near Fremont Brewing.

Bolt Bus is kind of like a northwest regional version of Mega Bus. It spans cities like Seattle and Portland but also Vancouver, BC and Eugene. My ticket had cost only $23 and I was told if you book at just the right time you can get them even cheaper. The bus ride from Portland to Seattle was less than three hours – we somehow got to downtown a half hour earlier than scheduled. I stepped off the bus carrying my bag and my Voodoo box, and a man waiting outside the bus smiled at me.

“You clearly just got in from Portland!” he said.

“Yup,” I said with a smile, slightly lifting the box up to show it off.

This was not the only time that box of donuts would be commented on – as I crossed a street minutes later, a man driving by yelled “Voodoooooo!” out his window at me. I killed time in a coffee shop waiting for Evan, and people eyed the box sitting on my table with curiosity.

The troll under the bridge.

The troll under the bridge.

After Evan came to get me, he and I walked to a bus stop. A man holding a large Starbucks cup came up to him, as Evan was now holding the box, and asked him if he could have a donut to go with his coffee. He was not kidding.

“We have people waiting on these,” Evan said apologetically, thinking much faster than I would have. This was a lie, because we did not – we were going to eat all of those donuts ourselves and with no remorse.

Since it was Sunday, the banks were closed. Evan is a genius and Googled up the idea to go to a Money Tree to see if I could write myself a check and cash it there. With my passport serving as proof of ID, the woman at Money Tree let me cash a check. They charged a 6% fee, but I didn’t care. She was helpful and asked me how Portland had been aside from that obvious hurdle. I told her I’d loved it, and had the Voodoo Donuts to prove it.

We took a bus to Evan’s apartment in Queen Anne and dropped off my things. We split a bacon maple bar from the box of donuts, and I was glad it had held up over the last 18 hours. While I got settled in, Evan put on an album by Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles, which I’d mentioned loving and listening to a lot while preparing for my trip. I admitted I’d been listening to it on loop most of the bus ride up, and was so excited that he thought to put the record on.

A view from the way up to Upper Queen Anne.

A view from the way up to Upper Queen Anne.

We left to explore, first winding up a street with amazing views to Upper Queen Anne to check out the shops and restaurants. Evan asked me if I wanted to see the “troll under the bridge” on Troll Street, and I had pictured it in my mind as a painted mural. Instead, it’s a giant, stone-carved troll, who looks as though he is bursting through the ground, crushing a car.

Then we headed further north and went to Fremont Brewing. I celebrated having an ID again by getting an amazing flight of five samples of their beer. Having eaten nothing but one and a half donuts all day, the tiny samples hit me faster than they would have normally, so we walked it off by heading over to a nearby park overlooking one of Seattle’s many lakes. Then we took a bus over to the Capitol Hill neighborhood. For dinner, I treated Evan to the fanciest meal of my trip, finally getting the seafood I’d wanted all week. We split an amazing bottle of wine and entrees of king salmon and lamb shank, with ratatouille and couscous.

I finally got my Pacific Northwest salmon. It was amazing.

I finally got my Pacific Northwest salmon. It was amazing.

After dinner, we walked around that area more and ducked into a great bookstore before getting ice cream at Molly Moon’s. On the way back to his apartment we stopped to get a six-pack of Deschutes Brewing’s winter ale, called Jubelale. It reminded me of Great Lakes’ Christmas Ale, my favorite seasonal beer of all time. We drank a couple of those while watching “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” a fascinating documentary about a tiny sushi restaurant in Tokyo. I’d heard about it a long time ago and it seemed appropriate to watch since I too had been dreaming of sushi in Portland.

I’d missed Evan so much, and it was just so great to get to catch up with an old friend and fill each other in on what we’d missed since he moved in the spring. We stayed up a little too late, since I sort of forgot the next day was Monday. Evan had taken the morning off to show me Pike Place, but he did have to go in after I left.

Seattle, Day Two will be posted later this week.

Travel Series: Portland, Day One

The famous "Keep Portland Weird" sign downtown.

The famous “Keep Portland Weird” sign downtown.

I am still on my vacation as of today, and am flying home tomorrow afternoon. I’ve been writing about this amazing adventure, and while it’s all too much for one post, I like the idea of posting a series about what I’ve been doing out here in the Pacific Northwest. It’s been an experience and I am so glad I came here. I hope you’ll take the time to read why, as I continue to post installments of this series this week.

For now, here is an account of my first full day in Portland, after arriving in town around midnight the night before.

Thursday, Oct. 2:

I woke up my first morning in Portland early, still stuck on Central time. I showered and got ready to grab the #71 bus to transfer to the #4 to go to Southeast Portland. A woman in Ladd’s Addition had agreed, via a female cyclist message board, to let me borrow one of her bikes for the week. In my initial post, I had offered cash or barter, and she picked the latter. I brought her some toffees and chocolates from Amy’s Candy Bar and had these in my backpack.

A restaurant in SE Portland -- I didn't eat here, I just thought it looked cool.

A restaurant in SE Portland — I didn’t eat here, I just thought it looked cool.

I waited for the bus and used its texting tool to see when it was due — at 8:29, in just seven minutes. I looked up and saw a young boy with a musical instrument case coming to the same stop.

“Excuse me,” he said, “Can you tell me when the bus is coming? My mom won’t let me bring my phone to school.”

I remembered then that it was a Thursday, and thought 8:30 seemed awfully late to be leaving for school. I told him what the text had said, and he thanked me. I asked him a couple of questions about the bus system, and he was surprisingly knowledgeable for a 7th grader. I told him I was visiting from Chicago and jokingly asked where I should go. He actually had a lot of good suggestions.

The bus came and we got on together. He told me about his school and how he was glad he was getting the earlier bus than normal so he’d have time to stop and get donuts at the store before class started. Another boy he knew got on the bus shortly before this first kid got off, and they talked to each other while still including me. The second boy was getting on the #4 bus too, to a different school, so I followed him to where I needed to transfer. I thanked him for helping me and he said “Welcome to Portland!”

A Plaid Pantry in SE. These convenience stores were everywhere.

A Plaid Pantry in SE. These convenience stores were everywhere.

I got to Ladd’s Addition a little early, so I went to a coffee shop nearby. A woman greeted me right away, and I saw the shop was empty aside from the two of us. She asked what I wanted, and recommended a pumpkin latte, which I accepted. I dug into my backpack for my wallet, but couldn’t find it. I thought I must have left it on my bed at the airbnb.

“Never mind that latte actually,” I said apologetically, and explained I must have left my wallet behind. She offered me a cup of regular coffee on the house instead, which I gratefully accepted. I talked to her a for a bit too, taking down suggestions and names of places to see. I thanked her for the coffee and moved on to April’s.

April and Phillip live in a gorgeous, huge home in Ladd’s Addition and have a sweet older dog named Foxy. They gave me a series of bike maps and April helped me select which of their many bikes might fit me best. She and I carried it downstairs from their attic and Phil showed me on the map the best way to get back to my airbnb. The best way, it turned out, had at least eight steps, and once I was out on the road riding, I realized I’d only been able to remember the first four or five. I got a little turned around but managed to get back to the airbnb. By now I was starting to feel worried about my wallet, because I really had thought I’d grabbed it before leaving.

The view overlooking one of Portland's bridges near downtown.

The view overlooking one of Portland’s bridges near downtown.

I parked the bike and walked into my airbnb, a sense of dread forming in the pit of my stomach. I looked at the bed — the wallet wasn’t there. I froze, then immediately began tearing the bed apart, then the rest of the room, then the bathroom, in a fruitless attempt to do something, anything. It was gone, and I knew it. I checked my bank’s website and saw that no charges had been made to my Chase debit card, or to my Chase credit card I’d packed as an emergency back-up. I looked up the nearest Chase branch and found one about a mile away. I have to admit, I am so glad I use Chase, since it’s everywhere.

I walked into the Chase with only my checkbook as some small form of proof. I explained I was from out of town and had lost my wallet. I sat down with a banker, a man around my age, and he was unbelievably helpful. He explained he couldn’t just issue me a new debit card on the spot because I’m from out of state, but he rush-ordered a new card to my airbnb, which he thought should get there Saturday. He also let me withdraw cash so I wouldn’t be completely screwed. I got out $250 since that’s about what I’d budgeted for the first few days in Portland anyway — the things on my Portland to-do list were mostly cheap eats, coffee shops, and breweries. It hadn’t occurred to me yet when sitting at that bank that my hopes for trying a wealth of craft beer were now pretty much dashed, sans ID.

While I was at the bank, I got a text from Sarah, my Chicago friend who happened to be traveling to Portland at the same time with her fiance Andy. I had written earlier that I’d felt oddly possessive of my time in the city of Portland and hadn’t wanted to share it or my experience with anyone I already knew, but let me tell you, when I got her text and remembered they were there, I was flooded with relief. Right then I wanted nothing more than a friendly, familiar face or two. Everyone in Portland had been incredibly helpful and polite, but I really needed a friend. I needed someone who knew me and could sympathize and confirm that this was absolutely a horrific thing to have happen while traveling and just let me complain.

A mural near the food truck pod, around 9th Ave and Washington.

A mural near the food truck pod, around 9th Ave and Washington.

That’s exactly what happened. I got on the bike and met them downtown at a food truck pod — a solid block of food trucks — and gave them big hugs. They commiserated with me over a picnic lunch of sushi, Transylvanian food, and grilled cheese (my contribution, I’m a little ashamed to admit — I needed comfort food). It was all delicious, but we agreed the sushi was the best of the three.

I admitted to them, and in a way to myself, that I was kind of in Portland on a scouting mission. They seemed to understand, because they loved Portland, too. I told myself a long time ago that I would never move to a new city/state again because, while I’m so glad I moved to Chicago, it was much harder than I thought it would be. I’m not saying that I’m moving to Portland, and there a lot of reasons not to. But I have to admit, I like the idea of it. If I were to do it all again despite my past experience and my better judgement, it would be to Portland.

Sarah and Andy were staying in the Pearl District, but they were leaving the next morning for a friend’s wedding in Ashland, Oregon. Sarah recently became the owner of Women & Children First, Chicago’s famous feminist bookstore in Andersonville, so she was interested in speaking with the owners of In Other Words, the store Portlandia’s Women & Women First is based on (and filmed at). The store may be based on Portland’s, but the name was definitely pulled from the Chicago store, after all. Sarah wanted to talk to them about their organization since she’s a new small business and bookstore owner, but it was at least three miles north. We walked to a bike rental place to get bikes for her and Andy.

Me, downtown.

Me, downtown.

At the bike store, I asked someone to take a look at the front of the bike April had lent me: A bracket holding up the front light had snapped an hour or so earlier, on top of everything else, and the light now just danged by a thin cable. I’d tied my earbud cord around the light to try to hold it down, but it was not ideal. They couldn’t replace the bracket without ordering one, but they zip-tied the light to the rack on the front of the bike to at least keep it secure.

We all rode up Williams Avenue most of the way to get to In Other Words and parked right outside. We went in and it was clear that the show shoots the interior scenes there as well, and not just the exterior, like I’d assumed. A signed Portlandia poster hung on the wall by the register.

Sarah found lots of things to buy, while I just picked up three small ‘zines I thought looked funny. I also grabbed an In Other Words bookmark and a couple small buttons. We talked to the volunteers there and learned (well, I learned — Sarah already knew) that they were holding an open meeting Sunday to decide whether or not to close. I was sad to hear it. On top of being a feminist bookstore, they are also a community center, offering services and classes to the area. They said the show had brought them a lot of business and publicity, but that it is still a tough business to be in. They’re a nonprofit but it’s hard to retain devoted volunteers and the ones who are involved now are putting in almost as many hours as they would at a full-time job.

Inside of In Other Words.

Inside of In Other Words.

We made our purchases, got lots and lots of photos, and left.

On the way out, Sarah asked if I have a passport. I told her I did, but that it was in Chicago. Then we realized I could ask Adele to look for it and mail it. I texted Adele immediately and thanked Sarah for the great idea.

On my bike ride home I stopped at a Trader Joe’s to get a cheap dinner and some snacks for the room. Without thinking, I grabbed a cheap bottle of wine too. The woman at the register asked for my ID, and I said I didn’t have it. She was so apologetic, but said she couldn’t let me purchase it anyway since she’d asked. I told her I completely understood, but thought to myself that if there was ever a time that called for wine, the day I lost my wallet on vacation was that time.

I went back to my airbnb and reported my lost wallet to Trimet, Portland’s version of the CTA. I looked into whether or not it’s possible to get on an airplane without an ID (it is, but it’s unpleasant), and I also looked at prices for later flights home from Seattle for a day or two later. They were a minimum of $500 and I had no way to place an order online, even if I had an extra $500 set aside.

I texted Stef and Jaimi and told them what happened. They immediately offered assistance and moral support, but I told them it could have been much worse. I know it sounds naive, but I honestly don’t think my wallet was stolen. Whoever had taken it would have had at least two hours between that bus ride and when I went to Chase to cancel my cards, but no charges charges were made. It was clear to me that the very worst part of this was losing my ID. I had to hope a car didn’t hit me on my bike because no one knew me or could identify me. I couldn’t fly home from Seattle, or anywhere. I couldn’t buy wine at Trader Joe’s or tour a brewery.

That said, I tried my luck that night at a dive bar two blocks north of my airbnb. No one carded me at the door or looked twice when I ordered. I talked to some locals there who patiently answered my Portland questions. One even gave me his email for later, in case I think of anything else.

Portland, Day Two will be posted later this week.