Portland and Seattle – Two Nights, Two Cities – Part 2

To review, Daniel, Peyton, and I had just left Portland after visiting my friend Richard and getting a taste for some local food. Our next stop: Seattle. We only had one night in the city and nothing planned. Thirty minutes of scouting google maps resulted in a stop at Swan Creek Park for some spontaneous mountain biking. These trails were the best built on the trip—flowy, fast, and downhill. It was bound to happen to one of us, but I never expected to look up from a GoPro to see Daniel get too forward on his bike at the bottom of a slope and then launch into a flip over his handlebars, body and bicycle at once flying through the air and then bouncing across the packed dirt. He was shook up but fine. We rode back to the truck after another couple laps and locked targets on Fremont.

Riley was one of the coolest dudes we met on the trip. A tall guy in his mid-twenties, tan with dark hair, Riley taught acting at a local school in Seattle. He also acted on Disney cruise ships for months at a time. Back up two days now: the guys and I are sitting around a campfire in Oregon trying to decide where to stay in Seattle. None of my Couchsurfing requests had been accepted, and we were leaning towards booking a cheap hotel outside the city. Then, while looking through hotels and hostels on my phone, I received the notification. Riley last minute agreed to host us two days before our arrival.

Now fast forward again. We just left Swan Creek Park and became stuck in miserable Seattle traffic at about 4:30 pm. Riley texted me along the lines of, “Hey do you guys like salmon.” I, of course, said we did. Riley said something like, “Great! I’m cooking dinner so don’t eat before you get here.” Anticipation and hunger made 20 mph traffic seem like standstill, and so what felt like 4 hours later we pulled onto Riley’s street where he met us all with a smile and a hug. He pointed out our parking spot and then showed us inside where Kenai, his new-ish and excitable pup, greeted us happily. Then, we all dug into the best meal we had on the entire trip. Riley made and had waiting seared salmon on a rice pilaf with sautéed veggies and peppers drizzled in a homemade hollandaise sauce. He apparently was a huge fan of Food Network, and by default, so were we.

Still trying to understand how the food was so delicious, we set off to see Fremont on foot, led by our host. Riley took us around Gas Works Park (formerly the Seattle Gas Light Company gasification plant), under the bridge with the Fremont Troll, and past the Lenin statue. We ended that night at a barcade (Bar/Arcade) called Add a Ball that housed a ton of vintage games. The low-lit, grungy atmosphere seemed to draw a crowd of nerds and bedraggled misfits who blended perfectly with the surroundings. They seemed at home and welcomed us, too, into their humble abode.

I’ve said it before, but I believe everyone should at some point try Couchsurfing, at least once. It’s an amazing way to experience a city because it’s just like visiting your friend who has lived there long enough to become a local. They know where to go, when to go there, and what’s worth doing. My two hosts have been extremely kind, welcoming, and accommodating. But “host” isn’t a great word for them because after fifteen minutes we’re all friends. You can chat about absolutely nothing, swap travel stories, learn about each other’s background, engage in deep and meaningful conversations, or just hangout rather quietly. No matter what, you will leave with a new friend and a new perspective.

The next morning Riley cooked for everyone again: fluffy pancakes, crispy bacon, squared potatoes. Again, amazing food. We drove to REI, the one where it all began, to pick up some last minute supplies. Wanting a quick lunch and apparently missing the south, we settled on picking up Popeye’s chicken, which we ate in a funeral home parking lot. Yes, a funeral home parking lot. Next to a cemetery. The Cemetery where sits the Jimi Hendrix memorial. Stuffed with fried chicken, we walked over and paid our respects to the legend. Then, slightly anxious but thoroughly overjoyed, we prepared for our flight. The vast wilds of Denali awaited.

Road Trip Reads – Part 3

For the one and a half years we roomed together, I could depend on Alex Cagle to answer “yes” when asked to accompany me on an adventure. From numerous poorly planned fishing trips to crossing the catwalk under a Tennessee River bridge, he was always up for new experiences. In this time Alex transitioned from a reluctant tag-along to an adventurous spirit who suggested and planned trips. For this reason, I have asked him to suggest three books to consider reading on your next road trip or adventure. Without further ado, Alex Cagle:

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

One of the most quintessential books to connect readers to nature is My Side of the Mountain. In this story a fifteen-year-old boy named Sam leaves his family and goes off to live in the forest and mountains of upstate New York. Almost every boy at one time or another has dreamed about leaving civilization behind and living on his own in the woods, and My Side of the Mountain captures that imagination and lets the reader live out that fantasy through Sam. Technically it is a children’s book, but it is a timeless classic that every adult should read to be reminded of the inner child that lives inside us all.

Corsair by Clive Cussler

For something a little more heart pounding, look no further than the writings of Clive Cussler. Cussler is a former Navy man who has written literally scores of action/spy novels, so narrowing it down to one suggestion is rather difficult. But if I had to choose one, it would have to be Corsair. The hero of the novel is the Chairman of the Corporation Juan Cabrillo. Fed up with the red tape that surrounded the United States secret services he left the CIA and founded his own spy agency for hire. Operating out of their high tech base inside a ship called The Oregon, they only use their power for good. The Oregon is unique in that it has state of the art engines that give the ship enormous speed and maneuverability by stripping ions from ocean water, allowing it to never refuel. The ship also has one other feature: its exterior looks absolutely decrepit, helping the ship enter any port with complete anonymity. In this installment the Secretary of State has vanished, and it is up to The Corporation to find her before a summit in Tripoli that will decide the fate of the Middle East. If you’re looking for a heart racing page turner then look no further.

The Inferno by Dante Alighieri

Lastly, but probably most importantly, is The Inferno, the first part of Dante Alighieri’s masterpiece The Divine Comedy. One of the first literary pieces of the Renaissance, The Inferno is an epic poem that describes Dante’s decent led by Virgil through the literal depths of Hell. Note that undertaking this path with Dante and Virgil is not for the faint of heart. As an epic poem, The Inferno is filled with poetic language, so it requires more concentration to read than other texts. It also depicts sinners being tortured for their sins in gruesome detail in the nine levels of Hell. However, for the brave of heart and mind The Inferno is a must read for any individual who considers himself or herself enlightened. One of the pillars of Western literature for over seven hundred years, The Inferno is truly epic.