Seattle and Friends: Summer 2015

After a few days in Tacoma, I hopped on the Sounder train and headed for Seattle. I’ve taken the bus between Seattle and Tacoma many many times but this was my first time on the Sounder. I had power outlets and I learned that if I choose my car better I could have wi-fi next time. It only cost me $1.25 more than the bus which was totally worth it.

Once in Seattle, I booked it from King Street Station up to Seattle Coffee Works where I finally got to meet Lauren of Better In Real Life! Lauren and I have been internet pals for a long time but we haven’t ever actually gotten to meet up; she was super supportive of me while I fought against sexism in Idaho. She was absolutely wonderful and we had a great time chatting while waiting for another internet pal, also named Lauren. She had flown in from Boston to spend the weekend with Liz and I and then got to meet the other Lauren as a bonus!

Photo borrowed from Lauren (Better In Real Life‘s Instagram!).

Lauren and I set out in search of food in Pikes Place Market but soon decided that ice cream was what we really wanted. Sadly, we discovered that Bluebird Ice Cream was closed but that Molly Moon’s was open. My vanilla bean and honey lavender scoops were so good that I devoured them before I grabbed a photo. Lauren and I headed to Elliot Bay Book Company to kill some time before wandering over to Taylor Shellfish. I’d been craving oysters so we got a bottle of pinot gris (a bottle that was both affordable and had won awards for pairing well with oysters) while we waited for Liz to get off work.

Once Liz arrived, we ordered a spread of oysters and we toasted to the kick off of a great weekend. Anyone sitting at tables around us would never believe that the three of us had never physically been in the same place at the same time before. As we enjoyed our oysters (a nice selection of Fanny Bay, Kusshi, Kumamoto, Shigoku, and Olympia oysters if you’re curious).

Apres oysters, we bused back to Liz’s place where she made us some scrumptious tacos and then we headed to Percy’s & Co. for some cocktails. My cilantro gimlet was delicious but the highlight was getting to meet Liz’s bestie Siiri who I feel like I know without ever having actually met. Our next stop was Conor Byrne where we watched Liz and Siiri’s friend Tom sing.

Liz had to work the next morning, so after Tom’s set we headed back to her house and bedded down for the night. I’d had such a fun day “meeting” people that I felt like I already knew and I could hardly believe the weekend was going to get better when Liz, Lauren, and I headed for the San Juan Islands.

Tacoma: Summer 2015

My trip to Tacoma was pretty brief but I managed to cram a whole lot in to a few days! After spending Sunday at the Rainiers, hiking in the Olympics on Monday, and a quiet Tuesday working on some projects at my mom’s house, Mom and I headed out Wednesday morning for an adventure: kayaking on the Thea Foss Waterway!

We’d gone kayaking a couple of times when I was a little kid and my mom wanted to share that experience with my nephew Andrew. She was a little worried about how much she’d be able to handle paddling the kayak so she recruited me for a practice run in a two man kayak. My job was to be a lazy paddler and see how it was for her to handle it for both of us and then to step up and paddle us back when she got tired. I was definitely up for some fun on the water in the sun and we headed down to the waterfront.

It’s been a long time since I was in a kayak and it took some time to figure out how to make it go in a straight line. Fortunately, the waterway was pretty quiet that morning so we didn’t have too much to dodge or worry about. This is my skeptical face about Mom powering the kayak on her own:

I got a little wet but I was pretty impressed with how quickly my PFG pants dried out (review!).

It really was a glorious day on the water. It’s not very often that I get a chance to look back on cities from the water and it really is the best. Tacoma has done so much work in the last 15 years to clean up downtown and it fairly sparkles from the water.

After our adventure, we had lunch at The Fish Peddler before taking a walk down at Point Ruston.

Our next stop was picking Andrew up at school! The one thing he asks for every time he sees me (and sometimes he calls me in Colorado) is to ask if we can go hiking. His excitement means that I make a very specific effort to get him outside when we’re together.

I think he’s learned that he can ask Aunty Beth all sorts of questions about how the canyon is made, what ants eat, and why there were no fish this time. We talked about what erosion is, what homo sapiens are, and how the decimals on the GPS watch I let him wear are just like dollars and cents (I guess that’s the only way that third graders see decimals!).

For the very first time, we reached the end of the trail. Instead of hiking out and calling my mom to pick us up, we continued up the canyon off trail. Andrew was totally tickled that we were able to scramble up to a road and then walk the rest of the way to Nana’s house to surprise her!

It might not be a high peak, but hiking with this little boy always makes me super happy:

Tacoma Rainiers

Just after I landed in Tacoma, my mom and my oldest nephew (Andrew) and I headed to Cheney Stadium to watch the Tacoma Rainiers game with some other family members. My entire family loves baseball. The Mariners were always on the radio in the background of family gatherings and going to Tacoma Rainiers games (the Mariner’s AAA affiliate team) happens quite often.

Cheney Stadium got a major renovation in 2011 but I haven’t been back to see a game since they were completed. The place has been way more spruced up than it was the last time I was there! Renovations or not, I always love baseball stadiums. There are very few things in the world as beautiful as a baseball diamond in the sun:

We spotted the sign for the “Summit Club” parking and I explained to Andrew what a “summit” is and we decided to take a picture:

This is his summit face or so he explained to me:

We don’t get to hang out very much but I really like being with my nephew. I think the feeling is mutual:

My dad taught me a lot about baseball. Lots of my favorite memories with him were either practicing softball or watching the Mariners and Rainiers. After I moved away, I’d always call him to tell him about my games or about the stadium I was at. Andrew never got to really watch baseball with his Papi so I had so much fun spending a half inning teaching him how to keep score.

Once Andrew had enough of score keeping (although he was a really quick learner!) and wanted to go hang out with his cousins, I got to watch the game with my uncle. Uncle Skip is one of my favorite people to watch baseball with. We got to talk strategy and baseball history for a couple of innings before we headed over to join my mom, Andrew, my aunt, my cousin, his wife, and their two daughters for the rest of the game.

The Rainiers won, I got to hang out with my family, and watch some baseball. We even wrapped up the night by heading over to my grandmother’s house for dinner.It was an awesome way to be welcomed back to Washington!

Beer Tasting: Pacific Brewing & Malting Co.

As my mom and I were headed out of downtown Tacoma we noticed Pacific Brewing & Malting Co., a new brewery on Pacific Avenue. The brewery’s name came from a pre-Prohibition brewery in Tacoma. I looked up their beer list online and learned that they make a “Griswold’s Winter Warmer”…and the description was one of my most favorite quotes from Christmas Vacation:

Hey! If any of you are looking for any last-minute gift ideas for me, I have one. I’d like Frank Shirley, my boss, right here tonight. I want him brought from his happy holiday slumber over there on Melody Lane with all the other rich people and I want him brought right here, with a big ribbon on his head, and I want to look him straight in the eye and I want to tell him what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey shit he is! Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol?

Mom decided since there was a Christmas Vacation inspired name on the menu that we really had to go and check it out. I’m so glad we did! The beer was all pretty darn good and their use of a vintage Tacoma brewing brand and it’s logo was excellent!

I did a tasting tray (which I did feel was a tad expensive at $14 for six tastes) to get a sense of what the brewery was all about

1897 Pale Lager: I was really skeptical about the chances of me liking this beer but I was told that it’s their flagship brew so I had to give it a shot. Surprisingly, I really liked it. The brewery needs to work on getting it on tap at the Rainiers because although I don’t think I’d sit down on a cold winter evening with this, it would be the perfect craft beer accompaniment to a summer baseball game. The original Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. was founded in 1897 which is honored in the name of this beer. Even better than this name, however, are all the vintage advertisements found throughout the tasting room. I found this one in the ladies bathroom pretty much awesome:

Moon Yard Ale: This amber was pretty solid. I used to really really dig ambers and browns but my tastes have definitely migrated to the hoppy and bitter. (Give me a Cascadian dark any day though!!) I enjoyed this but since the taster made up for being expensive with it’s generous pours this one probably got a little less love than it deserved.

As with all the beers on the menu, its name was derived from something T-town related. Half Moon Yard was the name of the rail yard located along the Thea Foss Waterway just below the brewery’s Pacific Avenue location.

Dirty Skoog IPA: I was a fan of this double IPA. It wasn’t overly bitter but had a good nose and was really drinkable. Besides, who wouldn’t be a fan of an IPA named after a semi-mythological blind pig speakeasy that operated in Tacoma during Prohibition. Someone please open something in Tacoma named The Skoog Saloon. I promise I’ll frequent it every time I’m back in the Northwest.

Donkey Puncher ESB: I am not a huge ESB fan but this was sort of a standout (for its style) on the tasting fleet to me. Deliciousness. I’m going to have a hard time deciding between the Dirty Skoog and the Donkey Puncher on return trips. A “donkey puncher” is another name for a steam powered logging winch (more commonly known as a “steam donkey” around here).

Griswold’s Winter Warmer: Pacific’s winter offering was a hit with both my mom and I. Mom doesn’t much like beer but she’s gaining a taste for “the darker ones.” I only got a few sips of this delicious malty Christmas beer because Suzy Snowflake was getting sort of possessive of Griswold but what I did taste was awesome.

Grit City Porter: Compared to the brewery’s other offerings this one was pretty weak. I’m also not a huge porter fan so you probably shouldn’t take my word for it if this is the style that falls into your wheelhouse. It’s name is derived from a loving but slightly self-deprecating nickname for Tacoma—forever the less glamorous sister to Seattle.

I had a blast tasting with my mom and giving her my tasting notes as we went (and trying to steal sips of the winter warmer). I was so enchanted with the history, the naming, and of course the beer I even bought something to represent Grit City in beer loving Colorado. The sweet trucker hat only set me back $10. I totally give Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. status worth a visit…it’s going to get another visit from me sometime for sure.

Wine Tasting: Ginkgo Forest Winery

While out and about getting ready for Christmas, my mom and I passed Ginkgo Forest Winery‘s tasting room on N. 30th. I thought it’d be fun to do a tasting so we headed in and sat down at a table. The tasting room attendant was a little busy but was really friendly and did everything she could to make our visit awesome including bringing over a map of the Wahluke Slope AVA so we could see where the grapes were grown. Mom and I employed the ever useful tag team tasting technique to make two tastings of 5 wines ($6 for the flight of five) cover the 10 wines they had open.

Whites:

2012 Viognier

2008 Gewürtztraminer: Neither the Viognier or the Gewürtztraminer were amazing but neither were they horrible.

2012 Ginkgo Blanco: Both mom and I found this to be realllly sweet. I sometimes like my whites with a touch of sweetness but this was a little cloying even to me—it was almost dessert wine tasting!

2010 Riesling: This was my favorite of the whites. They said it was a “sweeter” Riesling but I didn’t find it too bad.

Reds:

2008 Pinot Noir: This wine smelled a lot more promising than it tasted, in my opinion. Then again, I think I might have been permanently spoiled by Willamette Valley pinots.

2011 Coalesce: The Coalesce was a blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Syrah. For a blend, I found it to be a little coarse.

2010 Malbec: This wine was delicious with big bold flavors. In fact, it was so bold Mom kept trying to tell me it was the Syrah (see below) but it was wayyy better.

2010 Syrah: About this point in our tasting, the wine maker himself came over to pour our wines. He was very proud of his award winning Syrah. It was pretty darn delicious, he was right. Not as good as the Malbec of the same vintage (see above) though.

2010 Barbera: Barbera was a new varietal to me. I enjoyed this wine but as is often the case with a new varietal it kind of takes your tastebuds by surprise and you don’t know how to process it. I’d totally drink this again though.

2010 Cabernet Franc: Yum. I really liked this wine. It was smooth and immensely drinkable.

I was kind of sad I wasn’t going to get to try their Cabernet Sauvignon since I’ve had some really good ones out of Eastern Washington (plus it’s one of my favorites) and the Wildwood Blend (it is 20% of that delicious Malbec). Mom and I debated for a bit and we decided the Wildwood was worth a chance and bought a bottle. She later decided to give it as her white elephant gift** in a family gift exchange. Fortunately, I drew “#1” in the exchange and gleefully made the final steal of the game. A Seahawks blanket or a bottle of wine? I think the right choice was made:

Oh, and the Wildwood? It was delicious.

 

**White elephant gift exchanges should be permanently banned.

Gold Mountain: Kitsap County Highpoint

After two and a half straight days of eating, by the end of Christmas I was feeling fairly horrible and just wanted to get out and do something. Since I flew up here, I don’t have a car at my disposal. Never being one to give up on the idea of adventure, I decided to see if my cousin Daniel would be willing to go on a Boxing Day hike with me. He accepted and even agreed to be at my mom’s house at the early (for him) hour of 8:30am.

We had vaguely decided to hike Mount Si, near North Bend, but I did some quick perusing of the NOAA Snow Depth modeling maps and saw they were calling for 4-8″ for most of the hike. Since neither of us were particularly prepared for hiking I quickly started clicking through Peakbagger looking for a Plan B. County highpointing peakbagger that I am, I settled on Kitsap County’s Gold Mountain. At 1,761′, Gold Mountain was a lock for being snow free and away we went.

One of the issues with last minute plan changes is that it can be hard to navigate while talking to your driver and trying to preview the route all at the same time. We went 2.5 miles down the wrong trail. After already having done a 5 mile hike, I was so pleased that Daniel was willing to stay out in the damp weather to do the hike I’d actually intended for us to do.

The short steep section through the misty forest was probably my favorite thing of the hike. It was so quintessentially Washington.

A good chunk of the hike was actually on old logging roads, passing through clearcuts to a non-view from the summit. Despite the extra mileage and the anticlimactic view it was wonderful to get out and stretch my legs. Perhaps even more fun was hanging out with Daniel. We have a big enough age gap that this was the first time I’ve gotten to hang out one-on-one with adult Dan. It was a blast.

After our 12-mile adventure, we were both starving and when we got back to Bremerton started looking for somewhere to grab a good non-fast food meal. We stumbled upon El Balcon, a tiny Mexican-Salvadorian restaurant. We both got their chipotle steak burritos—exactly what we needed!

R2R 2014

When I found out that we were going to Oregon one of my first emails went out to Jolleen (my two time R2R teammate and Moab Autumn Run partner) to tell her that I wanted in on this years Rainier to Ruston if there was a spot. She’d put together a 4-person team for 2014 instead of our usual 6-person relay squad. A spot had opened up on the team due to injury and I happily accepted the spot to join Jo, Mel, and Sarah.

We met up on Friday in Vancouver and headed up to Orting where we spent the evening at my aunt and uncle’s house eating pizza, watching the deer in the yard, and enjoying the evening. Our muscles even got a pre-race hot tub session.

In the morning, we headed up to the race start. This year the start seemed a little warmer than it had been in the past and I had a great first leg. I felt great the whole way and was really surprised how fast the turn off for the handoff point came up. Similarly, my second leg went really well; this leg was really fun because my legs still felt fresh and it was a new leg to me and it was mostly in the shade.

My last leg was a little more of a struggle. It was nice and flat but my legs were definitely tired towards the end as I ran my 12th and 13th miles of the day. I had a nice treat at the end though—my mom brought my nephew Drew down to cheer me on!

Sarah anchored the last leg with a great final leg along the waterfront. As is our tradition, we met her about a mile from the end to make the final push as a team (this pushed all of our mileages for the day over the half-marathon point). As we crossed the finish line we were all in high spirits with Mt. Rainier behind us over Commencement Bay.

Instead of hopping in the car for the drive south, we’d reserved an awesome apartment near Wrights Park via Airbnb. It was nice to have a place to relax as a team. We briefly headed out for dinner at The Hub where we devoured our meal. Thanks again ladies for a great race in awesome company!

On Beth UR Sportswear Just Rock Shorts / Stonewear Designs Velocity Top

Oregon Summer

Despite growing up in the Northwest (or perhaps, because of it) there are so many things on my Pacific Northwest to-do list, it’s a little overwhelming. I’m so excited to take advantage this summer and go exploring. Here’s just some of the things I’ve been dreaming about:

South Sister:

Time at the coast!

Mt. St. Helens:

My favorite cities, Seattle and Portland:

Mt. McLoughlin:

Sunny Seattle

We both said multiple times during our day in Seattle, “If it was always this nice, we might live here”—it was a simply gorgeous day to be out and about! After touring Seattle Fire Department’s Station 5, we walked north along the piers enjoying the view of the ferries, West Seattle, and the Olympics.

Sprocket thought we were torturing him with all the looking at water but no swimming:

After being on the waterfront for awhile, we headed up to Pike Place Market to find some lunch. We saw the original Starbucks (packed as always!):

We watched them toss fish at Pike Place Fish Market:

Finally, we found a place to sit down and eat our pierogi and gyro. Sprocket was just enjoying the huge variety of smells in the market:

Once we were done exploring downtown, we headed over to West Seattle where we met up with some friends, Chris and Katie. Since it was such a beautiful evening, we put their boat in the water and headed over to Bainbridge Island for dinner at the Harbour Public House. It was really fun to catch up and hear about their adventures in Panama (now I can’t wait to go there some day).

Touring Seattle’s Fire Boats

Forrest, Sprocket, and I decided to go walk around downtown Seattle a bit. Forrest had never been to Seattle (and neither has Sprocket) so we started out on the waterfront. After we stared at the fireboats from the Ivar’s pier for awhile, Forrest sent me up to the door of the station to ask if we could have a tour. To our surprise, not only were they happy to give a tour to two volunteer firefighters from Colorado but they let Sprocket join us! (My dog was seriously impressive: wonderfully well behaved, didn’t flinch at the grated ramps, or jumping on the boat. He’s awesome.)

For information on official tours of the fireboat, please visit the Seattle Fire Department’s Fire Station Tour information page.