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August 1 - 4, 2016
August 2nd (Tuesday): Berries and Yak

My parents, brother, and sister-in-law recently moved to Washington state so Connie and I decided to make a stop-over there on our way to Virginia. We arrived yesterday night and I'll be heading out on Thursday. Connie will be here for a while longer (she's hoping to arrive in Virginia after our furniture, while I'll be roughing it for a little while. Anyway, since I only really have two days here, we're spending them doing some touring. Tomorrow is Seattle but today we went to Sequim, a rural area two or three hours outside Seattle.
Our first stop, a berry farm! Now I love berries and I also love picking them but haven't had the chance to do so for years. And this was Connie's first time going berry picking. They had quite a big variety. Raspberries are a little out of season here, but there were still some blackberries and lots of blueberries, even some boysenberries and logan berries (which I'd never had before). That was a lot of fun, and I'll be eating tons of berries over the next couple of days. I wonder if any are still in season in Virginia...
Then it was off to Olympic Game Farm, an animal park. Interesting side note, they used to provide trained show animals for use in Disney movies then, when that business dried up, started the farm to take care of the retired animals. The main part is a self-guided driving tour (though you have to pay by person, rather than by car, which is a little annoying). Anyway, after getting tickets, and buying a loaf or two of surprisingly cheap whole wheat bread, you're off. Basically, you drive through open animal habitats while feeding them bread. First up, yak! Despite trying yak milk, yogurt, and meat when I was in Yunnan last year, I don't remember seeing live ones before (though I might have at a zoo at some point). Anyway, the yak (or is it "yaks"?) were cool. They hang out by the road and will walk up to your windows and eat bread out of your hand. There were even some babies. After the yak, we came across some llamas, which turned out to be rather snobbish. They refused our bread, but did eat some from another car. There was a zebra too, though it unfortunately wasn't in the mood for bread at the moment. Then there were some birds scattered about. Some were pretty normal, but there were a lot of peacocks, including babies. After that, we came across the park's most famous animals, Kodiak bears. The bears are trained and will sometimes even wave to you. Naturally, they can't come right up to the cars, but you can still feed them. Leaving the bears behind, we came across some elk. They were a little more aggressive and would stick their heads into the windows, hoping for bread. But they had nothing on the bison. You're actually not supposed to stop when you're in the areas with the elk and bison, probably because they'd swarm the car and you'd neve be able to get anywhere. Anyway, the bison were fun to feed but they were really aggressive and would stick their heads and long tongues way into the car if you let them. It got a little crazy at some points. There were some cute European deer mixed in as well, though they were more mellow, only coming up to the car after the bison had lost interest. There were also a few other animals, which you couldn't feed, in cages such as tigers and emu. Driving through and feeding all the animals was a lot of fun and that's the main point of the park, though they also had a small reptile house and aquarium, along with a few other animals including a couple of very cool birds and a goat with a pretty amazing beard.
It was a really fun day and I'd definitely recommend Olympic Game Farm (and berry picking, if it's that time of year) to anyone in the area. As a side note, the one thing I didn't talk about was the weather here. I do have some things to say about it, but I think I'll save that for a Random Washington Comment to go with tomorrow's travelogue entry.

August 3rd (Wednesday): Seattle

My family isn't in Seattle itself, but a smaller town nearby. We could have driving into Seattle but there's a toll bridge and, like most big cities, parking can be a pain, so we took the ferry. Plus, there's the view and everything. Interesting note, taking the ferry into Seattle is free, they only charge when you take the ferry out of Seattle. A little odd, but I guess they figure that if you go one way you'll probably go the other as well, and it saves them the trouble of hiring ticket takers on both sides. It was kind of cold and cloudy at the start, but the sun began to come out by the time we drew close to Seattle itself.
When we disembarked, we happened to see a policeman training a dog to sniff out bombs or drugs or something. At least I think it was training. Not sure why they were doing it at the ferry terminal, but it was kind of interesting to see. Anyway, Noah (my brother) and Hannah (his wife) had a loose itinerary planned so we headed off. From walking around, Seattle seems like a fairly nice city. Clean, neat, and somewhat hilly (though nothing like San Francisco in that regard). Out first stop was the gum wall. Yes, you heard that right. It's a wall where people stick gum. Well, actually, it's not one wall but an entire alley. Not exactly my choice of attractions but it was kind of fascinating, though disgusting at the same time. The whole place even smelled like gum...
Moving on, we came across the first Starbucks...or not. Actually, it was a newer location done up to look like the first Starbucks (complete with the first Starbucks exclusive merchandise). Presumably, the goal is to help reduce the lines at the real first Starbucks, which we came across a bit later in the day. Didn't go in though, since we probably would have had to wait in line for an hour.
Instead, we spent some time wandering around Pike's Place Market. It's a famous indoor farmer's market and crafts fair of sorts. It's pretty big (we didn't see the whole place) and has quite a lot of variety, including a number of local products. It was fun to walk around and we ate at a Persian restaurant inside. It was my first time trying Persian food, though my dad's been big on it lately. At his recommendation, I got a pomegranate chicken stew of sorts. I can't say it was a favorite, but it wasn't bad either and it was certainly unique. They also had kabobs, which were more typical Mediterranean fare.
Aside from the first Starbucks, there were some other really popular shops and restaurants in the area with pretty long lines. One was a seafood stall where they occasionally toss fish to each other, another was a chowder restaurant, and there was also a cheese shop (I tried some at their airport location the following day, it was really good). There was also a pretty impressive street performer hanging out nearby.
After leaving the market area, we made our way towards the Space Needle. It's actually not as tall as I would have thought, and is somewhat dwarfed by Seattle's less iconic skyscrapers. In the end, we decided not to go up to the top and went to the nearby Chihuly Museum instead. If you're not familiar with Chihuly, he's an artist whose primary focus is glasswork, a lot of which is very large, colorful, and detailed. The museum starts out with a series of rooms, each dedicated to a particular piece or theme, before opening up into a large glass chamber and, finally, a flower garden with glasswork interspersed. I've seen Chihuly's work several times before, at various locations, and it's always impressive and beautiful, if sometimes a bit weird. While the museum isn't huge, it has a large variety of interesting pieces and we enjoyed slowly making our way through.
Once we'd finished in the museum, we started making our way back to the ferry, with a stop at Starbucks (we were in Seattle after all), albeit a normal one that wasn't super crowded. Since the weather had improved, the ride back had better views, including a hazy glimpse of Mt. Rainier in the distance.
While it wasn't a full day, I got a decent feel for Seattle, which strikes me as a pretty nice city with a good culinary scene and a lot of things to see and do. I can certainly see why people like it, despite the weather, and wouldn't mind exploring more in the future.
That, however, will have to wait since I left Washington the next day. But that's a story for another travelogue...

Random Washington Comment: Weather
Everyone I've ever talked to who lives or has lived in Washington state says that it has really great weather...for about three months of the year. The rest of the time it's cloudy, rainy, and cold, though much of the state doesn't actually get all that much snow. Being early August, I was there in the summer and what is supposed to be kind of the height of the good weather. But that's not really what it felt like. The days (though I was only there for like two and a half of them) started out with overcast skies and cool temperatures (to the point where some people would want jackets). By late morning or so the clouds were clear and everything would be bright, sunny, and warm. Though even then, it never got "summer" warm / hot and there were often cool breezes. Really, it felt more like fall weather to me. Then, come night, it would cool down quite a bit. If you hate the heat, that might sound great but, if that's really as warm as its gets in the summer, it would certainly make me think twice about moving there, especially considering that most of the year it's supposed to be dark and cool the whole time. But, when it comes to weather, I suppose there are pros and cons just about everywhere, even Hawaii.

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