When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself - Jacques Cousteau.
June 1st was a day just like any other. If there's anything I learned from traveling alone, it's to make an itinerary. There's only so much you can do if you're spending vital time looking on yelp for places to hit only to realize you're too far away to get there on time. Today I had only 2 things planned, a tour of CenturyLink Field and then finding a spot to watch Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
I started the day with a walk to Pike Place Market for breakfast. I had a traditional Jean-Luc Picard Breakfast of Coffee and Croissant at La Paine. Enjoying the views from the counter looking out over the bustling street. I felt like Tolstoy, looking at out at the people, looking at everyone's faces, looking for inspiration. Failing at finding inspiration I went for another coffee 2 stories above at Storyville Coffee to kill some time before my tour of CenturyLink Field.
CenturyLink Field is a multi-purpose stadium, home to the Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Sounders. Opened in 2002, it has become known in the NFL for becoming extremely loud during Seahawks games. We toured the stadium starting at the upper level, watching about 6-7 guys playing a game flag football game on the field. We hit the press box and a few luxury boxes before heading down to the guts of the stadium. We toured the visiting locker room and the press briefing room before heading back to the gift shop and the end of the tour.
It was 2pm at this point and I was recommended a sports bar nearby to watch the NBA Finals game from the guide. I decided to trek the 50 ft to the Baseball game already in progress to kill time until the Finals started (and to save money on 2 ubers). I grabbed a $5 seat from a scalper outside and into the stadium I went. I got a beer and garlic fries and found my seat in the left field upper deck. I spent a few innings there and went down to the 'Pen and finished watching the game by the bullpens, watching the relievers warm up until the end of the game.
Leaving the game I ventured to Fuel. Arriving early I secured a seat at the bar, got an IPA and waited for the game to start. I ended up being 1 of 3 people rooting for the Warriors. I sat next to a guy who considered himself the biggest Kevin Durant fan and another guy came up to me and I'm 80% sure he was hitting on me and invited me to hang with him before I left Seattle (I did not). Feeling good from the Warriors win and the several beers, I grabbed a uber, went back to the hotel, got a french dip sandwich and passed out.
I woke up today feeling older and never so much better - New Found Glory
The real reason for this trip was in-fact for my birthday. I have always made it a tradition to take a week off and i would typically stay in, but with the stress of my new location at work and at home, the last place I wanted to be was at home. I didn't know it at the time, but I just caught the travel bug. What started as a simple goal to visit each MLB stadium now transformed to see the world.
For a change, I DID have a game-plan for the day. I booked a stadium tour at noon and had a ticket to the game that night row 25 behind the plate. I started the day with a biscuit and eggs at Biscuit Bitch which I covered in hot sauce. Promptly stuffed I made my way to the ballpark via foot remembering the way from my first night going from King St Station to Downtown.
I knew I was getting close as I saw the roof of CenturyLink Field appear behind the buildings. Following the directions on Google Maps I found myself walking right alongside the massive structure and could only imagine how energetic and active this area would be on a game day. Turning the corner onto Occidental Ave I can see that straight ahead is the baseball only facility I was looking for, Safeco Field.
I arrived to the Team store and checked in for the stadium tour on the 2nd level looking over MLB authenticated memorabilia. Noticing my A's hat, the tour guide made a joke about how terrible the Coliseum is and I made a comment about how the M's have missed the playoffs since 2001 (I'm great a making friends). We toured the stadium, learning facts about the building (designed by a Seattle based firm), team history (0 World Series Trophies) and explored the inner guts of the stadium until we were led out onto the field. It's pretty amazing to stand on the dirt warning track of a MLB stadium, the grass is absolutely perfect, each single blade cut to the exact height. We toured the dugout and I was stopped from making a call to the bullpen in left field. After we left the field we made our ways through the ballpark, visiting the Press Conference room, the Diamond Club Lounge, finishing in the Press box where we found the framed dent of a foul ball and I stole the Media Wifi password.
Before the rest of the stadium opens their gates, the centerfield gates open 2.5 hours before first pitch, allowing fans to enjoy batting practice (and try for a home run) in centerfield and offers happy hour prices for drinks. I watched a kid get nailed in the gut during batting practice. He was behind about 7-10 grown men with gloves reaching to catch the Batting Practice Home Run and all of them missed it and the poor kid probably thought he'd be safe behind them and wasn't. He got the ball and held his gut trying everything he could do to keep from crying. I took this as a good time to walk away in case I couldn't hold back my laughs and went to the concessions to try the authentic Oaxacan chapulines (chili-lime seasoned fried grasshoppers). The grasshoppers weren't exactly delicious, but it was a new experience. They tasted like a bit sunflower seed, if you ate the shell and seed, a bit too salty for my tastes.
I found my favorite spot right by the bullpen, setting my beer down on the counter I would watch the pitchers warm up for the game. I made conversation with other fans nearby who were also from out of town, talking about our favorite ballparks and about our favorite teams. Before the game started it began to softly sprinkle, looking up I started seeing the roof close. A fun fact about the roof, it doesn't seal the ballpark, it works like an umbrella so even with the roof closed, the ball still plays like an open air stadium. The game itself wasn't memorable, nothing to write home about, but it was pouring at the conclusion of the game so I uber'd home and slept like a old man at 32.
I woke up on my first full day ready and refreshed to take on the Emerald City. The kink in my neck had subsided thanks to actually lying down and sleeping on a bed. I started the morning like I would most days on this trip, filling my insulated water bottle with water & ice, drinking an adequate coffee from the in room Keurig. I grabbed my stuff and I was out the door and ready for adventure.
Walking the streets of downtown Seattle, outside of the misting of rain in late May it reminded me a lot of San Francisco. It didn't help that I was wearing Levis, a North Face jacket, a Timbuk2 backpack and looked like the rest of the city commuting to work. Except I wasn't going to work, I was going to Pike Place Market. I visited the night before seeing the spot during it's closed hours hoping that I could find a spot to eat late on memorial day. What I found during the daylight hours was amazing. From the flying seafood to the local wares, Pike Place was vibrant and exciting. The building itself comprised of 3-4 levels almost like a maze filled with more shops and stores than I can imagine. I found myself wandering for hours unsure if I already took the route or not and didn't mind at all. Outside of the lower levels, I found the iconic first Starbucks (and the huge line it garnered), skipping that I got a soda and a pastry at Piroshky Piroshky and decided it was time to explore a new section.
Leaving Pike Place Market I started my way to The Space Needle. Opting to see more of the city and explore more, I decided to walk the 1.1 mile through downtown. I arrived and used the ticket booth to buy a ticket up and added admission to the Chihuly Glass Museum (we love add-ons and bundles!). The trip up to the top was fast and I almost wish it would keep going, Nothing beats the feel of my ears popping again and again and feeling pushed into the ground beneath my feet. I hate to say it, but the Elevator was the best part of the Space Needle. The view is pretty, lush forests, Mountains and the inlet of the Pacific Ocean is beautiful, but there's only so much of nature I can handle before I get bored. After the trip down the elevator to ground level I ventured to the Chihuly Garden & Glass museum. Knowing nothing about Chihuly or even mouth blown glass, I was (literally) blown away at the shapes and beauty of the glass inside. After leaving, I explored a bit more of the Seattle Central area before heading back to my Hotel for a needed nap on the Monorail.
I ended the day with the lovely meal at Chan, a Korean gastropub. Sitting at the bar I was able to chat with the bartender and watch them finish prepare food and drinks, talk about a way to build an appetite. I ordered off the happy hour menu, getting the Beef Bulgogi sliders, Ahi Tuna Poke and Chicken Wings that rivaled San Tung, all washed down with a Old Fashioned. It was during this meal that I realized 2 things, there was a lot of Pearl Jam on the playlist and every Band of Horses song sounds the same. I had no trouble falling asleep on the last of my in 31st year.
"Kathy, I'm lost," I said, though I knew she was sleeping
I'm empty and aching and I don't know why - Simon & Garfunkel
On May 28th 2017 I boarded an Amtrak train at 9:40pm at Oakland Jack London Square to begin a 23-hour journey to the Emerald city. I decided to book a coach seat on the Coast Starlight Train with hopes that the long journey and scenic views would provide me with peace and relaxation. I had read and been told that it's a journey that "everyone should ride at least once in their life".
The trip was beautiful, from looking out over the dark waters just seeing the reflections of lights, to coastlines and trees that would never end. I was able to bask in nature’s beauty and soak it up between chapters of Smart Baseball on my Kindle. Somewhere in Oregon I took to the dining car and enjoyed a meal with 2 friends traveling to visit another friend and a traveler going up to Canada and then back home to New Zealand.
In Portland we were told of a landslide that forced the tracks to be closed off and we were to finish the trip via bus. While I was not looking forward to finishing by bus, the journey shaved off 2 hours on the trip and the faster I'd be in Seattle, the fast I'd have access to lay down and sleep. I had a kink in my neck from attempting to sleep in the upright coach seats on the train. Another blessing was the WiFi on the bus was strong enough to stream Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals (The train had no WiFi in coach and cell signal was rarely strong).
After getting my bag at King St Station I made a decision to explore the city by walking and finding my hotel, instead of taking an Uber. I booked a room the size of my closet with credit card points across the street from the beautifully modern Central Library and went on a mission to find food. Finding food proved to be harder than I expected, being that it was Memorial Day. Interestingly enough the one spot I found open was the Sports Bar in my Hotel, The Lodge. Picking off the Pac-12 inspired burger menu, I ordered the Wildcat Spicy Chicken sandwich and a Racer 5 (The Cal burger was a veggie burger). With my belly full and tired from a long journey I retreated back to the room and passed out without the help of Game of Drones.
I made it to Seattle