Monday July 21
With another early start, but not too early, we had plenty of time to drive around Eugene and check out Oregon’s football stadium and campus.
We spent at least a half hour walking around Autzen Stadium, and checking out the neighboring soccer and baseball facilities. It wasn’t unlike Penn State’s complex, in fact, all of the stadiums may have been in closer proximity to one another than here in State College.
Autzen Stadium is not a towering, imposing structure like Beaver Stadium. in fact, a good portion of the seats are below ground level. From where I could peer into the stadium(there was a gate holding us back unlike another stadium I’ll get to later) I was pretty much at the upper level of the facility which was pretty cool. I’ve heard it’s a pretty intimidating place to place and I would love to return one day on an actual gameday.
I would’ve loved to have walked this trial across from the stadium to see where it went. I’m guessing it went into town.
We only drove around Eugene and the campus briefly, so I can’t really give an apt description, but the campus seemed more compact than Penn State’s. In fact, the town and campus seemed to mesh. There wasn’t one noticeable divide between the two, although I would certainly need more time in town to discern that.
With plans to attend the Mariners game that night, we got back on I-5 and made our way north, stopping only for the requisite bathroom breaks.
Along the drive north we saw a breathtaking mountaintops which I still haven’t identified. But it was before we drove through Portland, so it definitely wasn’t Mt. Rainier. And it was hard to get a picture since we were moving and in the far left lane, meaning other cars, or trees buildings and other objects would get in the way.
Along the drive north we whizzed by Portland, which was a pretty attractive city in the thiry seconds I had to catch a glimpse. The city seemed to be broken up into different sections as a river serves as a natural partition. I think I was able to catch a glimpse of the Trail Blazers arena, but I wasn’t sure. I’ve heard good things about Portland, so I’ll be sure to stop there on my next visit to the Northwest.
Soon enough we crossed into Washington, and it was easy to tell in case you missed the gigantic sign that said “Welcome to Washington.” On the freeway, the green showing the exit number and town have a vague distinction; the numbers are surrounded by a silhouette of George Washington. A small, but quirky thing I’ll remember about the trip.
After passing Tacoma, a fairly impressive city in it’s own right, we finally cast our eyes on Seattle and arrived in the city shortly after 3, about 4 hours before first pitch of the Mariners game.
We arrived in the Pioneer Square section of town where our Best Western hotel was located and it was a gorgeous day. I distinctly remember how bright and sunny it was when we got out of the car and how it wasn’t too warm. Pioneer Square was originally the first neighborhood in Seattle and you could tell the hotel and surrounding buildings had all be remolded to keep some of the original feel of the neighborhood with the styles of the buildings.
Our hotel room may have been the biggest of the three hotels we stayed in on the trip, with enough sleeping room for everyone. While I was excited to explore Seattle and I had only glimpsed a few blocks so far, I was pretty tired so, I just rested until it was time to go to the Mariners game.
Close to 5:30 we headed towards the stadium and while the neighborhood seemed nice and trendy, one open area we walked through had an eye-opening amount of homeless. It wasn’t the best impression for the city to give off, but I guess every major market has a vagrancy problem. It just seemed much more noticeable in the northwest, between the hitchhikers, homeless and hippies.
It was about a 10 minute walk to the stadiums- Safeco neighbors the Seahawks’ Century Link Field- and along the way there was an abundance of shops and street vendors in tents selling food.
We walked to the window, bought tickets then explored the Seahawks stadium since we had a few minutes to kill.
After exploring the Clink, as the locals call it, we made our way into Safeco, where I first had to frustratingly dump the $1 bottle of water I had just purchased. There needs to be a uniform policy across MLB where either you can bring in unopened drinks in plastic bottles or you can’t. It’s that simple. I say that, because we brought drinks in to the Phillies game when we went to the game in June.
Like with Oakland, I’ll break down the stadium more in depth when I write about it on the baseball page, but needless to say, Safeco was enjoyable.
Tuesday July 22
With an entire day ahead of us to examine the tour Seattle, we woke up later, ate breakfast and leisurely made our way out into the town. It was damp and cool, with drizzle falling. The town was also pretty quiet this early in the morning (it was around 9-9:30). As we walked down the street towards Pike Place Market, which was only several blocks away, we noticed scores of people who were commuting by ferry to get to work in the city. I found that an interesting way to get to work.
We made our way to the market, by taking an elevator and walking through a short hallway. Pike Place Market is pretty much a combination of a farmer’s market and Reading Terminal Market. It’s a mix between indoor and outdoor shops and while there was plenty to see, (nothing worth buying unless you want to spend over $300 on a King Salmon.) The main two attractions I would say are the original Starbucks and the fish shop where the employees throw the fish or clams, or whatever a customer orders. I’ll try to get a video in here eventually.
Next it was on to the Space Needle, which we took a monorail to. It would’ve been a fairly long walk to that part of town, but the monorail ride was only a few minutes long and had just two stops. Regardless it was a neat mode of transportation.
Unbeknownst to me, the Space Needle was located in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood, where Key Arena, home of the now-defunct Seattle Supersonics was located. For some reason, I’ve always empathized with Seattle losing its NBA team, and I regularly read articles about the city looking to bring the city back. So it was cool to go check out Key Arena and pay respect if you will to the home of the Sonics.
After checking out the arena and getting food, we made out way to the top of the Space Needle. I honestly, didn’t expect to be up there very long, but we must have stayed up there for an hour. The views, despite the cloudy day, were mesmerizing and we could look out in all directions to get a great feel for the region. Unfortunately the cloudy skies blocked our view of Mt. Rainier, but eh, we had already seen it from a distance. Next time I return to Seattle, I’ll definitely have to try to restaurant in the Space Needle. A bit out of our price range this time.
Our big mistake was heading over there during rush hour. Turns out Seattle has major traffic issues too. Bumper to bumper traffic. plus navigating tight roads in a university setting, was stressful, but we managed to escape the traffic and go check out the Huskies’ stadium.
As it turned out, we got a much better view of the Huskies stadium than we did at Oregon. And by that I mean, we actually walked onto the damn field!
I couldn’t believe there was no security of fences there to keep us out. I kept expecting someone to come over and shoo us away by no one ever showed up, except for a couple of football players. Finally after about ten minutes, we walked back to the empty parking lot, which I was sure we were allowed to be in, and hit the road back to downtown. One problem: Obama was in town.
I forget when the president was around, but because he was, I-5 was shutdown both getting into and out of the city. Somehow we managed to navigate a back route into the city so we wouldn’t have been stuck on the highway for another hour or longer. While visiting UW was cool, I would certainly make a point to go back and check it out further, hopefully when traffic is less hectic.
Anyway we escaped back to the city but were pretty far from the hotel My Uncle Bill let us out to go find a restaurant while he went and parked. But before we did, we came across the “Gum Wall” that we had seen while walking through the market that morning. It’s nothing spectacular, but certainly something that makes Seattle a little different I suppose.
With it being our last night in the northwest, we really wanted some authentic seafood, so we chose between a myriad of establishments before settling on Ivar’s. It seems like a popular northwest establishment with restaurant’s all over the area, including Safeco Field. I ended up settling for a sampler dish of several differnt types fresh salmon.
Following dinner, I made my way back to the gift shop to grab a Sonics shirt, before nabbing an ice cream sundae from the desert shop next to Ivar’s. I don’t think there’s a better finish to a vacation than a bowl of ice cream.
Wednesday July 23
It wouldn’t have been a proper visit to the Pacific Northwest without rainy weather, and that’s what we had as we drove to SeaTac. We were fortunate to have favorable weather throughout the entire trip, and it was good to get a taste of common weather in the region, in the minuscule chance I ever move to Seattle.
SeaTac was absolutely packed, which is no surprise considering there aren’t many other major airport options in that part of the country. Still, the lines moved fairly quickly, both bag check and security. There was nowhere to sit, however when it came to the gate, so I spent time munching on Sbarro.
The plane we were supposed to get on to Nashville was delayed by a good half hour, but there was no announcement ever made. It would’ve been helpful, especially to hundred or so people who were standing all that time to board. In any event, the plane arrived and departed slightly behind schedule and there was no problem with the weather.
We landed in Nashville ahead of time, but as soon as we landed, my uncle received a call from Southwest telling us that our next flight to Philly was behind schedule. So that pretty much canceled out the early arrival, leaving us two plus hours to get cozy in the Nashville Airport.
Frustrated with the wait and possibly overanxious about getting home late, then getting up early to drive to State College(I really should’ve just taken the day off) I ended up eating Quizno’s by myself, while my dad, brother and uncle ate burgers and nachos at an airport restaurant. The last few hours of travel had frustrated me and I just wanted to be left alone.
Then there was more airport confusion, this time it came down to what gate our flight was going to be at. Our gate had been switched, and there was no announcement, we had to doublecheck the boards.
Anyway, while hanging back waiting for my brother and dad who were in the bathroom, my uncle walked ahead to start getting in line to board.
Minutes later I receive a hurried call from him nervously telling us that the plane was in its final boarding call?! After initially expecting to be one of the first ones on the plane, we were almost the last, aside from some confused businessmen who came on after us and also clearly didn’t know the plane was boarding.
Thankfully, we made the plane just in time and the flight wasn’t crowded so we had enough space to sit comfortably and relax on the way home. I never really slept on the flight, but i was able to relax. That is until I decided to lift up the screen to the window and look outside. There I saw one brilliant lightning strike after another as we descended into Philly. Seeing all that lightning made for a few uncomfortable moments as we prepared to land.
Picking up luggage, was not a problem, probably because we were one of, if not the last flight into the airport at that time. My mom was there to whisk us back to Langhorne, where we arrived shortly before 1 a.m., which wasn’t too bad all things considered.
23 down 7 to go. Our decade plus baseball stadium odyssey is almost over. While these stadiums may not be the best I’ve seen (they were both very good) this may have been the best, and most engrossing trip.
I can’t wait to return to this part of the country, and I can’t wait to visit another unexplored part of the US next summer.