Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Road Trip: Redwood Forest

Woke up in our beach front room to the sound of the waves and the gulls. For some reason, we have been waking up at 5 am ever since we returned from our time in Michigan a few weeks ago. The nice thing about getting up early is you get a lot done before most people have rolled out of the rack!

Claire went out and did a power walk, while I cleaned up some eMail and did a blog post. Then we strolled on the magnificent beach. The Oregon coast looks like something from a sci-fi movie or a video game. The giant rocks that jut from the sand and the water provide unique views from every angle.

A dozen sea lions were warming themselves in the morning sun, and we had to be careful not to step on the random starfish that had washed up on the beach.

From Bandon, we continued south on 101 enjoying our last views of the Oregon coastline. We stopped for lunch in Eureka, California, and then entered the redwood forest. Although we have gotten somewhat used to big trees living in Washington state these past three years, we were still stunned by the groves of magnificent redwoods! Claire has fond memories from her childhood of seeing a car drive through a hole cut in a giant, living redwood tree. Apparently there are three such trees in the world, and we had to take the turn off’s to see at least two of them. Disclaimer: unless you are driving a very small car, you would be best advised NOT to drive through. I wasn’t even temped to try and get our pickup truck through the hole.

Claire did her online research along the way, and found us a B&B on the coast to stay the night. We pulled into the Howard Creek Ranch around dinnertime. I am not really sure how to describe the “ranch.” It is a cross between a homeless encampment and a hippy commune (but in a good way.) “Quirky” is the word Claire chose to describe it.

Claire booked “the beach house” which turned out to be the sturdiest building on the site. The other buildings included an old farmhouse and a barn that had been converted to the proprietor’s residence, guest rooms, and a bit of a museum. I am guessing most everything at the ranch has been scavenged over the past 40 years, and the owners have lovingly used what they could find to construct the compound. Once we settled into the beach house, we poured ourselves some drinks and laughed ourselves silly. However, the real laughing began when Claire started to read the entries in the guest journals of the beach house. Apparently the ranch attracts an “artsy” clientele who feel the need to express themselves (sometimes with poetry) as they recorded their life stories for future generations of guests. I honestly don’t know that I have ever seen Claire laugh so much!

Anyway, the place was a great part of our adventure, and we got a good night’s sleep before hitting the road for another day.

Yea! We are retired!

Anyone need any driftwood?

The blow hole …

Sea lion beach

Stars on the water …

Wha?

Cute!

Drive-thru tree #1 of 3

Can’t drive thru this one!

Roosevelt Elk

The might redwood

Mighty Claire holding up the might redwood

Drive-thru tree #2 of 3 (in the world)

The “beach house”

Historic Inn or dilapidated barn … You be the judge.

Home for the night.

Historic Inn from another angle.

Precious antiques or old junk … You be the judge.

How YOU doin’?

Gorgeous coast …

Glad we had this stove because the “beach house” had no heat, and it got down right chilly in the morning.

The bed was clean and comfy though …

Guest are provided with boots in case the want to ford the stream …

Categories: Miscellaneous | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Road Trip! Day #1

Since we have lived in the Seattle area, we have only once driven out to the coast. People who visit Seattle often mistakenly believe that the Puget Sound is the ocean when in reality Seattle is over 50 miles from the coast. Over two years ago we rode the Harley out to the beach town of Westport.  The beach was a bit of a disappointment, but then again coming from Michigan most of the places were the water meets the sea are lacking in comparison.

But numerous people have told us that the coastal drive from Seattle down to Northern California is spectacular.  It just so happens that Alex’s PhD graduation ceremony is scheduled at CalTech for next weekend, so it provided the perfect opportunity to take a road trip!

Day #1 we headed south to Portland, and then cut to the southwest to pickup highway 101.  The bumper-to-bumper traffic getting out of Portland was a pain, but eventually we broke free from the crowds. We stopped at a little dive called Maxwell’s at the Coast in Lincoln City.  From there we followed the winding road along the coast.  There is literally a scenic stop every quarter mile!

We stopped often and shot pictures.  The wind was howling.  The views were spectacular.  It’s a bit of a challenge to drive 101 along the coast because the views demand our attention while the slithering road along the top of the cliff also demands you keep your eyes on the road.

By dinnertime we made it to Bandon, Oregon.  Claire found us a cool little place to stay right on the beach called Sunset Motel.  After we settled in we walked across the street to Lord Bennett’s for dinner.  The restaurant was clearly built to take advantage of the views.  Food was good, not great, but it was a fine way to end the day on the Oregon coast.  Next stop: The Redwoods of Northern California!

The view from our deck

One of our many stops along Highway 101

Mine … mine …. mine …

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Juanita, meet Lola …

More than half of our “Seattle Bucket List” is a list of restaurants we want to visit before we leave the area.  In the last two evenings we have visited two top establishments.  Wednesday night (after our Seattle bus adventure) we headed to Café Juanita, which is only 6 miles from our home in Kirkland.

Like many of the best restaurants we have ever visited, Café Juanita doesn’t have a lot of curb appeal.  We had an early reservation (5:45) so when we arrived the place was mostly empty.  The interior is clean and contemporary with white table clothes.  Sitting at the table right next to us was a woman just beginning her meal.  She told us she has been eating here every week since the place opened in 2000, and highly recommended we try the lamb.

Grilled octopus with fennel, smoked bone marrow, green sauce and chickpea puree

The wait staff was friendly and helpful.  We started with a couple of appetizers; the “local pheasant egg and white sturgeon caviar with crisp pumpernickel” was outstanding!  The “grilled octopus with fennel, smoked bone marrow, green sauce and chickpea puree” was also unique and tasty.

Oops, we dug in before we got a picture. It was SO good!

I followed our fellow diner’s suggestion and had the lamb while Claire had the “rabbit braised with ameis and chickpea gnocchi, English peas, porcini and house made pancetta.”  Every bite was an experience!

The meal was pricey even by Seattle standards, but it was such thoroughly enjoyable decadent experience, we didn’t mind treating ourselves to an expensive indulgence.  We would certainly rank this meal in the top five we have experienced during our time here in the Seattle area.

The following night, we rode our old friend, the 255, into Seattle to meet friends for dinner at Lola.

 

Tom Douglas is the restaurant King of Seattle with more than a dozen restaurants.  We have eaten at many, but still hadn’t gotten down to Lola, which is a contemporary Greek place. We arrived early and our friends arrived late, so we spent a little time at the bar enjoying happy hour libations.  Claire ordered her traditional mojito, while I had a martini.  Claire’s mojito was perfectly prepared, my martini was a bit weird, maybe because of the feta stuffed olive.  But, it wasn’t so weird that I didn’t drink it down.

Our friends arrived and we spent a couple of hours enjoying conversation and some very good food.  We started with the mezedakia sampler, which included smoked oysters, kopanisti, dolmades, marinated olives, and house made pickles.

For our main course Claire ordered the “whole grilled Idaho trout” and staying with my lamb theme, I had the “mushroom braised lamb shank.”  Both were excellent!

Small footprint, clean and contemporary

With our tummies full, we strolled back to the transit station, and our friend the 255 took us home.  Another successful Seattle Sixty day …

255, take us home …

Categories: Dining - Casual | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Le Pichet “Vive la différence!”

Our original intention for this blog was to share our experiences eating at all the great restaurants in Seattle.  Two years ago we went through all the online review sites and compiled a list of what appeared, by consensus, to be the best places to dine in the Seattle area.  As a matter of fact, we published our “hit list” on one of our very first blog entries.  As we wrap up our final sixty days in the area, we are going to make a concerted effort to get to most, if not all, of the places we have not yet visited.

So, during our bus adventure into the city yesterday, we had lunch at Le Pichet.  This little French joint comes out on most everyone’s lists of top Seattle restaurants.  I have to admit going into this that while I love all kinds of dining experiences; French cuisine is not one of my favorites. My limited experiences have had the following similarities: First of all, French restaurants usually feel a bit “pretentious.”  The attitude that comes across is that they are doing me a favor by feeding me, and I am generally unworthy of their consideration.  Second, I rarely understand the menu, or even the explanation of the menu.  Third, I rarely know what I have ordered until it is served, and even then I am unsure.  Finally, most of what I have tasted seems rather bland.  To each his own!  Vive la différence! It’s all good!

Claire appreciates French cuisine much more than I.  She took French language in school, and thankfully she generally held my hand through the experience.  We ordered from the lunch menu (Le Déjeuner.)  I also ordered a glass of wine so that I would feel less intimidated by the wait staff.  Frankly I can’t tell you what we ordered.  Claire actually did the ordering for us.  What she ordered for herself translated to “Two eggs broiled with ham and gruyère.”  What she ordered for me was essentially a sampler plate of thinly sliced sausages, and liver pate. It was tasty.  Not, “WOW” tasty, but tasty.  Claire seemed to enjoy her eggs and ham, and of course the bread they served was fantastic.  Surprisingly the prices were very reasonable, especially for Seattle.

In no way is this intended as a review of Le Pichet.  It is obviously a wonderful restaurant for those who truly love French food.  I am happy I went there for the experience, plus I get to check one restaurant off our bucket list!  Vive la différence!

An intimate little spot

Claire enjoying her eggs and ham

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Making Peace with the 255

When people ask me about Seattle, I have said “its I nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live here.”  The biggest reason that Seattle has not been my favorite place to live is the population density and traffic.  Seattle is the city with the fourth worst traffic in the nation, and worse yet it is moving up the list faster than any other city.  It is hard to go almost anywhere here without spending part of the trip sitting in traffic.  For example last night we went to dinner at a restaurant in our little town of Kirkland.  The restaurant is on 6.5 miles from our house, and it took over 30 minutes to drive there!

Because there are more people than roads, and because it is difficult to build more roads given the geography, the Seattle area struggles to figure out transit solutions.  The mass transit system is a patchwork of largely disconnected systems.  But, there are more busses on the road here than any place I have seen in the world.  As a driver, this can be frustrating as there are times when the roads are so clogged with busses, there is no place to drive.

One particular bus that we have been dodging for the past two years is the 255.  The 255 runs from Kirkland (where we live) to downtown Seattle and back.  As we commute back and forth we encounter the dreaded 255 seemingly at every turn.  It cuts us off down town.  It blocks us from leaving our neighborhood.  It gets in front of us on the floating bridge, and just generally slows us down.  I have cursed the 255 more times than Claire would care to count.

Occasionally during our commutes we would joke that “one day we should ride the 255 into the city.”  Well, we never got around to riding the 255 until yesterday.  After doing our online research on riding the bus, we walked about a half-mile from our house to the bus stop.  Within 10 minutes we were in the belly of the beast as we boarded the dreaded 255.

Turns out it was a pleasant way to get into the city!  Even with half a dozen stops, it only took 30 minutes to get downtown.  And, we learned there is a whole underground transit system under Seattle.  The busses and the light rails share the infrastructure and it appears to be a relatively efficient system.  We got off at the last stop, which is the International District downtown.

We have never visited this district before, so strolled around seeing what there is to see.  If you have been to “China Town” or “Little Italy” in other cities, you would find this area is Seattle pretty disappointing.  Not much here other than small shops and restaurants catering to the large and diverse Asian community here.

From there we wondered through the Pioneer Square district, which we have visited many times and ended up in our favorite area of Seattle, the Pike Place Market.  We love the market even though it is crazy crowded with tourists most days, especially during the summer.

After strolling the market and having lunch at Le Pichet (a French restaurant we have always wanted to try,) we headed back to the underground bus depot.  The ride back to Kirkland was quick since we got out of the city before the rush hour.  We feel good that we made peace with the 255 before leaving Seattle, and will probably ride the bus a few more times while we are here.

Lunch at Le Pichet

Harley Guitar Art

Everyone else on the bus glued to their smart phones

Happy Bus Riders

The International District

Waiting for the 255

Underground Transit

Balloon Man

Throw that Fish!

Love the Market!

Categories: Miscellaneous | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

During our last two months here in Seattle, we are trying to do a number of things we never got around to doing while we were working.  However, we also have work to do to prepare for our move back to Michigan.  So, not every day can we spend all day being tourists in our own city.  Yesterday, we spent the morning doing “chores” and then made our very first purchase from Craig’s List.

Moving across the country is an expensive proposition (think tens of thousands of dollars) and we have done it a number of times.  One of the things that can get expensive is all the boxes you need.  Our consultant from the moving company suggested we look on Craig’s List for boxes.  Claire did.   We drove less than a half hour from our house and loaded up the pickup with boxes, bubble wrap, Styrofoam peanuts, and other packing materials.  $65 in cash and the transaction was complete!

The final resting place of Bruce Lee and his son Brandon.

The final resting place of Bruce Lee and his son Brandon.

In the afternoon, we made the pilgrimage to the gravesite of Bruce and Brandon Lee.  My son and I were huge Bruce Lee fans, and I suspect the influence of people like Bruce Lee is the reason my son went on to get in karate black belt.  The Lake View Cemetery is a spectacularly beautiful place.  The trees and shrubs rival a botanical garden, and the ornate headstones are works of art.

The Lee gravesites are simple and beautiful, and we are glad we took the time to pay our respects before leaving Seattle.

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Roslyn: The Real Northern Exposure

Remember the 90’s TV show, Northern Exposure?  Young Jewish doctor fresh out of med school sent to a small town in Alaska for two years of service, quirky locals including a potential love interest for the young doctor; I loved that show! Even though the show was set in Cicely, Alaska, the town was actually shot in Roslyn, Washington.

On our first “official” day of retirement, we fired up the Harley and rode over the Cascades to visit Roslyn.  We are having an atypically great weather week here in Seattle.  Sunny with temperatures in the 70’s is pretty unusual for June so we are taking maximum advantage of it as we ease into retirement.

Roslyn is about 90 miles from Seattle.  Heading east on I-90, we rode over the still chilly Snoqualmie pass.  The further you get away from Seattle, the less weird the traffic patterns are.  By the time you get to the other side of the Cascades, people drive down right normal!  The weather is always different on the other side of the mountain.  Temperatures were in the 80’s as we rolled into the sleepy little town of Roslyn.  If you remember the opening sequence of the TV show, you have pretty much seen all of Roslyn.

We parked the bike in front of the Roslyn History Museum where we were immediately engaged by one of the local residents.  An older gentlemen (I wish I would have gotten his name) complimented us on the bike and invited us into the museum.  The “museum” is actually a small storefront filled with antiques, old photographs, old mining gear, and odds-and-ends from times gone by.

Now, I am still getting used to this retirement thing.  I generally have a difficult time strolling, chit-chatting, lingering, etc; think Chevy Chase viewing the Grand Canyon in the Vacation movie.  But I did my best to S-L-O-W down as this gentleman, who is a life long resident of Roslyn told us stories of his family, stories of World War II, and stories of the mining history of the town.

After our time in the museum, we strolled the town, visited The Brick, the bar where much of the Northern Exposure plots unfolded, and finally had lunch at the Roslyn Café.  Claire had a cob salad that included a breaded and deep-fried hard-boiled egg.  I had the turkey club sandwich, which was much more than I could eat.

With temperatures in the mid eighties, we stowed the leathers and enjoyed the sunny ride back over the pass.  All-in-all it was a great first day of retirement!

The Brick

The Brick

Lunch at the Roslyn Cafe

Downtown Roslyn

Randy replaces the Moose

Randy replaces the Moose

Opening scene of Northern Exposure

Opening scene of Northern Exposure

Categories: Adult Beverages, Dining - Casual, Miscellaneous | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Day #1 of the Seattle Sixty: Play Ball!

One of the things I have enjoyed most about living in Seattle is seeing ballgames at Safeco Field.  There is nothing better that a “dog and a beer” on a sunny day at the ballpark.  We have probably seen more than a dozen games during our two years here.  Of course when our Detroit Tigers come to town we try and see every game of the series.

When the games have been on weekdays, we often walk the mile and half from our office to the ballpark.  On a warm day, it is great to stroll down 1st avenue, stopping for the occasional adult beverage on the way.  Often we would end of at Jimmy’s on First which is a nice upscale bar/restaurant right across from the ballpark.  Claire loved the calamari there, which was served as “logs” of breaded and deep fried squid.

This year we had a going away party with our exec team and had access to a suite for game one of the series.  We missed game two.  But yesterday, on day #1 of our Seattle Sixty, we saw game #3.  We had pretty good seats about half way up on the 1st base line.  The only downside was we were in the shade.  Even though it was a sunny-mid 70’s day, it was a bit chilly in the shade.  But you have nothing to complain about with you are at the ballpark on a sunny Sunday afternoon, watching your hometown team, having a dog and a beer, and enjoying the day.

While Claire has not historically been a sports fan, she does enjoy (or at least pretends to enjoy) a day at the ballpark with me.  I enjoy explaining some of the nuances of the game, and baseball has the perfect pace for casual conversation.

Yesterday was no exception, and we had a relaxing afternoon (once we got parked) enjoying the day.  It was a perfect way to start our Seattle Sixty!

P1010288 IMG_3837 IMG_3841 IMG_3838

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The Seattle Sixty

We admit it; we suck as bloggers… Two years ago when we moved to Seattle we created a blog to share our experiences in “dining and what-not.”  We saw our time living and working in downtown Seattle as a great adventure we wanted to share with our friends and family.  We started with great enthusiasm, and almost immediately we lost steam (see our blog post “If our blog were a goldfish, it would have died.”)  While we were going, doing, and seeing, it became “work” to sit down and write about it.  But, with renewed commitment we re-launched the blog and that lasted for another couple of months.

As I sit and write this post today, we have not made a post to the blog in 15 months.  As I said, we suck as bloggers.  But alas, it is a whole new ballgame!  We just retired from our corporate jobs here in Seattle!  An now we have a new opportunity which I am calling “the Seattle 60.”  We have 60 days here in Seattle before we move back to the Midwest; 60 days with no jobs and no responsibilities; 60 days to do all the things we have always wanted to do here in the Pacific Northwest.

Our Seattle Bucket List

Our Seattle Bucket List

Speaking of new ballgame, today is day #1 of the 60 and we are heading to Safeco Field to see our Detroit Tigers play the Seattle Mariners. Watch this space for REGULAR posts as we share our last 60 days in Seattle (we really mean it this time.)

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