New News is Good News – Update on Portland and Seattle

I was quick to judge Portland. Flying in a weekday morning, trudging about town with my luggage on a grey, wet day…. It was unfair of me to assume that that was Portland at its peak. First of all, my host in Portland was above and beyond generous and friendly. I was remiss to skip over that detail. Once the sun came out and the weekend came around, I was introduced to a whole other side of things. There were people and smiles and not everyone was a drug zombie! People were being tourists and performers, and walking around was very pleasant!

That weekend, I was invited to travel with a girl who contacted me out of the blue to go to a music festival on a farm in the middle of Nowhereville. Without hesitation, I accepted! Boy, that was a good decision. My host, Kelsey was right on my wavelength. As a vegan herself, she knew where the good eats were! She took me for some modern Indian fusion food (is that a thing?) at a place called The Sudra where I ordered jackfruit vindaloo and a samosa! This nicely portioned collection of sides was really well priced, really good, and made my tummy happy!

Tummies full, we continued up and up and up into the forest territory. Kelsey and I talked and clicked pretty much the entire trip, something that is very rare for me. I felt right at home with her and she seemed very happy with me. As a more experienced camper, she had stocked her car with every hammock, tent, sweater, and delicious/healthy snack a person could want. I think I would have died in that forest without her! Though, the farm at which we arrived, Turning Earth Farm was as friendly and pleasant as can be! We spent 2.5 day camping, dancing, listening to music, playing with fire, and hugging various farm animals. Honestly, that is all I ever want from life.

There wasn’t any opportunity to be bored at this event, either, which is surprising! Drum circles, folks on all sorts of wavy gravy drugs, checking out the music and the creek and the artists… it was truly a thrill a minute. In the evening, it got chilly, but there was a tremendous fire and the kids sat around making s’mores. I’ve never made a s’more, but the kids had a blast! Their mother would tell them to only eat three, but I assured them I wouldn’t say a word if they stuck an extra one or two in their mouths.

The stars were outrageous, which always gets me. You just don’t get that kind of starry, starry night in Manhattan, now, do you? Which meant lots of tripping and stepping on pokey stuff due to the darkness, but it was a perfectly fine trade-off in my book! Some of the guests also were living there as a work trade situation, some for months at a time. The two owners of the farm are young, really laid-back folks who just create beautiful things, farm, and take it easy. Everything about the place was as pleasant as can be!

My last two days were then spent with a lovely guy named Henry in another trendy part of the city that seemed quite suburban, but was a quick drive away from an area full of bars and restaurants and all sorts of trendy people and things. Henry was the sweetest human being and we also bonded quite well. In case you don’t know, I use Couchsurfing for my host-finding needs, by the way. If you’re smart about it, it’s very safe and can lead to wonderful adventures!

Unfortunately, however, the next day I had booked a bus to Seattle. This was exciting, but it was also before I knew how lovely Portland could be, which means I did not get to see and do and hang out as much as I would have liked. But I did have a nice cup o’ tea before heading off! Thank you for your patience with me, Portland, I am sorry I judged you so quickly.

Then the day came for my bus ride to Seattle, huzzah! I heard it was busier and more focused on IT than Oregon, but I did not know what to expect. Enter Pike Market, Space Needle, and more good people. Though, in this case, I stayed with friends that I met on the internets. Without having to buy a lot, I was able to see the outside portion of various tourist traps, enjoy the market, and live the simple and slow life.

As quick-paced as it was for the West Coast folks, things were still a touch slow-motion for this New York chick! The market was really nice, though! Particularly nice at the end of the day on a weekday. The market closes at 6, so I was wandering around at 5.30 PM. Coming across a bakery with vegan options, the cashier informed me that I could purchase two muffins for $5 (normally, $5.50 a piece). However, when I mentioned that they only had one vegan muffin left, she said that they’ll just throw it out, so I can have it for $2. It would have been amazing if she had given it to me for free, but I was hungry and craving a cheap muffin at that point, so I went for the banana chocolate chip muffin from Cinnamon Works. It was big and delicious and didn’t taste like it was sitting in the glass counter all day. Yum!

Staying with a friend near the University of Washington campus, I got a wonderful mix of nature, bike path, and then walking down to the more busy area with lots of funky shops, as well as easy access to all the buses and light rail! The ticketing system is a little odd, beware. I had an “Orca Card”, but you have to tap it on the way in and the way out, so they have security walking through the trains, occasionally checking to be sure you tapped. I only “forgot” to tap a few times, I promise! It’s a very straight-forward path, though; one train, about 10 stops, and you get to the main, busy areas, everything is walking distance from there.

My friend and I were able to get to concerts in Ballard and a vegan pizza place and various other fun adventures, including the Gay Pride Parade on Capitol Hill – a funky and gay-friendly area with more shops, bars, and restaurants. There was also a steam punk distillery and Theo’s chocolate shop with lots of free chocolate samples, many of which were 70% cacao and dairy-free. WIN!

We saw the troll under the bridge, the gum wall, and explored Sculpture Park. All free and randomly enjoyable activities! Yeah, the gum wall is exactly what it sounds like. At least a block underneath the Pike Market where the walls are just covered in… you guessed it- GUM! Chewed gum, at that!

Yesterday included camping in a national park near Mt. Rainier. That was beautiful and peaceful. Another Couchsurfing host/driver/friend drove the 1.5 hours with me, a dog, and a map, and we just found a wonderful spot, explored a bit, and enjoyed nature. Don’t get to say that often in Manhattan! We also did some yoga which really added to the experience. Not *real* yoga, because that’s awful, but just the deep thinking and breathing sort. We last about 6 minutes and then continued splashing and sunbathing with Pinky the dog.

I still have a week left of my trip and, while I am sure the thrill will slow down (or not!), I still expect to get visits from more friends and see and do more. After all, I could go to the same place repeatedly and still find new things or hear new stories. It’s endless joy and pleasure if your attitude is in the right state, and this state happens to be Washington!

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