Riding The Ducks Through Seattle

I understand there is still morning of loss after a year three years ago a terrible crash involving a Ride the Ducks vehicle resulted in serious injuries and a few lost their lives when one crashed into the side of a tour bus on the Aurora Bridge. I respect those who remember this terrible tragedy, and in no way being insensitive by riding this vehicle. I was in the area when the crashed happened and remember those who put their lives in danger to help those injured. Below is an account of riding the ducks after major changes to how the tour operates and the route. All I asks dear reader is to not post any mean-spirited comments below. Thank you, and continue prayers for those who were affected by this tragedy.

I will admit it has been a while since I have been down town at the Seattle Center. I was a little nervous in not being able to find a parking spot, but alas there was a grange not even full! *cue happy dance music* I believe this made my day more than riding the ducks.

We started the tour on the Duck when the sun was out and ended with the sun starting to go behind the clouds. Thank goodness the rain was kept at bay for the whole ride. I had a wonderful time riding around down town Seattle and cruising Lake Union in a strange vehicle.

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About to ride the duck

The tour started from Seattle Center, down to the waterfront to drive under the US most dangerous elevated highway (Viaduct), past Pike Place Market, Pioneer Square, shopping district, Westlake, Fremont, boat around in Lake Union, and then back to Seattle Center. All this while partying like a bachelorette party minus the inappropriate behavior and dancers.

In downtown Seattle we cruised through the old and new parts of town, with silly music blaring. Random people on the streets did play along with our crazy antics. One guy even started dancing to the music on the street corner to the embarrassment of his girlfriend. Another decided to engage us all in a sign that told us to smile more. In SLU it was hard to get the “Blue Badges” of Amazon people to look up from their phones at the stop light. Oh well! I guess we all cannot be fun all the time.

While aboard I saw a condense version of the sights in Seattle and listening to the tour guide tell funny jokes and stories about the history of the city. Being from the area I enjoyed seeing how the locals reacted to the crazy tourists on a boat with wheels. As I said above, the whole thing can be down right comical.

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Two ducks taking a selfie

Cruising Lake Union in the Duck was by far the best part. One minute you are driving on the pavement, and then next you are floating on the water without sinking. I have never been boating on Lake Union, so this was what I was looking forward to. Sights seen on the lake were the original Sleepless In Seattle house boat which when seen looks just like an ordinary house boat, Gas Works Park and the Seattle skyline from South Lake Union,  from the comfort of a steel military boa

Since taking a spin on the Ducks I will be more willing to go along with the crazy when a Duck pulls up at a light. After all it makes the day go a lot smoother when you can have some fun. After the ride Nana and I went to the Center House to have lunch and then up to Kerry Park for some Space Needle ogling.

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The Fremont Troll Love’s Chocolate

The Fremont Troll loves’ chocolate. Apparently if you give him a Theo chocolate bar (dark chocolate one) he will let you pass over the bridge and not crush your Volkswagen Beetle.

I met the troll at last on a hot sunny day in Fremont. But before I adventure up the hill to see him I went for a tour of Theo’s Chocolate Factory for some much needed chocolate (and a bar for the troll).

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Theo Chocolates was the first stop in my adventure in Fremont. The tour is around an hour long explaining how cocoa beans are grown to the making of the chocolate bar. Since Theo is a fair trade company in the chocolate industry, part of the tour is talking about how the chocolate industry is run. The eye opening part was how in some places where cocoa beans are grown the industry mirrors the blood diamonds of the diamond mines in Africa. Sad truth, but at least there are companies out there giving a fair wage to the farmers of cocoa plants.

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Our tour guide was very passionate about chocolate and even worked on a cocoa tree farm in South America. While listening to the talk, I sampled an array of chocolate samples (Dark 85% chocolates, 70% dark with sea salt, Milk chocolate, and 70% dark raspberry) and found I do not like 85% dark chocolate. Still taste very bitter to me no matter how long I let the piece sit on my tongue.

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View of the factory and how the process of refining the cocoa beans to liquid gold (chocolate) started in an air-conditioned viewing room of the production floor. From here you can see how the raw cocoa beans are roasted like coffee beans and then processed into liquid chocolate. We did get to go on to the processing floor in sweltering heat registering little over 100° F. Dear goodness it was hard to breath at first, and then you realize how amazing the body can adapt to breathing in hot chocolate flavored air. Next was a tour in the kitchen where the chocolate ganache and other delicacy like chocolate marshmallows are made. If I worked at Theo this would be my job. We could not see where they wrap the chocolates because the heat from the production floor coming in the room would cause problems for the bars. Bummer since I wanted to see how this was done. In the store I picked up a few chocolates: dark chocolate coconut, dark chocolate ginger, moon-pie and you guessed it milk chocolate.

After all those chocolate samples, Nana and I decided to take a walk through Fremont to burn off the chocolate (and the calories). We walked over the Fremont Bridge and admired the view of Lake Union and the canal. Have you noticed the towers on the bridge look like London Police Boxes from Dr. Who?  I didn’t until Nana pointed it out to me. While walking back to the car we witness the bridge open for a sail boat. Amazing how graceful this bridge opens and closes at an average of twenty times a day!

Fremont Troll love’s chocolate, and that is what he likes when you visit. I finally after living in Seattle all these years have finally visited the troll. This 18 foot tall troll sculpture which has roots in the Norwegian folktale Three Billy Goats Gruff is crushing in one hand a California Volkswagen beetle. Apparently the troll dislikes Californian cars. Getting to the troll was a test of my Seattle driving skills in may ways. I admit I ran over a low level traffic circle (who puts a traffic circle in a middle of a narrow street/intersection?) and parked illegally on the street since the space was big enough to park my “normal” size car (I have no shame really!). At one point I tried and failed to park between two cars because who ever just vacated it was a Smart car instead of a normal size car. But at last I finally met the troll and he let me pass over the Aurora Bridge.

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Fremont, the center of the universe, and the only place where you can buy a $500,000 Stalin statue to display is really a fun neighborhood to explore. If possible, check out Theo Chocolate factory tour while in the neighborhood (I recommend this to anyone who is a huge chocolate fan). This is one quirky neighborhood to explore on a warm sunny day and a place you will never forget.

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Volcano + Roman City = Pompeii Exhibition

Just imagine what would happen if Mt. Rainier ever decided to wake up one day and take out Tacoma. Even to this day after Mt St. Helen’s erupted back in the 1980s, we in Seattle live within the shadow of a four deadly volcanoes in the in the Pacific. This past weekend I visited the Pompeii Exhibition at the Pacific Science Center and looked at all the traveling artifacts from the site.

IMG_1264[1]The morning started off with a Seattle monsoon downpour. By the time I arrived at will call at the Pacific Science Center I was soaked to the bone! Getting to the exhibit was a challenge since I forgot that the Seattle St. Paddy’s Day Dash/Run was going on early that morning ( now looking at how much fun the runners where having, I wished I had signed up for it. Oh well I can always run it next year!). There was not that many people starting at the 10:30am time slot for the exhibit which was great since large crowds make it more difficult to see the displays.

Majority of the exhibit was devoted to how the city of Pompeii and Herculaneum came to be a famous thriving city in the Roman Empire. Most of displays were done up to show how life was like leading up to the mass eruption from Mt. Vesuvius.The exhibit opens into a room with a large marble statue ( the statue I later found out, was naked just like Michelangelo’s David with out the leaf!) and walked you through the daily life of Pompeii.

After the eruption, artifacts were the plaster casts of the bodies they had found when the city was excavated. I was disappointing about this since I was expecting much more from what happen after the disaster, how the city was discovered, and what it took to raise the city from the ashes. The casts on displayed were found together in the same area with a very tragic story like most of the bodies found in Pompeii.

After walking through the gift shop to the other side, there was an exhibit about the volcanoes in the northwest and how their eruptions would impact the locals and the cities in the area. There were maps of where each of the volcanoes are located, and the evacuation routes that would need to be taken in case ever one of them blew. One of the maps was missing. The map where Seattle and the surrounding communities. One man said the possibility into why it was missing is the map was causing people to become very scared so they took it away. I can tell you, if Mt Rainer went, parts of Seattle would be effected, but majority of it would have the massive ash clouds rain down on it. Glacier Peak and Mt Baker are the ones I need to worry about more since those two are closer to home for me.

I guess I will have to travel to Italy to see the real Pompeii and all the real artifacts that come out of the excavation, and get a real sense of what it was like to walk the streets of Roman city. I should see it soon before Mt Vesuvius erupts again.

 

Did It For the Hot Chocolate- First 5K Run

Sweetest race on earth was in Seattle this past weekend, and I rocked it! Ok I rocked my first 5k run and that in itself is an accomplishment for me. Don’t judge. Having a huge mug of hot chocolate and all sorts of editable to dip in chocolate fondue was worth it. Instead of saying “I did it for a Klondike bar,” I more or less would say “I did it for the European hot chocolate.” To top it off, I did this all with two wonderful friends. After all the sore muscles and getting up early was all worth it in the end.

For the past six weeks I have been training for my first 5K race. Running around Eastlake/South Lake Union during lunch got me to where I needed to be able to run the whole thing without walking the whole course. Saturday afternoon before the race a friend and I picked up our racing packets and sampled what would be in our finisher’s mug. We did raided the Larabar stand of all the flavors. They are coming out with a new flavor, and it is a good one too.

Race day started with me getting up at 4:30am on a chilly 37 degrees clear Seattle morning to get ready to rock this race. At 5:30am hopped into the car and drove down to the Seattle Center. The 5K part of the race didn’t start until 6:45am and we all got there just in time to line up at corral E with all the other runners in high spirits.

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Chilly morning with the Space Needle. Photo Credit: Kristina

We started off, and down the street towards Elliot Ave towards Pikes Place Market. As I was traveling down the hill on Broad St, there was a aw inspiring scene of the Puget Sound below and the sun casting a beautiful sight on the Olympic Mountains in the background.Looking around while running the course made a wonderful experience.

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Running down the hill. Photo Credit: Kristina

In the Battery Street Tunnel was the hard part of the race for me. The claustrophobia feeling, the loud noise from all the people running through along with cars passing overhead and the heat from all the bodies in motion made it one part of the run I really wanted to turn on the after burners, but could not. I walked/jogged/run through the part trying to get out of the enclosed space in a short amount of time as possible. The only fuel stop had lemon flavored water and chocolate chips. I will be honest I stuffed majority of the chips in my pocket and kept on running. I think I wanted the lemon water more than chocolate at that point and trying breath and swallow at the same time just wasn’t happening. Having all the spectators, volunteers, and even the Seattle Police cheering you onward was crazy in its self. People you don’t even know are telling you how proud they are of you and you have just one more turn left until the finish line.

I never thought I would ever finish a 5K race, let alone run 3.1 miles. This has been a goal of mine for a while now, and when I crossed the finishing line there was this amazing feeling of OH MY GOODNESS I DID IT!  I finished a 5K, I finished 3.1 miles, and I accomplished this goal! Something three months ago I though was a crazy idea and not possible for me. Complete excitement and one massive runner’s high! I completed this with two amazing friends who also were their first 5Ks too. End result of the race, I ran the 5K in 37.12 minutes at a 12:00 minutes per mile pace. I am very happy with this result!

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We did it!

Since this was the 5K race instead of the 15K, I didn’t get a medal, but I received a finisher’s mug with an overload of chocolate after running 3.1 miles on a chilly day. A banana, hot chocolate, rice crispy treat, marshmallow, cheese crackers, pretzel and dark chocolate fondue to dip all the stuff in. OMGoodness it was the best thing to eat after all that training, and a great breakfast!

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Finisher’s Mug

Going back home we all three were in high spirits about accomplishing the race, and decided to rock out in the car in downtown Seattle traffic. To onlookers it must have been quit a show, but to us it was letting loose and celebrating to old school music (circa. late 90s early 2000s). I chalk it up to the runner’s high. For the rest of the day it was taking a nap, and just relaxing (pigging out on chips).

After this experience I am running more races. I have found another hobby, and the runner’s high is the best feeling ever!

….And She Keeps Moving Onward

Life moves onward at lightning fast pace. She keeps moving onward with many new adventures and many new discoveries along the way. My Nana this month turned eighty and to be honest, she doesn’t even look eighty! Also this month had me moving to a whole new apartment in the Edmonds area instead of Seattle.

Mom and I started our little road trip at 6:15am to beat the Seattle weekday traffic. It ended up being for nothing since there was a lot of traffic by that time. Even when we hit Portland, we were stuck in Portland’s traffic trying to get into to the city and getting out. I think Portland has just as crazy traffic as Seattle, but a very confusing road system with bridges, exits and splits in the middle of freeway. It took a whole lot of contraction to get into the correct lane for south bound I5. After Portland it was nothing but farms, fields, little towns, and a whole lot of mountain driving with trees.

Before going to Nana’s house, Mom and I took a detour to Eagle Point to get some pancake mix at the old Butte Creek Mill. I have grown up on their stone ground pancake mix and have compared all pancake mix to it. I decided to pick up some mix since Michael has heard me rave about this mix and wanted to try for himself why I love it so much (keep you posted on this).  The mill is one of five working water powered grist mills still operating in the US. I remember as a kid going to the general store they have in the mill and buying candy and other treats from the nice old ladies who run the shop. To this day I still make a pilgrim to this place for the all the goodies. After the mill stop, Mom and I drove up to the VA Cemetery to visit Grandad and Grandpa. Oh boy, what a disappointment. As the one of the grounds keepers said, the contractor who was doing major construction work on the grounds walked off the job and left half of the cemetery in a shamble. Poor Grandad’s resting place was a complete mess with all of the grass gone and chips in the stone marker. The grounds keeper did say they hired a new contractor to finish up the work and should have all of it done by the end of July. I just hope so.

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Butte Creek Mill

Next day was Nana’s eightieth birthday.

For Nana’s birthday dinner we all went up to Mount Ashland to Callahan’s Mountain Lodge. The view and the place was gorgeous as can be. These places hold dear memories for the family because this is where my parents got engaged. The sad part is, the Callahan’s my parents knew sadly burned to the ground in 1996 and was rebuilt to what it looks like today. We had our dinner of the outdoor deck in the cool mountain breeze and the wonderful sunshine with a view of Cascade Mountain range in the background. I ended up going with the Prime Rib Stroganoff for dinner. A very rich dish with having all the extra butter dollop on the top of the mount of noodles. I don’t think I made a real dent into the mount of noodles and rib, as I would have liked (guilty with the bread basket!). This is the only place I have ever been that I can see me affording duck or veal menu item. In Seattle just an ounce of meat would start you at $50.00. Going back to Ashland later that night, we took the old route 99 road. This road goes from Northern California to BC Canada. There was lots of hairpin turns with straight drops over sides of the road without any guard rails. Just imagine driving this road before the interstate was built.

Then the big day came and it was full of surprises. First the cake that was ordered was huge, bigger than the Costco cakes you can order. The whole cake took up the backseat of Nana’s car and the icing was starting to slide off the cake in some areas from how heavy the cake was. The look on both my Aunts’ faces were priceless when they realized that the cake was the size of four sheet cakes put together and two sheet cakes thick! By the time we served all the guests at the party there was still sixty percent of the cake left, and after cleaning up the room we rented at the Holiday Inn, we gave a whole bunch of cake slices to the hotel staff to enjoy. Later Mom and I saved a piece of cake each for Dad and Michael. Fifty near and dear to Nana showed up to celebrate her special day, and I captured every one of them with Nana. Overall the day turned out to be a great day, and we all sigh of relief when it was all done. Next day it was back into the car for another eight hours of driving back to Seattle.

Few weeks later I moved into a new apartment in Edmonds. For a while now I have been very unhappy with the place I was at. When I first moved in it seem a decent place to live, but by the end of October of last year, things started going down hill in a way that would make the most sane person feel like they are going insane. I know apartment life can be stressful at times, but there was a constant stress about living there that was not normal situation. By the time I moved out of the apartment complex there as a whole new management company starting to set things right. Too bad, I already gave my notice. The move when smoother then I expected with getting all my stuff packed into U- Haul and unpacked into the new placed with in three hours. I will chalk it up to packing all my stuff in boxes long before the day of the move. The new place is a little bit older than the apartment I came from. The appliances in the kitchen are older (the stove does not even have a timer!), and the place is smaller but more cozy and well laid out. Also it is much more quiet then the other place in Seattle. I am hoping to stay more than just a year if possible. I’m done moving for now.