The Date: 27th July to August 3rd
The Place: Seattle
The Occasion: A meeting with the Puppetmasters
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While I stayed on at Seattle until August 3rd, all the other people in the US had to go back on Sunday 29th July (something about having to go to 'work' the next day - can't say I've heard of the concept before myself). In order for them to get back in time, their flights were in the morning, and since we went to bed at 3:30AM, it was expected that most people would be pretty incoherent meeting for breakfast four and a half hours later. However, it seems like a short sleep was what everyone needed.
Irwin, on the other hand, had to drive to and from his house so he had significantly less sleep and was consequently more incoherent. In fact, some people only made brief showings at the table, but they all said Hi.
And then we had to say Bye. It was all a bit of a rush what with all the taxis and absence of people who knew how to escape Seattle and get to the airport, but we all managed and I think that I can say that all concerned had a wonderful time there. It's not often that you get to meet people who you only know through the Internet in the real world, and it's even less often that those people are from such a special community as Cloudmakers - and that only serves to make the meeting all that more unique.
But like I say, it wasn't the end of my trip. I'd be going to stay with a friend for the next few days with my brother (Dan Hon), so the rest of this trip report is probably going to bore you to hell. Then again, if you're at work or you don't have anything else to do, you could always read on. There's lots of pretty pictures...
In the late morning and afternoon we made the trip to Snoqualmie Falls along with Sean Stewart, Phil Freeman and Pete Fenlon. The original plan was for Dan and I to drop our bags off our friend's house, then proceed onwards to the Falls. However, the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley (read as: everything went wrong), following a bit of a debacle on the freeways during which time the 'Map Boy' (Pete Fenlon) took us over, under, parallel and through the onramps before and after the exit we needed on the freeway. Not that this was only his fault - many a time someone helpfully remarked, "Yeah, I don't think this is the right onramp," just as we turned onto it.
The general consensus was that at the end of the day, at least we knew the area really well after all of that.
Of course, the troubles didn't end once we were on the freeway; due to some muddled communication of directions, we found ourselves going over the bridge across Lake Washington at least three times and then overshot our destination by several miles. At that point it was decided that our friend's house wasn't going anywhere and since we happened to be closer to the Falls than the house we might as well skip the 'dropping off bags' bit.
Anyhow, we eventually made it there and heard an interesting story from Pete about how an owl caused the downfall of an entire logging industry there and made some locals extremely touchy about the whole subject. There was also a bit of joking about the horrific inaccuracies that seem to grow with each telling of the Robin Hood story.
Let me expand on that. One of my friends who lives in Nottingham remarked that when he went out to see Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (which was an appropriate film, being supposedly set in Nottingham), right at the bit when a group of people on horses round a bend in the road and Nottingham Castle is revealed, the entire audience burst out laughing. For on the movie screen was a truly magnificent castle with moat, turrets, battlements and all those big pointy bits you associate with castles. It was a good castle. It was also not Nottingham Castle, which at some times has been compared to a cheap bungalow.
Of course, that's not the end of it. On the TV series of Robin Hood we learn that the climate and geology of England was so astoundingly different a mere few hundred years ago that Sherwood Forest had mountains and pine trees. Discounting the fact that time travel and samurais could also been seen in this TV series from time to time, it's a wonder why they don't simply say that Robin moved over to Canada or something.
Snoqualmie Falls, from above. Quite large, although as was (jokingly) predicted by Phil Freeman, they'd already built a hydroeletric powerstation just a little downstream from it. Typical.
A shot of where we walked down to.
Left to Right: Dan Hon, Adrian Hon, Sean Stewart, Phil Freeman, Pete Fenlon
Ground zero. See that big rock on the right? I sat on that. I bet that made your day, knowing that.
After feeling pretty good at having walked right down to the waterfalls, it dawned on us that walking back up might not be a similarly easy proposition.
When we made it back up to the tourist centre, we tramped into their bar for a few drinks while Pete obtained a menu. Something was wrong, though... I could sense it. Turning around, I saw a notice saying 'No under 21s allowed.' Pete promptly informed the waiter that we were lying when we said wanted lunch and before security could capture us, we made a swift exit (I swear I heard someone mutter the name 'Dwayne'...)
Luckily, Pete had an alternative location in mind - a bar he'd visited 12 years ago. Once we'd dashed across the busy road to get to the car (seemingly ignoring the sign that said 'DANGER! Do not cross busy road!') we set off and had an involved and academic discussion about whether under 21s were actually allowed into bars in Washington or not. Academic because three of our five didn't even live in the United States and the other two didn't live in Washington.
[As I type this, I've just placed a pack of Heineken in the fridge - in the UK it's legal to drink at the age of 18, which means that you can subtract two years for boys and double that for girls when it actually comes to getting served at a pub.]
Also academic because they didn't seem bothered at all when I sat down; I didn't risk ordering a beer, mind you. Dan and I were then reassured by Sean that we weren't going to get beaten up in this bar; apparently many tourists to America are put off by the hard-drinking hard-talking image of typical bar patrons. I can't say it bothered me that much having spent far too much time in pubs in the UK, but I can see how it might bother some.
Rather fearfully, we made the journey back to Bellevue, wondering if we'd ever get out of Seattle again once we got snarled up in the maze of confusing signs and onramps and exits and glaven. We did have a bit of a problem when we got lost in (I think) Mercer Island, and after driving about a bit randomly for a few minutes someone said, "I know that we're travelling east, at least."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, we were going south-east, then north, then north-west..."
Anyway. We managed to get to our friend's house at some interminable point in the future. Dan and I said our goodbyes and Pete ceremonially presented us with a box of sourdough pretzels, which I am sorry to say I never got around to sampling and are probably to this day still residing in the kitchen of our friend, gradually growing harder and harder until at some point in the future when the oceans turn into ice, they will remain as the sole artefacts that will inform alien visitors of the past existence of humans.
Later that day, Dan and I went out on a friend's speedboat to have a look at the sights - the floating bridge, Bill Gates and Paul Allen's houses...
Dan, feeling extremely safe in the lifejacket. Speedboats are interesting things; since there's a lot more motion than in cars, you always feel as if you're travelling much faster than you really are. I remember when I thought we were on course to get up to time-travel speed when someone said we were only going at 40mph, less than half the required speed.
Paul Allen's house, with that huge and unsightly yacht. It pretty much takes away from that neat looking recording studio to the right.
The famous floating bridge. Why does it float? Because it has flotation devices. But if you want the real answer, it's because Lake Washington is very deep, too deep for a normal bridge. It's a bit of a contentious issue whether it's the deepest lake in North America or not, though.
Bill Gate's house. First thought: What house? Second thought: Hmm, it's not actually that big... Apparently Bill planted quite a few trees recently to get rid of all the pesky sight-seers (while we were there, a fishing boat insolently strayed into his Greatness' cordoned off area, and was promptly shooed off by a security guard hiding in the trees), so you can't see much anymore. We did manage to see the little beach he had made, and some indistinct figure on a swing behind the trees... Bill version 2, I suspect.
I have this thing about sunsets, that I just have to take photos of them. It's probably because we get such great sunsets where we live at home. Anyway, this one was pretty good and I took it from a sailboat we went on in the evening.
Another nice photo from the boat.
Here's Dan at the tiller of the boat.
After all of this, I was pretty beat since I hadn't had any more than a few hours sleep each night that weekend and the jetlag was catching up in a rush, so I hit the floor as soon as it was humanly possible.