Seattle Shortstop

On a Saturday night we fly out of Buenos Aires, bound for someplace north….it’s a long and winding road home to South Dakota from here for me, and this will be the first step of many.  I find other than a couple of hours of head-bobbing and napping, I’m too excited to really sleep. Our 9-hour flight lands us in Atlanta in the wee hours of Sunday morning and immediately I’m hit with the Americanisms of the world I had left behind for nearly two years.

Airport cafes are pushing beer, fatty and fried foods, anything sugary, and soda galore….shops are plastered with the latest gossip and fashion rags and those are plastered with pics of the royal family and Kardashians.  It’s so strange. Not until you walk away from all of this for an extended period of time do you realize how prevalent it all is in our daily lives. Eventually I’m sure I will learn to tune it out and not even see it, as I probably did before.

There are so many small details of life that are different and novel…silly things…like I can drink the tap water now; I can flush the toilets and flush my used toilet paper with it instead of putting it in a trash can as I have done the past year and a half; there is hot water for washing hands and soap; and I can understand everyone without thinking. At first I reply to most things in Spanish (a quick “gracias” blurted out when clerks hand me change, etc.) as a gut reaction and I strangely have to work to think of the correct English response instead. Suddenly I’m hearing all this background noise and it’s a bit overwhelming. Conversations of others have been in Spanish for many months and I have learned to tune them out.  And now that I can understand everything so easily I find myself hearing everyone else’s words without trying too. It must be like getting a hearing aid for the first time and experiencing sensory overload from all the sound input.

We get processed through immigration and customs, which is a strange and discomforting process when you explain you have been unemployed and traveling for two years….and then gather and recheck our bags. The wonderful agent at the Delta desk re-tagged our bags for us so we didn’t have to pick them up during out layover in Seattle which allows us to go sightseeing sans-baggage today before catching our night flight to Vancouver. I’m excited to get a peek at Seattle as I’ve never been there.

After getting some caffeine and catching the train to our outgoing terminal and sending come long-overdue “good morning, I love you!” texts out, we settle into airport chairs and wait for our flight. Another 4 hours and three time zones later we are in Seattle ready for a 10-hour day on the town.

We hit the ground running and only just get our bearings enough to find our way to a train to the center of town and Pike Place Market for a crash course in Seattle. At a street corner in the city Brian points out a white bicycle, which we had learned in South America was meant as a memorial to a cyclist who died.  I had no idea the custom was honored here too.

Seattle is gorgeous.  Maybe it’s the fact we have just flown from autumn into a Pacific Northwest spring, but everything is so green and lush and I LOVE it.

A few blocks of walking finds us at Pike Place, which I have seen so much of on television.  Here we will find the famed fish-throwers, an incredible fresh flower and produce market, views of the harbour, gourmet cafes, and the original Starbucks.

We wander down below the market to get a look at the Gum Alley…which smells as bad as it looks. Imagine all the chewed up spearmint, bubble, fruity and sugary fermenting going on there…..

Everyone wants a gummy selfie.  Well, except me.

After a wonderful seafood brunch in a market cafe, we walk up to the monorail and catch a ride up to the Space Needle.

It’s a great piece of engineering and architecture.  We debate about going up but the line is long and the price a little too high. So we opt instead to splash out for tickets to the Chihuly Garden and Glass.  And we are both so glad we did. This place is incredible!

As we finish walking through the gardens, we luck out and stumble upon a glassblowing demonstration on the patio behind the glass conservatory.  I am mesmerized for more than twenty minutes watching two artists craft a glass vase.

What a fantastic day in Seattle!  In the afternoon we decide to head back to the airport even though our flight to Vancouver isn’t for another 4-5 hours.  It’s not that we don’t want to enjoy Seattle more, it’s just that 36 hours of being awake and jet lag are finally kicking in. So we catch the monorail back to the train station and then ride back to the airport. Seattle, you were the perfect way to welcome ourselves back to the USA.

Halibut and chips dinner at the airport, and a celebrity spotting at our gate (Nicolas Cage was on our flight!!! Starstruck!) topped off the perfect 12-hour day in America before we continued on to meet our bikes in Canada. I’ll even take all the gossip rags and Kardashian mess just to enjoy all the good stuff my country has going on. Welcome home to me!

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  1. Welcome home. Even though I’m not out of the country but I get the culture shock from city life to rural life on the back roads. I didn’t realize how addicted I am to Starbuck but every time I see one I quickly pull over to have a cup of java. I guess I’m a coffee snob.

  2. Pretty awesome …. Great explanation of what life is like reintegrating back into the world we left behind, so many things we don’t really miss and then new things that excite us .

  3. I found your blog incredibly late (just a month or so ago), so I have nearly two years to catch up on. I live north of Seattle and was so happy to hear you enjoyed the city. After being away for so long I’m really glad it was a good way to be welcomed back to the US. I ride and at this point in my life can only dream of even a 2 week riding vacation, never mind two years. I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of your blog. I guess I really need to start at the beginning 🙂

    Enjoy Vancouver and welcome back!

    • Thanks so much for the kind welcome! And thanks for taking the time to read. Your part of the world is gorgeous and I hope to get back to see more of it someday. Wishing you safe and happy riding. Michelle

  4. Your transition is interesting Michelle. I felt the same a few years back after working in China. I was almost embarrassed for our country. We have so much comparatively to others. And we are geared to except it as the norm.
    Welcome home to the both of you.

  5. Great post! Pictures are great as well. I’ve never been to Seattle. Will hopefully get there sometime in this life-time. What is the story behind “Gum Alley”? That’s just CRAZY!

    I’m trying to make things happen so I can get to Sturgis this year, but still not sure if I can swing it financially. Welcome home and safe travels back to SD.

    • Thanks so much for the welcome and for taking the time to read my post. Good questions about the wall! So I went and let pled it up…and I’ve not called it by its correct name. It’s the Gum Wall in Post Alley. What I found online said it started in the early 90s by people who had to wait in line for the theater (the entrance to the theater is at one end of the alley) and people stuck their gum to the wall as a sign of their irritation. The theater kept cleaning it but by 1999 gave up and it became an off-the-wall (pun intended) tourist spot….Trip Advisor named it the second most germy attraction in the world. And I have to say it grossed me out…wishing you well. Michelle

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