Monday, August 8, 2011

Impressions of a trip to Seattle

On a more personal and non-technology front, after selling my business I decided to take a short break before going back to work, so I took my family up to Seattle.  I had not been to the Northwest US before and we all needed a break from the Kansas heat.

The trip out was uneventful except for on the second leg of the flight when we flew by a large circular lake with an island in the middle, tall cliffs all around and a mountain off to one side.  Any guesses what it is?  I'll post the answer at the end of the post.

So, Seattle.  After recovering from a trip out with small children in a confined space we started our scheduled activities.  This is where the fun started.  We made a hiking excursion to the Dungeon of Spit (actually the it's the Dungeness Spit - a 5 1/2 mile long and very narrow strip of land on the north end of the Olympic Peninsula just west of Seattle - my kids made up the Dungeon thing and I thought it was funny).  Anyway, I saw a hiker with a Microsoft t-shirt on.  You know the t-shirts... the geeky looking ones that Microsoft hands out at events that nobody ever wears and end up as car wash rags.  He was wearing it proudly and hiking through the wildlife refuge.  I stifled a snigger.  You wouldn't be caught dead in one of those back home in Kansas, but I was close to the home of Microsoft, so I just accepted it and moved on.

Throughout the trip, even from people I knew didn't care for Microsoft I heard what good things they've done for the community in Seattle... how the city has thrived due to the employment of thousands and service projects and whatnot.  What was going on?  Steadfast Microsoft haters saying good things about Microsoft?

We also spent time at Hurricane Ridge, canoeing on a lake, visiting Paulsbo (a beautiful little town with a Norwegian heritage), going up the Space Needle, visiting the Seattle Aquarium and more.

I noticed something else both while in Seattle proper and in the surrounding areas.  There were people... lots of people... around.  I mean... they were out, doing stuff, not hiding indoors just getting in and out of cars like we do in Kansas City.  There is a sense that Seattle is a real community where the people like to get out and around other people and see each other.  I've bragged in the past about how we have more freeway miles of roadway in Kansas, per capita, than anywhere else in the US.  Now, I'm not sure that's as good a thing as I thought.  Since we spend so much time in our cars in the KC area we see each other walking about the city less.  We interact with each other less.  We get in the car each morning, go to work, see the people there, get back in the car and go home.  In Seattle you might drive or walk down to the ferry, motor across Puget Sound, then take a bus or light rail to your destination.  All the while you talk with and are around other people.

It's a very different style of living in the Northwest than here in Kansas.  The suburbs of KC and the residential area around Seattle couldn't look more different.  In KC the fairly level ground makes it easy to plan grid-like streets and subdivisions of houses.  In Seattle the hilly an heavily wooded terrain make that kind of development much harder or impossible.  So, instead, they develop around the natural features of the land, giving the area a much more outdoorsy feel.  In KC you can see the sky from horizon to horizon, you can see the weather coming and aside from some tornadoes it's really fairly predictable.  In Seattle, there are numerous micro-climates including one of two rain forest regions in North America.

The city itself is much different also.  Actually, the Seattle area is really several cities, and there is more than one downtown... all within 1/2 hour of each other.  And the water... its everywhere!  Seattle sits between the Pugot Sound and lake Washington.  There are little fingers of the sound that dive in and out of the shore areas and create all kinds of interesting features.  I went to Venice a long time ago and the amount of water in and around Seattle reminds me a bit of that, although otherwise the two are nothing alike.

In any case, I'm back in dear old Kansas now, getting back to work.  My wife and I haven't really thought about moving outside the area much although we talked about it some after we got married.  We're both thinking about it a little more now though.  It's hard not to be impressed by the Northwest.  Especially when the temperature up there never got above 85 while the thermometer topped 110 at home.

Oh, and that lake I mentioned at the top... it was Crater Lake in the north of Oregon near the border with Washington.  The lake was formed when the volcano blew up and created a caldera.  It was amazing to look at from the plane and I would consider making a trip back to the area just to see it again.  Off to the side is Mount Scott, a stratovolcano (a tall volcano unlike the wide ones in Hawaii which are shield volcanoes).  The Mount Scott volcanoes tired themselves out thousands of years ago and left us some of the most spectacular terrain in North America.
Crater Lake, Oregon

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