My first trip to Seattle was in July of 2009 to visit my friend who lives on Capitol Hill. This was also my first trip as an “adult.” I had just completed my Master’s degree, and in addition to it being a graduation present to myself, it was my first trip that wasn’t a family vacation. While heading to the airport and boarding a plane is business as usual for me at this point, back then it was the strangest feeling in the world to go through the entire process alone, including a connection in Oakland. But, I fell in love with the city on that trip, especially Capitol Hill.
At the time, my friend lived in a small, oddly-shaped one bedroom apartment with thin walls and an old elevator in a historic building called The New McDermott. It is on Bellevue near Pike, and was the perfect location for two early-twenties friends to find plenty of trouble. I remember being amazed at how you could walk everywhere. Those of you who have been to Texas in July know how impossible that would be. Well, not impossible, just no one would want to stand next to you once you arrived at your destination.
We probably walked around ten miles per day and drank half our weight (or more) in alcohol, but we saw and did everything. When you think of Seattle, you typically think of the Space Needle or Pike Place Market, but my stay on Capitol Hill showed me all the unique things the city has to offer: karaoke at The Crescent, fried chicken from City Market, pizza from Bill’s Off Broadway, brunch at Linda’s, and sushi from Ha Na, to name a few. The area has gentrified a lot since my first visit, with a lot of old buildings being torn down to build housing for the thousands who have moved to the area due to an influx of jobs with Amazon, but each subsequent trip I try to visit all my favorite spots, and find more to add.
We’re actually staying in a hotel this trip since we figured it would be rude to crash at my friends apartment during his own wedding. While I’ll miss waking up to his view, I’m excited to explore more areas of town! But, I’m already craving a huge plate of sushi from Ha Na; maybe I’ll have to go there first.
We are under a week away from another trip to Seattle, this time for a wedding. We found an $85 dollar flight out, so we built in a little extra time beforehand to enjoy one of my favorite cities. The last time I was there for work, I had the chance to go down to Pike Place Market early in the morning before the crowds, get some coffee, and wander around while the vendors set up. It might be a major tourist attraction, but if you have the chance to go early, there’s not even a line at the original Starbucks. The only downside is not having access to a kitchen to be able to fix some of the fresh fish. It will be nice to get out of town for a little while, especially to Seattle.
The last major hurricanes to threaten the Texas coast did so while I lived in Waco. In the panic of hurricane Rita, which developed shortly after the destruction of Katrina, the entire city of Houston and surrounding areas attempted to evacuate at once. As you might have imagined, that did not go well. It took my family over twenty four hours to get to my apartment, normally a three hour drive.
Three years later when Ike was threatening to make a direct hit on Houston, they made the same drive in similar traffic. With both Ike and Rita, my family was lucky that the hurricanes veered east enough to spare them any major damage, but especially with Ike, a lot of damage was sustained throughout the city. I distinctly remember seeing the blue tarp “FEMA roofs” adorning so many houses when I made my first trip back, weeks after Ike had hit.
I am so glad that no mandatory evacuation was ordered for us this time. That parking lot of cars you see above from the Rita evacuation? They would all be completely underwater. So many people would have died.
I described Harvey as a “zombie hurricane” on Friday, and that description has been pretty accurate, as he is still a tropical storm and is lingering along the coast. After devastating the city of Rockport, north of Corpus Christi, he is now devastating Houston with rain. The rain won’t stop, and it’s not going to for days. We have been extremely fortunate that we have only lost water pressure for a few hours, but never lost electricity, and only have a water leak in the drywall by our window. So many others have not been as lucky. One of my coworkers has lost absolutely everything.
If you are able to spare more than your thoughts and prayers for everyone here who has been through what is being described as the biggest U.S. flood storm of all-time, you can text HARVEY to 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross, or donate to the Houston Flood Relief Fund, organized by the Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt. Anything will help. It’s still raining, and the flood waters are not finished with the city yet.
For the past couple of years I have been able to make an annual trip to St. Louis for work. My cousins live there, and growing up we would make multiple road trips per year to visit. I found out today that I won’t be able to go this year due to scheduling issues, so I’m hoping that next year it will work out again. I’ve been booking a lot of trips today, but wish one of those flights brought me back to this view.
When I started traveling for work with my first job out of college, I was always sent to the places no one else wanted to go. Of course, I did not have a problem with that; I was happy to be going anywhere at all. However, this means I’ve been to some interesting small towns across the state of Texas. One trip took me through East Texas in November, and the drive actually made me feel like I was in a northern state. I enjoyed the winding two-lane roads and some fall colors all the way up to Tyler, where my flip phone unceremoniously died. After scrambling to find an AT&T store, I purchased my very first iPhone and made my way up to Sulphur Springs. I arrived after dark, worked my event, and as a Hilton brand loyalist, I continued north to the closest one I could find: the Hampton Inn in Paris, Texas.
Since I reached the hotel so late and had a new phone to learn how to use, I didn’t explore any of the area that evening. However, I had researched ahead of time and discovered that as would be expected, an Eiffel Tower replica existed in the city. But this was not just your average replica. No, it was fashioned as an oil derrick, complete with a Texas touch.
I’ve since read that Paris, Texas was in a competition with Paris, Tennessee to have the tallest Eiffel Tower replica in their respective cities. Thus, the red cowboy hat was added to make it taller than the one in Tennessee. Both were eventually dwarfed by the replica on the Las Vegas Strip, which happens to be half the size of the original Eiffel Tower.
I was only able to spend one night in Paris before moving on to my next spot, so I set my alarm early in order to have time to see this replica in all its glory. For those of you with iPhones, please know that I set my morning alarm on my phone for the first time with the “alarm” tone, and I about fell out of my bed when it first went off. My half asleep brain thought it was the fire alarm. It did its job; I was wide awake after that.
When I checked out of the Hampton, I decided to take a little piece of Paris home with me. They sold bobble versions of their Eiffel Tower, and the bobbling red cowboy hat road shotgun with me for the rest of my trip. The best part is that now I can tell people that my work has sent me to Paris. I’ll let them assume which one.
For those of you unfamiliar with Texas, you may have heard that everything is bigger here. That includes our gas stations. Behold!
These billboards pop up every few miles when you’re driving on any major highway in Texas, up to 200 miles away from the Buc-ee’s location at which you will have to stop, because they have impeccably clean restrooms and creative advertising.
In addition to clean restrooms and gas (those two go together, no?), you can really find everything you never knew you needed in a Buc-ee’s. Beef jerky, brisket, sandwiches, fudge, beaver nuggets (similar to a seemingly endless bag of larger corn pops), and an eclectic array of home products. At the Buc-ee’s in Wharton, Texas, I found a beautiful framed piece of burlap embossed with flowers and a watering can. It was hanging above the toilet, and could have been mine for $10.95. I only regret not purchasing it because when people asked where I found it, I could have seen the look on their faces when I told them it was a gas station bathroom.
I went with the most reasonable thing I could find in this pile of beavers: the key chain.