East vs West: Dear Seattle, I don’t like your buildings

A few years ago, a coworker and I found common ground in photography, and talked about it a number of times. He would do things like get up very early and use his huge telephoto lens to take beautiful pictures of birds at sunrise. One thing he said really struck me was this – he said he didn’t like taking pictures of buildings or looking at pictures of buildings. He said they were boring. Pictures of animals or flowers or other organic things were much more interesting to him. In that moment, I realized something. I loved architecture, and pictures of architecture.

I should have known that architecture was one of my great loves. Wherever I go, one of the first things I look at is architecture. I scan the houses or buildings or highrises and look for telltale signs of what style a building is, which will tell me around what year it was built. Then I file that information away. I have favorite building styles and periods, and of course have negative opinions of some architecture. For example, I don’t particulary enjoy brutalist, but I don’t dislike brutalist buildings nearly as much as I hate Jetsons style Googie. Something about Googie just ugh gets to me. On the flip side, 1880-1920 brick buildings are almost always beautiful and wonderful, in my eye.

Continue reading

East vs West: False familiarity

“This. Is. Not. Target.”

My wife and I were both thinking the same thing as we stood in the entrance to the Target in the Factoria part of Bellevue. We had only been in the PNW for a few days, and needed the usual house supplies. Google led us to Target, but what we found was not the Target we knew and loved. It was small, and attached to a mall. It had neon light designs on the walls, old dirty shelves, and lacked many of the brands we would buy at our Target in PA.

We later found out that this is one of the older Targets in the area. When we later visited the Renton Target, we were relieved to find something more familiar. We had been prepared for a lack of brands like Dunkin Donuts and Cracker Barrel. What we had not been prepared for was such disparate experiences within the same brand.

Continue reading

East vs West: Losing the brands you know and love

This Safeway was the third store I had gone to today, and I was about out of steam. The Cabot website said these Safeways in Bellevue, WA had Cabot. I was about ready to drive home angry and send a nasty email to Cabot about how their website was faulty. But first I decided to ask someone.

“I’m looking for this cheese from New England called Cabot. It’s not in your regular cheese aisle. But I was told it would be here.” I blurted out to one of the cashiers.

“I’ve never heard of that, but the specialty cheeses are over near the meat counter.” She shrugged.

I wanted to yell “It’s not a specialty cheese! It’s a regular cheese!” but I’m not a crazy person, so I just thanked her and walked away.

I had already walked by the specialty cheese area before, but I figured I would go look one more time. It only took a minute of reading labels to find it. Cabot! My cheese! Oh how I love you. Wait…this little thing is $8? What the hell.

Continue reading

Becoming Pacific Northwesterners

(On the third anniversary of our drive across the US and our arrival in the PNW, I think back and talk about what it was like on each day of the trip. This is Part 8 of an 8 part series)

January 28, 2011

Our first full day in the Pacific Northwest. One thing we first noticed was the weather. This was January, and yet it was 45 degrees out. Three years later, I love the fact that it’s so warm all Winter. I do miss snow, and I think I’m becoming less able to deal with cold, but it’s nice to not have to go through the full bundle up process every time you go out.

I didn’t grow up walking uphill to school both ways, but my house was in between two small hills. So I did walk West up a small hill to get to my bus stop. In the middle of Winter, the temperature hung in the single digits, especially in the morning when we had to walk to the bus stop. I remember the hill shielded me from the brunt of the cold, because as soon as I crested it, every morning, the wind would hit me and make my eyes tear up.┬áBut, here in Seattle, there’s none of that nonsense.

Continue reading

New beginnings

(On the third anniversary of our drive across the US and our arrival in the PNW, I think back and talk about what it was like on each day of the trip. This is Part 7 of an 8 part series)

January 27, 2011

Soon after we left Butte, MT, I noticed something tall and dark in the distance. I90 was taking us toward the mountains, and toward this tall dark thing. We could see it for miles, and it seemed like it was in our view for hours. At some point, the road curved, and it finally started to drop away. I took a picture of a nearby exit sign, and later looked it up. It is the Anaconda Smelter Stack. It stands alone in tribute to an America that was once growing faster than it could keep up, and building things at a record pace.

Marker of days gone by

Marker of days gone by

Continue reading

Brands across America

(On the third anniversary of our drive across the US and our arrival in the PNW, I think back and talk about what it was like on each day of the trip. This is Part 6 of an 8 part series)

January 26, 2011

We hit quite a bit of snow in Indiana, and again in Minnesota and a bit of South Dakota. The bad weather seemed to clear up as we drove over the Missouri River, and was beautiful for the rest of the trip. Yesterday all of our National Park pictures had beautiful blue skies in them. Today as we trekked through the end of South Dakota, cut a corner of Wyoming, and started the slog through Montana, the weather continued to be beautiful.

Continue reading

National Parks

(On the third anniversary of our drive across the US and our arrival in the PNW, I think back and talk about what it was like on each day of the trip. This is Part 5 of an 8 part series)

January 25, 2011

Murdo. A small oasis in a sea of flat snow fields as far as the eye can see. We arrived last night, and ate at what seemed to be the only restaurant in town. I think everyone else in there was a local.

In the morning, I called the Minuteman Missile National Park. The website says you can get a tour of the missile control bunker, but it’s very limited, so check before you go. The Ranger was incredibly nice, and said there was space. The best part about this? We were in the Central Time Zone, and the National Park was in the Mountain Time Zone. I was calling at 9am my time, for a tour that would start at 9am his time.

Continue reading

Snow.

(On the third anniversary of our drive across the US and our arrival in the PNW, I think back and talk about what it was like on each day of the trip. This is Part 4 of an 8 part series)

January 24, 2011

This day was both my most favorite and my least favorite. We left Minneapolis and drove south to reconnect with I90, then we continued our journey into the West. The land was flat – just fields of snow for miles, with windmills or factories occasionally interrupting the nothingness.

I love road trips and I love exploring new places, so this was a good day. I had never been this far West, except for one quick weekend in Oklahoma and a weekish in California. And I had certainly never been up here, in The West. It was exhilarating.

Continue reading

Rest and friends

(On the third anniversary of our drive across the US and our arrival in the PNW, I think back and talk about what it was like on each day of the trip. This is Part 3 of an 8 part series)

January 23, 2011

We stayed with good friends while in Minneapolis, and January 23rd was our rest and hang out day. Minneapolis is a small jaunt north of I90, so technically not on the way, but it was worth it to see good people. And what’s an extra 60 miles in a 2700 mile journey?

That morning, as we walked out of the apartment, we realized we had left our half empty gallon of Turkey Hill Green Tea in the car. The night before, in South Bend, we had remembered it. This time, we had not. It was frozen. But the container was plastic and not full, so thankfully it did not spill on all of our stuff.

Continue reading

Are rules made to be broken

(On the third anniversary of our drive across the US and our arrival in the PNW, I think back and talk about what it was like on each day of the trip. This is Part 2 of an 8 part series)

January 22, 2011

It’s funny what you remember. I don’t remember what we ate for breakfast or what we talked about that morning. But I remember the parking lot had a thin layer of snow and ice, and so did the streets. I remember that we turned right out of the hotel parking lot when we left. We drove for five minutes until we crossed into Michigan. Then we turned around, drove five minutes back to the hotel, and got on I90 to continue our journey.

I love lists, and I love completing things. I have a map and a list of where I’ve been and where I want to go. And, like all passionate travelers, my list has rules about what counts and does not count. If I stop over in an airport, that doesn’t count. Saying you’ve been somewhere means you’ve actually been there. My weekend in Oklahoma does count, for example, but barely.

Continue reading