Redhook Brewery “tour”

the “tour” of the Redhook Brewery was more of a tasting than a “tour,” but I suppose that was the case in New Glarus last year though not so much when we did the microbrewery tour of downtown Denver. I’d been to the brewery in Woodinville the last time I visited Seattle (to see Christin over an impossibly sunny November weekend while I lived in San Diego) and the primary change wasn’t so much in the offerings on the “tour” as my appreciation of those offerings.

after handing over our rumpled dollar bills and receiving our beer cap entry tokens in return, we were herded to the second floor of the building, overlooking the distillation and fermentation tanks which, not surprisingly, looked very much like those in New Glarus, though perhaps not as pretty. access was also much more restricted at Redhook and the bottling line wasn’t running (on a Friday) so there wasn’t so much hustle-n-bustle as taste-n-sip.

our “guide” was an acerbic type and shared his name with one of my companion’s siblings. he gave the young couple nearest the bar a hard time for whispering (loudly) between themselves and generally teased people as we made our way through six (or seven?) different tasters. already a fan of the ESB and Winterhook, I also discovered I quite like the IPA which departs dramatically from my reaction on the last tour (but comes as no surprise; mmm hops). and this time I knew enough to retain information about what IBU means (International Bitterness Units) and when I had drinks at the Vintage the other night the information on their beer menu made even more sense!

after successfully launching the brewery in central Seattle in 1981 by Paul Shipman and Gordon Bowker (of Starbucks and Pete’s Coffee fame), and moving through locations in Fremont and Ballard, the brewery moved out to its current location in Woodinville in 1994. when it was one of the first tours I ever took, it was  a novelty — not exactly a microbrewery, but a craft brewery sounded nearly as exciting and inventive. now, however, having been to so many microbreweries and knowing the difference between a craft brewery, a microbrewery, and a brewpub, touring Redhook and hearing their history (again) seemed somewhat less so. following a 2003 licencing agreement with the Widmer Brothers Brewing Company and subsequent merger, Redhook started the Craft Brew Alliance which distributes to 48 states (excluding Utah; as our “guide” cautioned — to a room full of beer tasters — going to Utah is a “poor life choice”). Kona Brewing came under the Craft Brew Alliance umbrella in 2010 and they’re traded on the stock exchange. more to my point, I suppose, though is the fact that AB InBev owns 32.2% of the company and yesterday I read a piece (entitled “The Plot to Destroy America’s Beer”) about how that merger has had detrimental effects on how some long-produced import beers. I’ve got no complaints about Redhook — it’s just much closer to the Starbucks model than the New Glarus or Lake Louie model, if you will. I enjoyed more than a few packs of ESB and Winterhook while I lived in San Diego but for now I’ll stick to my (more) local brews.

Victor Steinbrueck Park

we wrapped up our time on the waterfront with a stop at Victor Steinbrueck Park to have a sit and (for some) to enjoy the beverages procured from the first-ever Starbucks. since the weather was fantastic, the relatively small park was packed with people lounging about on the grass.

the park, located in a wedge of land on top of the bluff next to the Pike Place Market, came under the jurisdiction of the city in 1968 after fire damaged the Washington National Guard Armory that stood on the site. at the time, debate raged about the future of the Pike Place Market and surrounding spaces — developers wanted to tear it down in favor of the aforementioned high-rise with hotel, apartments, hockey arena, etc. proponents of preserving the Market succeeded in saving both the market and partially-destroyed armory over the road. the city transferred oversight to the Parks Department in 1970, which landscaped the area and named it “Market Park” in 1982.

Victor Steinbrueck, a local architect, was instrumental in in the Pike Place preservation but, apparently, the city didn’t feel it appropriate to honor him during his life by naming the park after him. upon his death in 1985, however, they renamed the park on the site of the armory (which he’d championed to preserve as well, though unsuccessfully). the park hosts two cedar totem poles, designed by Steinbrueck.

in addition to the tourists that stop by for views of Elliott Bay on their way to or from the sites along Pike Place, the park attracts an assortment of less-than-savory characters as well. the view is just as good if you’re homeless, addicted to an illicit substance, mentally unstable, or in need of performing an odd, repetitive dance to the tune of a busker’s guitar. there was a guy doing just that right in front of where we sat down — he had long black and gray hair and was wearing a leather vest, performing something reminiscent of what you’d see at a pow wow, repeating the same motions in four directions and moving out of the way of large groups of people trying to get through the park.

Pike Place Market

along with the Space Needle, the Pike Place Market is one of the most memorable landmarks in Seattle. running since 1907, it’s one of the longest continually-running public markets in the United States. while we were there I saw a smattering of young info-pushers promoting the “your community market” dimension, trying to shift local perception of who uses the market and why you should use it as your local fruit, veg, and fish market.
prior to the establishment of the Pike Place Market, an outdoor public market operated nearby and at which produce was sold primarily via wholesalers rather than farmers themselves. the additional middlemen — necessitated by the time demanded by farming and which precluded spending time selling in an urban public market — resulted in unsavory business practices and sometimes shocking price irregularities (sometimes farmers couldn’t make a profit on the produce they sold to middlemen; between 1906 and 1907 the price of onions went from $0.10 per pound to $1.00 per pound). in advance of the opening day of the newly-established public market, thugs for the wholesalers reportedly went around to farms closest to the city and bought up produce or intimidated farmers, warning them against participating.
despite threats, about 10 farmers and over 50 customers showed up the ribbon cutting and, ceremony concluded, the customers climbed over one another and began buying produce of carts faster than the farmers could keep up tallying sales. by noon all the produce had gone, into the hands of paying customers. the first covered market building opened in November of 1907 and by 1911 demand for stalls resulted forced a doubling in the number available. with the growth came complaints from farmers, who felt the rent and accessibility were unreasonable and inconvenient, respectively, though little action from the market owners. farmers proposed a $150,000 ballot initiative, at which locals balked, while the mayor counter-proposed a more modest $25,000 market improvement initiative that voters supported. the nearby property owners (the Goodwins) continued with their own plans to improve on their holdings and ended up expanding the market five stories down the bluff face of Western Avenue. this expansion held restaurants, bakeries, butchers, a creamery, and all manner of shops. on our visit more than a few of the lower storefronts stood empty; one pair of spaces had an art gallery and attached studio in which the artist was working as we passed. in another there was just an easel with a partially-finished painting though no obvious signs of ongoing work.
over the decades, various attempts to change or update the market have met limited success. in 1920 the city worked to move farmer stalls off the street because of complaints about traffic flow (which makes sense — all the stalls are inside now and the traffic on Pike Place as we visited was still pretty terrible; distracted and wandering tourist-pedestrians don’t help the mix, I’m sure). in 1963 the city proposed demolishing the market in favor of a new building to house a hotel, apartment complex, hockey arena, parking garage, and offices. thankfully, supporters of the market banded together to get it named as an historic preservation area and returned to public control. in the 1980s cuts to government funding of public assistance programs threatened projects run by the market’s development authority, such as a free medical clinic, senior center, and food bank; to preserve these projects the authority established a fundraising arm that ran successful capital campaigns, including one to pay for tiling the floor of the top-floor arcade (to prevent water leaking down and causing damage lower levels) by selling tiles stenciled with donor names for $35 a piece. over the course of more than two years some 45,000 tiles were placed.

Seattle Monorail

after zipping our way to the top of the Space Needle and wandering our way, gobsmacked, through the Chihuly Gallery & Garden, we headed to downtown Seattle via the Monorail, which was also built to connect visitors to the World’s Fair grounds with downtown. the project cost $3.5 million in 1962 and opened several months prior to opening day of the Fair. over 80 million people ride the Monorail during the course of the Fair, though now ridership is about 2 million per year (I wonder if we counted as two people each — one for each direction).

the Monorail has two tracks and two trains. we rode on both — the short one in the middle of the day and the longer one going back during rush hour. the original trains operate today as they did when the Monorail opened in 1962. their top speed is 45 mph and a driver pushes it up to that speed — preferably on the straightaway and not on that last curve before it goes through the Experience Music Project building. the Monorail that exists today runs for about a mile along (above) Fifth Avenue. as one friend put it, the goal was to make it like the El in Chicago. that did not happen. now it runs from the Seattle Center — home to the Space Needle, Experience Music Project, Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, the Pacific Science Center, and an array of music and conference venues — to the Westlake Shopping Center.

there have been three noteworthy accidents involving the Monorail — two of which occurred in the last decade. no major injuries in any instances — two fires and one collision that took a door off one train as the two passed one another on a curve.

the running joke from our tour guide on the Underground Tour (about which more later) is that the Monorail is (yet another) example of Seattle starting in enthusiastically on public works projects and then running out of public interest, enthusiasm, money, or all of the above. the proposal dating from 1997 outlined a five-line monorail system to spread all across Seattle, incorporating the existing red line that we rode. after eight failed ballot initiatives proposing and spending almost $125 million in taxpayer funds (levied on all the cars registered in Seattle) to attempt to expand the line, the supervising authority agreed to dissolve itself (in failure). perhaps everyone in Seattle who wishes to illustrate a failed endeavor refers to the Monorail?

Chihuly Garden & Glass

Detail of the centerpiece of the Sealife Room

for the last several years (starting with Los Angeles/Santa Monica) we’ve gone to oddball museums — places I’d never think to visit if traveling on my own. we’ve gone to the Museum of Jurassic Technology, the Argo Gold Mine, House on the Rock; this year we happened upon the Chihuly Garden & Glass museum on our way to the Space Needle. it wasn’t what we had in mind and wasn’t as weird or oddball as the last few museums of our weekends, but it was a fantastic surprise! 

I’ve seen small Chihuly installations in many places (the V&A in London, the Kohl Center in Madison, the Bellagio in Las Vegas) but this was a chance to see a huge array of his works — different styles, different colors, different methods of installation, indoors and outdoors, spanning the length of his career which stretches back to the 1970s.
Mille Fiori

it’s not shocking to have found a Chihuly exhibition in the Seattle area — he grew up in Tacoma, attended the university in Seattle and has had more permanent and temporary installations in the area than anywhere else in the world. after his undergraduate work in interior design at UW in Seattle, he moved on to the other (dare I say superior?) UW in Madison for graduate work in sculpture, and finally to the Rhode Island School of Design. (he earned money to pay for grad school by working as a commercial fisherman in Alaska). though he seems rooted in the Pacific Northwest at heart, he’s traveled all over the United States and world working on projects — from London to Paris to Venice to Finland to Ireland to Jerusalem and beyond.

Detail of the bottom of one of the chandeliers

in 1965, a Fulbright Fellowship took him to study glasswork in Venice at a studio known for a group technique which he brought back to Washington in 1971 when he established a studio with support of others. he continued to travel back between Washington, Rhode Island (where he was working at RISD) and Europe, touring all manner of art studios and glassblowing projects. while in England in 1976, a car accident cost him his left eye and damaged his right foot, but he persisted in expanding his artistic output. a surfing accident three years later, in which he dislocated his shoulder, forced him to give up the “gaffer” position in his glassblowing team but he continued to draw and provide conceptual artwork for projects. in 1986 he became the fourth American artist to have a one-person exhibition at the Louvre.

Persian ceiling as seen from beneath

some of the pieces I find most interesting are the outdoor installations — chandeliers over Venice, one at the Olympic Park in Salt Lake City, and a number in botanical gardens all over the country (Missouri, New York, Atlanta, Phoenix, Nashville Pittsburgh). Chihuly Garden & Glass is the latest exhibition (it opened in May of this year and is billed as “long-term” and exquisite care was put into lighting the pieces for maximum effect. from beneath, from above, reflecting in the black glass bases… it includes an array of pieces from across decades of glass art series — a glass forest, the Northwest room (illustrating early influences from tapestry and baskets of the native peoples of the Pacific Northwest), a sealife room, Persian ceiling (seen above), Mille Fiori (also above), Ikebana and Boat Float, Macchia bowls… the general consensus as we wandered through the gardens below the Space Needle, already awed by what we’d seen inside the museum, was that it was the best place in the city to have any kind of photographs taken — especially on a day as gorgeous as the one on which we visited.

Looking up through the Glasshouse at the Space Needle

clear skies in Seattle

last weekend our Homecoming tradition took us out west once again, this time to the slightly cooler climes of the Pacific Northwest: Seattle. as on my previous trip (to visit Christin on a weekend trip back in 2007), the weather was deceptively fantastic — in the 50s and low 60s all weekend with clear, if somewhat hazy, skies. with how great the weather’s been every time I’ve visited you’d think the city was trying to lure me out there …

we took advantage of the great weather immediately, heading out for a run as soon as the sky was light enough for us to see by. if you’d told any of us at our first Homecoming in Las Vegas that in a few years time we’d be up before 7 a.m. to go out for a three mile run we’d have guffawed and recommended you seek prompt psychological support. but we did and got to see the sun finishing its climb over the Cascade Mountains. of course, time zone changes and regular up-before-dawn habits helped us crawl out of bed, but I never thought I’d be anything approaching a morning “runner.” just goes to show what can happen over six years!

anyway, first stop of the day was the Space Needle which was in many, many ways like all of the other tall buildings offering panoramic views that I’ve ever ascended. this one just gave us spectacular views of Seattle, the Puget Sound, Lake Washington, Bellevue, the outlying islands … and if you looked in the right direction you could see the mountains through the haze. but it still offers quite a view though none with the Space Needle as part of the downtown skyline.

it was built for the 1962 World’s Fair, as was the monorail that connects it to downtown. over the course of the Fair the elevators took some 20,000 people a day to the observation deck — about 2.3 million people total. at the time, it was the largest structure west of the Mississippi River at 605 feet at its tallest point and built to withstand an earthquake of 9.1 magnitude — as strong as the one that shook the area in January of 1700 — and winds of up to 200 miles per hour. the design stemmed from a compromise between two men — one of whom envisioned a giant balloon tethered to the ground that featured a restaurant and the other, a flying saucer with a rotating restaurant (iconic 1960s or what?).

the plan almost didn’t come to fruition — since the project was privately funded (rather than by the city), the group had to find and purchase a parcel of land on which to construct the tower. by the time they got around to looking, however, nearly all the land within the fairgrounds was claimed; at the last minute a parcel of land 120 feet by 120 feet (containing switching equipment for emergency services … you’ve got to wonder where that got relocated) came available and work began. the last element — one of the elevators — was installed the day before the Fair opened.

ferry heading out to Bainbridge Island

since it first opened, the Needle has gone through a series of renovations and upgrades, including refurbishing the observation area, reconfiguring the restaurant, and (in honor of the 50th anniversary this year) repainted “Galaxy Gold” to match the original paint job. originally two separate facilities, one restaurant now occupies the entire level below the observation deck. the whole point of the restaurant: it rotates, and was one of the first ever to do so. one revolution every 47 minutes. as at the Stratosphere — don’t leave anything on the window ledge when you sit down or you won’t see it for 47 minutes (if ever). we opted for the slightly more reasonable prices at Pike Market rather than choosing from the $26+ mains at the SkyCity Restaurant. could have gotten “proudly served” Starbucks at either place, though!

Seattle was the last on our list of “hometowns” (with willing hosts to lodge us) and next year we’ll be off to someplace more wholly new to all of us — New Orleans. should be a good time and cap off what seems poised to be a busy year of travel in 2013!
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our homecoming tradition: Wisconsin edition

rosewood window coverings

despite being a lifelong Wisconsin resident, until October, I’d never been to the House on the Rock — arguably one of the craziest, tourist-trapiest places in all of Wisconsin. I’d heard plenty about it, and of the enormous, ornate carousel (most notably in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods) but I don’t know if anything can prepare you for the site.

stovetop in the House portion

the structure started as a 14-room house, built by Alex Jordan, on Deer Shelter Rock in the Wyoming Valley between Spring Green and Dodgeville. personally, I was most impressed with the original building, which includes the House, the Gate House, and the Mill House, which are reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright’s style. some claim Jordan began his project to thumb his nose at Wright, as Taliesin is only a few miles away. in this section of the site, the architecture takes as much precedence as the sometimes fascinating, sometimes flabbergasting, sometimes disturbing knickknacks.

in the 1920s, Jordan visited a scenic picnic spot frequented by locals and, ownership and potential hardship be damned, vowed to build a “Japanese-style” house on the Rock. took him another 25 years to make a start and, despite the time, didn’t secure rights from the farmer who owned the land to build anything there. one account claims that Jordan hired drunks and bums from Madison to help blast the Rock level, paying them with booze or checks.

chandelier in the Organ Room

construction continued throughout the twentieth century (and up to the present day). Jordan quickly realized people would pay to come and wander through the House to see it and the oddments that filled it. in addition to the House, Jordan and his successors have added the “Streets of Yesterday” (influenced by the “Streets of Old Milwaukee” seen at the Milwaukee Public Museum. do those old-time-y reconstructions always have to be so dark? is it perpetually evening in the past?), the Heritage of the Sea building (which features a giant whale with teeth being attacked by a kraken), the Carousel Room, an Organ Room …. and so much other stuff. fake Crown Jewels; a mannequin orchestra; doll houses; weaponry; and more and more and more. honestly can’t say much about the third portion of the tour; with one exception we were all way too hungry to take in more than the enormity of the Organ in the first segment. apparently the pipes came from an old waterworks plant in Madison. oh, and the taxidermy in the men’s bathroom. by the last leg we were all but running for the door and anywhere for lunch in Dodgeville.

to the end of the Infinity Room

really, the only addition since the original construction to impress me was the Infinity Room, which juts out from 218 feet the original House and over the Rock. there are over 3,000 tiny windows. with the leaves just beginning to turn in mid-October, it was a pretty sweet view over the valley.

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Casa Bonita

one of the other unique Denver experiences on our list: a trip to Casa Bonita. one of our party was rather adamant about the experience and I will say this: a trip to Casa Bonita truly is unlike anything else in the world. I’ve never seen the South Park episode that made it (in)famous, but having now seen the place myself, I have some idea what that episode might have looked like.

founded in Oklahoma City in 1968, the Casa Bonita chain spread through neighboring states in the early 1970s, known for it’s all-you-can-eat beef and chicken plates, as well as its sopapillas. only two locations remain — one in Lakewood and one in Tulsa. the restaurant in Lakewood opened in 1974 in a space formerly occupied by a large retail store (I heard someone say something along the lines of a Ross?).

what your food looks like
where you pick up your food

the food is horrifying and prices astronomically overblown. it may be all-you-can-eat, but who would want to? there was no vegetarian option that coincided with “cheapest item on the menu” and we all ended up picking up taco salad plates, some with beef, some with chicken. none of us were terribly interested in doing anything but carry the plates to a table near the diving pool where we might fill our bellies with sopapillas instead. I don’t quite understand how or why people make a family night of the place. surely there are much cheaper places to find entertainment and bad Mexican food in Denver? ah, but, enthusiasts counter, do any of those places have cliff divers? well, no. I guess you come for the cliff divers. and the sopapillas. the divers are swim/dive team members who want to practice during the off season, apparently. there are also strolling mariachis, an arcade, a haunted tunnel (which was rather creepily dark), and a puppet theater. there is really nothing else like it.

cliff diving pool
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the Argo Gold Mine

walking down the hill

after we learned about the tunnel from our new Dutch friend, we got to go up the mountain and into an abandoned mine — the Double Eagle Mine, which dates from the early 1890s. they made us put on hardhats and, upon letting us out of the shuttle, admonished us to walk down the hill. apparently, a couple of weeks earlier a couple from somewhere in Europe made the mistake of turning left out of the tunnel and ended up half way to Central City (which we know is about 4.5 miles away).

when these mines were prospected, men had to rely on candlelight and hand tools, with the occasional assistance of dynamite (which, as we know, got them into trouble in the Argo Tunnel). it was excruciating and exhausting work to dig and haul rock from the tunnels and the depth of the Double Eagle mine illustrated this. it’s only a couple dozen meters from the mouth of the tunnel to the end, though it’s high enough in most places for someone of my height to walk through (we still had to put on hard hats all the same).

while the Double Eagle mine didn’t net the miners the lode every prospector hopes for, it yielded some gold. in fact, there is still gold to be found in the tunnel. because they were using candles to light the tunnel, the original prospectors didn’t notice the vein of gold running along the ceiling at the back of the tunnel. it’s hard to tell from the picture of Gabrielle and Jen, but there’s an apparent streak along the southern wall of the tunnel which would have been just a bit too faint to distinguish by candlelight. we, of course, had the benefit of electricity. and being told where to look to see the gold. you can’t prospect on the Argo land any more, but there is still gold in dem hills and anyone can take a pan out to the creek and try their hand at prospecting in the frigid waters. we opted for the easy, gold-flake-laden prospecting opportunity in the troughs in front of the Argo shop. the water was plenty cold, but at least we weren’t up to our knees in it!

the Argo Tunnel

in addition to the Denver Miniature Museum, we also ventured into the mountains to see another unique Colorado site — a gold mine & mill. the Argo Mill & Mine is located in Idaho Springs east of Denver and is known in part because of its 4.16 mile long tunnel that allowed easier extraction of gold along the length of the tunnel. the Dutch ex-pat that started us off on our tour was a hoot and gave us far more information than strictly necessary.

construction of the tunnel began in 1893 from the southern terminus and, by the time it reached its completed length in 1910, intersected nearly all the major gold mines between the entrance and Central City. construction did not progress unhindered, as management and construction teams changed and war broke out between England and Spain. rather than dig further into the mountain and then cart gold out to the entrance and down the mountainside or to the mill, the tunnel allowed prospectors to send ore down chutes into carts that traveled along rails inside the tunnel and straight to the mill.

by 1914 the nearby mill was running at full capacity but problems persisted and, in 1943, disaster struck. prospectors found a major lode of gold near the Central City end of the tunnel and decided to blast it out to get at it more quickly. unfortunately, there was an abandoned mine that did not appear on maps which was filled with water. the blast unleashed what amounted to an underground lake and flooded out the tunnel. the deluge ripped up everything in the tunnels, rendering it virtually unusable and full of acidic mine water. shortly after the disaster, the national government ordered all gold mines closed so as to free men and materials for mining metals more deemed more important to the war effort. neither the mine nor the tunnel ever re-opened.

Argo Mill & Tunnel
Argo Tunnel