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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