On Sunday, we were settled in Bozeman. Six days later, we were making an emergency 700-mile drive to Seattle to be with Eric’s mother. Thus began three of the strangest weeks we’ve ever spent in Seattle.
Picture this if you dare: Eric and I are playing a game in bed. (It’s more innocent than it sounds.) He says to me, “You name one place you want to go while we’re in Seattle. We’ll switch back and forth.”
The game lasted a while. Eric grew up in Seattle. We lived there together from 2010-2011, during which time we were engaged, married, and began newlywed life together. It was a sweet time, and we have lots of memories there.
Alas, when we played our game again, a couple of nights before we left the city, the list was about the same. During this Seattle visit, family came first. All the sights will still be there next time.
Even though this is far from “the ultimate guide to three weeks in Seattle,” it’s still a trustworthy list of a few local places we love. And even after all the time we’ve spent in Seattle, we still made some new discoveries.
So take note: now you know who to go to with Seattle questions. And if you have a burning desire to see photos of a gorgeous city, follow one of Eric’s many Facebook pages: Seattleites. Even when he’s far away, it keeps him close to home.
We stayed in Seattle from June 30-July 21, 2018.
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Why the Trip to Seattle?
In case you missed our last travel log, we became concerned about the wellness of Eric’s mom, Lety, and wanted to check on her right away. Strong, independent, and extremely intelligent, Lety will be 87 in December. She still lives alone and drives.
When we arrived, we found to our relief that Lety’s health wasn’t any sort of emergency after all. However, we did have concerns about non-emergent health conditions and the state of her house. We also wanted to plan for the future while we were there in person.
Eric took the opportunity to square away a ton of legal and financial matters we’d been putting off. At the house, Silas (14) and I cleaned every room from top to bottom. I don’t do much manual labor, and I honestly didn’t know I could work that hard. Javen (17) stayed at home with Caspian every day, which was a huge help to all of us.
Javen and Silas were incredible. This was their summer vacation, and they were planning to see Glacier National Park and have some down time. Instead, they worked unflaggingly alongside us, with maturity beyond their years, never complaining.
This was such an important time for our family, and I’m grateful for the way they selflessly contributed. Highland Family Summer Vacation 2018 was not what any of us expected, but it knit us together in a precious way.
Where We Stayed With Our RV in Seattle
With less than a week to plan our trip to Seattle, the big panic point was finding a place to stay with the RV. There aren’t any RV parks in Seattle proper. The closest to Lety’s house is Lake Pleasant RV Park in Bothell, but it’s always full.
We called Issaquah Village RV Park, a no-frills, friendly campground where we stayed in 2016. No surprise, they didn’t have room. For our summer 2016 visit, we booked nine months in advance.
All the state parks were full. Everything was full. In desperation, we booked a week at Puyallup Fairgrounds/Washingston State Fair for $20/night. Located more than an hour away from Lety’s house, it was far from ideal. But it was literally the closest thing we could find.
In the meantime, we were reaching out to all of our friends and acquaintances in Seattle, trying to find a place closer to Lety’s where we could moochdock. After a couple of days, we connected with the brother of one of Eric’s high school friends. We had never met him before. Steve was a little stand-offish on the phone, but eventually agreed we could park on his property in Brier…only 20 minutes from Lety’s house.
When we pulled up, Steve’s house was on a double lot. The grassy half where we first parked was nowhere near level. And we scraped up against the apple tree. We honestly thought we’d have to leave and go to Puyallup Fairgrounds. But then, Steve offered to let us park on his empty garden plot. It was perfect.
So began three weeks filled with divine intervention and favor. Our host made everything easy for us, overflowing with kindness and generosity. Our RV fridge broke. Steve loaned us his mini fridge, which we plugged in outside our RV. We knew we needed to rehome our cats. Steve provided them a loving home. He let us do laundry in his basement. He let us take showers in his house. He brought us dinner. He let us burn Lety’s old paperwork in his fire pit. He let us use his gorgeous, huge pickup truck to make runs to the dump with trash and thrift store with donations.
Our RV situation could not have been easier. So providential, considering the heavy issues we were facing on the home front.
Dry camping notes: I used Wedgewood Laundromat and Alfine Laundromat for laundry. We had Honey Bucket come once to pump our tanks. We paid them $116 including tax, which was steep, but necessary considering we didn’t have the time nor energy to move the rig.
What We Did in Seattle
Each day looked like this: work, have lunch, head to Lety’s house, work until dinner, have dinner, go home, crash (or work some more). In our first two weeks, I’m pretty sure we only took one day off. All that to say we didn’t do a lot in Seattle, other than enjoy those hard-earned dinners. But we did fit a few things in.
Swimming at Green Lake and Other Family Stuff
Green Lake is a magical place for both Eric and myself. Eric spent lots of time there as a child. For my part, I was a nanny for two families who lived on or near the lake. During those months, I dreamed of being there with my own child. This was the fulfillment of my dream.
We took Javen and Silas to swim in the lake two years ago, when we were visiting and I was pregnant with Caspian. They asked to go back this year–one of the only things they requested during their weeks of hard work.
We did a couple of other toddler-oriented things, like hang out at the playground next to Woodland Park Zoo. That zoo is one of my absolute favorites, but it was closed for a private event on the one day we were free to visit!
We also loved Clover Toys in Ballard, where we finally got Caspian a set of Magformers.
On the Jeep front, we found parts through Olympic 4×4 Supply when the motor for one of our power windows went out.
We also checked in at Northridge 4×4, to pick up our ARB fridge for overlanding and get our AC hose repaired.
Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery
The other thing we did for pleasure was visit Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery in Woodinville. We honeymooned half a mile away in 2011. But at the time, I wasn’t much of a drinker (and Eric has been sober since 1993).
When we went to the winery, we bought crackers and charcuterie, and had a wine-less picnic on the grass.
This time, I actually did a wine tasting. ? The winery grounds are stunning, with events scheduled throughout the summer.
Where We Ate in Seattle
Yes, we did eat our way through the north part of Seattle. Many of these restaurants are old favorites, but we also made some fresh discoveries.
Dick’s Drive-In – After family and friends, I’m pretty sure Dick’s Drive-In is Eric’s favorite anything in the world. The hangout for high schoolers in the ’80s. This is where Eric goes first every time he gets to Seattle. And I literally mean first. I’m not sure whether I was converted because I was in love, but I’m sold either way. Fries with tartar sauce. Trust it.
Burgermaster – Classic drive-in. Turn your lights on when you’re ready to order. They’ll bring your food out on a tray that sits on your window.
Red Mill Burgers – Gourmet burgers from an old Austin joint that doesn’t show its age. Eric went here with his mom and stepdad when he was little.
The Wing Dome – We’d both frequented the Greenwood neighborhood a ton, but never ate at The Wing Dome before. It became my clear favorite. Love the house margarita, appetizers (dip sticks and onion wings!), hot wings, and Wing Dome salad. We’d cover the table with food and enjoy every single thing. Look for happy hour and daily specials.
Skippers – Sadly, Eric went to Skippers without me this time. This is a local chain with stand-out New England clam chowder, and fish and chips. We’ve been to the location just outside of Portland, OR, and there are also locations in Idaho and Utah.
Brileys BBQ & Grill – New discovery. I enjoyed the brisket and sauce. The Brunswick stew was something I wouldn’t normally try, but it was freaking amazing. So cool to sit on the patio on a beautiful summer day, and look out on the water in the distance.
Gabriel’s Fire – Our second barbecue try. Looks like a dive on the outside, but the inside has a cleaned up sports bar feel. Everything was good, though we got cold shoulder East Coast vibes from our server (or was it cold shoulder Seattle vibes?).
Azteca – Old favorite for Mexican food, with multiple locations in the Seattle area. Consistently good food and margaritas, with an attractive atmosphere. Our first meal with Lety after we arrived. Apparently Azteca is in Oregon and Florida now, too.
Chez Grand Pere Bakery – Javen and Silas had an online college course to work on every morning. I had to get Baby Nomad out of there, so they could concentrate. In a coffee shop mecca like Seattle, we never would have gone to Chez Grand if we hadn’t been in the neighborhood. As it was, we enjoyed every morning there. We usually had the place to ourselves, with a big sofa and lots of children’s books. Meanwhile, there were French pastries on hand, with the chocolate croissant being our top pick.
The Bridge Coffee House – I highly recommend The Bridge Coffee House, which is co-located with our home church in Seattle, where we were married on Haller Lake. Don’t be put off by the church part; it’s a no-agenda space. They take the art of coffee seriously here, with wonderful espresso drinks (Stumptown) and local pastries. Silas had his first macchiato (not the Starbuck’s variety) and took it like a champ. Feel free to sit and work, or meet a friend. The atmosphere is super low-key and welcoming.
Salt & Straw – Okay, so totally didn’t realize until this week that we went to the original Salt & Straw in Portland in 2016. Salt & Straw = synonymous for “arguably the best ice cream I’ve ever had.”
Little Tin Goods & Apothecary – Totally love this place. Cocktail bar and bistro in Ballard, where Eric and I had two lovely date nights. Ambiance is everything for me, and I’d describe this place as magical 1920s jazz bar with a Caribbean island influence. The Birds and the Bees cocktail is gorgeous + delicious. But what you’ll really remember (if the flavor profile appeals to you) is the Fig & Pig Pizetta: puff pastry, mozzarella, prosciutto, port with fig and cinnamon. Let me make this clear: this is a pizza with a freaking croissant crust. Why don’t all pizzas have a croissant crust???
Hazlewood – Equally delicious cocktails, slightly different scene. Right around the corner from Little Tin in Ballard, Hazlewood is more of a dive. You’ll be waiting for Kerouac to come around the corner, if you can tolerate the cigarette smoke for long enough (he would’ve).
Reflections on Our Spontaneous Trip to Seattle
We were meant to go to Seattle. The way our circumstances were engineered was confirmation that we were in the Right place. Of our entire 2018 trip, we were at the closest geographic point to Seattle when we heard the news. Any earlier or later, and we would’ve been hundreds more miles away.
Even on our rapid drive there, we were taken care of. We stopped at a rest area because Caspian was being super fussy and needed a break. When I walked out of the RV, I heard a loud sound–air escaping. On a walk-around, we found the valve on our inside rear driver-side tire was leaking air.
At that moment, a trucker pulled in next to us. Of course he was working, with somewhere to be. But he stopped to troubleshoot with us. He measured our tire pressure, wrapped the valve to slow the leak, refilled the tire with air, and told us where we could go to get it fixed (a TA that was only a few miles up the road, in the direction we were going).
It was dinnertime on a Friday night. Not an auspicious time for repairs. But someone was at the TA, able to help us immediately. We didn’t even have to pull into a bay; we didn’t even have to remove the tire; and he even had replacement windshield wipers for us.
I take the time to tell this story because it’s a reflection of our entire three weeks. I look back on them, and they were so hard. But they were also easy because we were clearly doing what we were supposed to do.
Before we were engaged, Eric and I made a “Living List” on a napkin in an Italian restaurant. On that list, we said we wanted to always take care of our parents and children. We’re committed to that, and thankful we’ve built a life that permits us to do it so seamlessly.
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