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Washington State Trip
May 30, 2014 - June 8, 2014
I was finally able to move Seattle from my Places I'd Love To Visit list to my Places I've Been list. We had a fun time in Seattle but the icing on the cake was the cross-state road trip and the excursions to the national parks. I never knew Washington state has such a diverse landscape.
Things I Really Enjoyed
- Riverfront Park: a beautiful park in downtown Spokane that has powerful waterfalls and plenty of activities
- Puget Sound Energy (PSE) Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility: Our visit to PSE's wind and solar facility was an unplanned stop. We were given an engaging tour of the facility that included the opportunity to enter the tower of one of the humongous wind turbines.
- Leavenworth: The town of Leavenworth (not the prison) was one of the stops of the road trip portion of our vacation. The townspeople converted its downtown area into a Bavarian village to attract tourists after the collapse of their lumber industry. This charming village sits at the base of the Cascade Mountain range and is a must-see when traveling through central Washington.
- Seattle Underground Tour: This was an outstanding tour that took us beneath the streets of Seattle to see some of the original city structures before the city was destroyed in a fire.
- Landscape Diversity: The road trip and excursions gave me the opportunity to appreciate the diverse landscape of Washington state. We experienced woodlands, wetlands, desert, rainforests, shorelines, and snow-capped mountains.
- Mount Rainier National Park: Beautiful!
Things I Would Do Differently
- Tour Mount Rainier National Park on Our Own: The excursion we did with Tours Northwest was convenient and nicely done. However, had I known beforehand that our downtown Seattle hotel was next door to a car rental place, I would have rented a car for the day to do the park on our own. The scenic overlooks, trails, and visitor centers we did on the organized tour are all clearly marked.
- Choose a Seattle hotel close to Westlake Center: The tourist attractions in Seattle are spread out enough that staying close to one of them puts you far away from others. The Westlake Center offers many public transportation options (buses, light rail, monorail, etc.) There is even a light rail that travels between the airport and Westlake.
A visit to Seattle had been on our Bucket List for several years. Traci and I had begun planning our visit more than once over the years but something would always cause us to postpone our plans. It was not until one of Traci's running groups, the NBMA (National Black Marathoners Association), announced that they would be meeting in Spokane, Washington to run the Windermere Marathon that I could finally consider our trip a done deal. There is not much that comes between Traci and her running.
Traci normally leaves the trip planning to me. It is something I really enjoy. The fact that the marathon would take place in Spokane (pronounced Spo-can) opened up more interesting possibilities for our visit beyond just the Seattle trip I had originally envisioned. Spokane is in eastern Washington whereas Seattle is on the western side of the state. This gave me the opportunity to plan a cross-state road trip. I used the AAA Tour Book for Washington state to put together an itinerary. The AAA tour books are my favorite resource for planning a road trip in the U.S. or Canada. They do a thorough yet concise job of describing the attractions of every city/town in a state or province. In my spare time over the course of several months, I read through all of the attraction descriptions and added the attractions that looked interesting into a spreadsheet. I narrowed down my selections by reading online reviews and trip reports. Through this process, I came up with a 10-day trip consisting of the following itinerary:
- Fly to Spokane:Washington Dulles Airport (IAD) to Spokane with a plane change in Denver
- Weekend in Spokane: Traci participates in running events; sightseeing in Spokane
- Cross-state Road Trip: drive from Spokane to Chehalis with planned stops at Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park in Vantage and the town of Leavenworth; we made an interesting unplanned stop at the PSE wind and solar facility in Vantage
- 2 Nights in Chehalis: This allowed us to do daytrips to the Hoh Rainforest and to Mount St. Helens National Park
- 3 Nights in Downtown Seattle: city sightseeing and an excursion to Mt. Rainier National Park
- 1 Night at an airport hotel in SeaTac: easy access to our departure flight from the Seattle–Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
- Fly home: SEA to IAD direct flight
Here is a map of our itinerary...