Friday, April 1, 2011

Seattle, Washington to Des Moines, Iowa

While on our trip across Canada and the U.S., we made a stop in Seattle for 2 nights to visit Chris and Christie Elm, who Steven knew from middle school. When we arrived on Friday night, they were having a game night at their house with some friends, so we got to meet some of their Seattle friends. We visited, but went to bed fairly early as we had lots that we wanted to see and do the next morning. The first thing that we did was go on the Boeing tour, the Future of Flight. This was interesting and we also got to see the factory where the big jets are built including the new 787 Dreamliner. Chris works for Boeing, so we were also able to see where he works. After the tour, we went back to get Christie and we decided to head around town for some sightseeing. First on our list was Queen Anne's Hill, which is a neighborhood in Seattle with great views of the city and the Space Needle. That was where we took the above picture. Then we were hungry so we headed over to a yummy gourmet pizza restaurant called Serious Pie. They have many different kinds of pizzas there and they are all more unique than just pepperoni or cheese. we ordered a sweet fennel sausage, roasted pepper and provolone pizza and a yukon gold potato, rosemary and pecorino pizza. They were very good. After the pizza lunch, we headed out to see some famous sights by the public market in Seattle. We saw this most famous chains, first coffee shop....

The Pike Place Fish Market where the workers toss the fish to each other in the air when someone places an order....

and the famous sign outside. What a great shot of two old friends reuniting in a new city!

We also went to a yummy cheese shop in the market called Beecher's Handmade Cheese and ordered some creamy macaroni and cheese. I would recommend this to anyone visiting the city.

After the public market, we found a Nordstrom Rack and did a little shopping. We didn't have too much time though because we had dinner reservations at a restaurant called the Grouchy Chef. Don't worry, that picture above is not the is a troll statue under a bridge that we saw on the way back to the house! We also made a quick stop at a chocolatier
called Theo Chocolate. The cocoa beans are all fair-trade certified and this establishment is one of the few places in the world that makes their chocolate from the beans itself. We didn't buy anything but we sampled the many different kinds of chocolates that they had there. My favorite of course was the dark chocolate.

So for dinner, we had made reservations at a restaurant called the Grouchy Chef. It was a one-of-a-kind place, run entirely by one man only. Not only does he wait tables and take orders he also cooks the food, does the dishes and takes reservations and payments. He only takes cash there, but the food is delicious. We got a gourmet 4 course meal including a carrot soup, chicken main dish, a salad with fresh melon and strawberries, but we had yummy desserts too. The chef reminded Steven of the Soup Nazi from Saturday Night Live. He has many rules for his restaurant and lots of signs everywhere typed up about how to act while you are eating there. Here is a link to an article written about the restaurant.

We had a wonderful time visiting Chris and Christie. We are so lucky to have such great friends to show us around their new city! On Sunday morning, we headed out of Seattle on I-90 east headed through Washington. We stopped at the Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park. We saw lots of petrified trees.

We also saw some native American carvings done in rock there too.

And then we high-tailed it back to the car when we saw this sign. Ha! Although, it was still winter and chilly there, so we didn't see any actual rattlesnakes, thank goodness.

We stopped for the night in Spokane, Washington and I spent the rest of the night doing some laundry! The next day, we kept on I-90 east as we went through Idaho and into Montana. We stopped in Coeur d'alene, Idaho and got some postcards and also saw a nice lake. I can imagine that it is bustling with lots of boats in the summer time as well as swimmers. We passed through Missoula, Montana and saw their football stadium and the campus of the University of Montana. We also passed through Bozeman, Montana, which is a small town that makes its living in the mining business. We drove around to try and see the deep, deep pit mine, however the observation deck was already closed for the day, so there wasn't much that we could see. :(

Also in Montana, we stopped at the Grant-Kohrs Ranch. This National Historic Site, details the ranch lifestyle that once was (and still is) the way of life in the American West. We learned the details of the ranch, and the park rangers at this site were very knowledgeable in showing us around. This large ranch was started by a Canadian fur trader named Johnny Grant and was expanded by a cattle rancher Conrad Kohrs. Grant moved to this area of Montana in the 1850's. At its peak, Kohrs owned 50,000 cattle and 10 million grazing acres. This was no small ranching operation! It is still a working cattle ranch today, although of a much smaller size- only 1600 acres.

The ranch house was very fancy inside, considering the time and the place. We also saw the barn!

Align Center
(There I am in a tee-pee!!!)

Another stop in Montana was the Little Bighorn Battlefield and National Monument. We learned about the Battle of the Little Bighorn (also known as Custer's Last Stand), the major fighters and we watched a movie about what happened here. Crazy Horse and his men badly beat Lieutenant Colonel Custer and the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the US Army.

We saw the cemetery where all of the fallen soldiers and Native Americans were buried.

And we also saw George Armstrong Custer's gravestone.

After a busy day in Montana, we found a hotel in Billings, Montana and we rested up for the next day! The next day we went through Wyoming. There was much flat land and horses and cows there. In other words, lots of ranch land.

Then we entered South Dakota. We had high hopes for the most famous landmark of this state: Mt. Rushmore.

Here it is in all of it's glory. Looks really big right? Well, Steven and I were unimpressed with how small it actually was. Not all that great in our opinions. We were glad to see such a famous landmark, but probably would not want to make it a vacation destination or anything. Mt. Rushmore was carved into the granite mountainside by Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln starting 1927. The idea to carve into a mountain was suggested as a way to increase tourism to this region of the country. The original plan was to picture the presidents from head to waist, however since the project was federally funded, funding ran out around 1941.

Here we are in front of Mt. Rushmore.

After leaving Mt. Rushmore, we kept seeing signs advertising for "Wall Drug". The signs were funny, like "Free Coffee for seniors" "Free Ice Water" "Free Family Attraction" and "Where the Heck is Wall Drug?". I was excited because one of the signs advertised "Western Boots" and I really wanted to stop at this place and get some boots too. Anyway, by the time we arrived there, it was past 5pm, so it was already closed. BOO!

Something that was very nice in South Dakota was Badlands National Park. We arrived towards the end of the day, so we did not have too much time to explore before dark. Badlands are a type of dry terrain where softer sedimentary rock and clay-rich soils have been extremely eroded by wind and rain leaving behind canyons, ravines and gullies. The colors often vary dramatically from black/blue to bright red. Also, lots of fossil hunting is done in this area, as much of the top soil has already been eroded away.

Although we did not find any fossils during our visit, we saw all of the different land formations in the park. It is so interesting how the land looks in this area!

We also saw some bighorn sheep!

and lots of interesting land formations.

After our visit to Badlands National Park, we continued on to Sioux Falls, South Dakota where we stayed the night. The next day, we took US 29 until we reached I-80 and took that road all the way to Des Moines, Iowa. We were just glad to be off of I-90, which we drove about 1500 miles on across the western United States.

While on US 29, we passed the Lewis and Clark trail. Where there once was a tree-lined trail is now an interstate system, getting us across the country quickly. We were excited to stop in Des Moines and visit some more friends for the night!


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