Road Trip Day 12: More touring in Seattle

Today we did a lot of inefficient running around, but it was okay. In the morning, Kim, Dave, and I discussed the plan for meeting up at this evening’s Mariners game. We left the house around 10:15 am, but didn’t get on the road until around 11:15 am because we lost an hour getting gas and running some other errands.

We finally got to Seattle at 12 noon, and our first stop was the ballpark. Seattle’s baseball stadium (Safeco Field) and football stadium (Qwest Field) are right next to each other, south of the city a couple of blocks from the waterfront. We drove around Safeco Field and pulled up to the parking garage for Qwest Field, and found that they were charging $5 for parking for the day. Score! We got an awesome parking spot for a bargain price, and didn’t have to worry about the car for the rest of the day.

We poked around in the Mariners Team Store for a few minutes, then bought our tickets. They were kinda expensive compared to what we’re used to paying – we can see an Orioles game on a Tuesday night for only $8. Granted that this was a Friday, but our upper left field tickets were $27 each. At least we saved ourselves $4.50 per ticket by buying them at the park instead of from Ticketmaster.

From there, we walked to Pioneer Square, which was less than a mile. We got there and found that the next available Underground tour was more than an hour later, so we bought tickets for 4 pm. Since it was on our way back to the ballpark anyway, we could do the tour before we went to the game.

With the baseball tickets and Pioneer Square Underground Square tickets safely in my purse, we walked less than a mile up downtown, past several Starbucks, past the Seattle Art Museum, to Pikes Place Market.

Pike's Place MarketPikes Place is world famous. The fish market there has been immortalized by a management video training series called “Fish!”, though many visitors find out about it through more typical tourist methods. It’s just really fun to watch the guys at the fish market throw the fish around, call-and-response the orders, and mess around with the tourists by having them hold live crawfish or make dead monkfish jump when tourists least expect it.

There are also scores – hundreds? – of different shops, stalls, and restaurants selling just about anything you might want – from fresh fish, produce, and cut flowers to kitschy tourist tchotchkes to art, clothing, or vintage comic books. Anything you might want, you can probably get at Pikes Place, or perhaps across the street at one of the other similar markets such as Sanitary Public Market. Some of the wares are actually somewhat affordable – the fresh fruit and vegetables looked so good and for such a great deal I wished I could buy several pounds’ worth – and some is a total ripoff.

We had lunch at a restaurant called Lowells Seafood, which was not at all a bargain, but it was good seafood. Dave had fish & chips, and I had a crab cake roll (which was surprisingly spicy). The setup of the restaurant is interesting. On the second floor, you can be seated and have table service. Otherwise, you order your food at the counter on the first floor, pay for it and get a number, and then find yourself a seat on either the first or third floors. Of course the place is packed, so you have to look out to see when someone else is leaving and grab their table while it is being bussed. Your food to you a bit later. Most of the tables are at or near the window, so you can look out onto the waterfront while you’re waiting.

After lunch, we headed up to the monorail. I have often said that I think the Seattle monorail is silly, but in this case it actually served a public transportation purpose. We didn’t have a lot of time to get to Seattle Center and then back to Pioneer Square, and it’s over a mile and a half to walk from Pikes Place. So, we walked up to the Westlake Center mall in the middle of downtown, which is the other terminus for the monorail. For $4 each, you get a round trip on the monorail (and we had a $1 coupon), saving a mile’s walk up to Seattle Center. Plus the monorail drives right through Frank Gehry’s crazy curves of the Experience Music Project. We found as we went through that you get a pretty cool glimpse into the Sky Church from the monorail as you drive through.

Our goal was to go up the Space Needle, take a few quick photos, and high-tail it back to Pioneer Square. But when we finally got in line for the Space Needle, we realized that was a crazy idea. It was about 3 pm, and the line just to get tickets was kinda long. I inquired at the window and was told that the line would take about 10 minutes. Dave inquired further inside at the information desk. He learned that once inside, there’s perhaps a 10 minute wait to go up the elevator, but that the line would be quite a bit longer to take the elevator down. We realized that the math wasn’t working in our favor, so we got out of line and decided we really didn’t need to go up the Space Needle on this trip. Too bad, because the weather was ideal for it today, but que sera sera.

We bought our Seattle postcards, then wandered over to check out Seattle Center’s fountain, which looks like a shiny crashed asteroid. Then we caught the monorail back to downtown, and hoofed it back to Pioneer Square just in time for the 4 pm tour.

The Pioneer Square Underground Tour is unique. Actually, Pioneer Square itself is unique. It is one of the first neighborhoods to be designated a U.S. National Historic District, due to the efforts of Bill Speidel, who is also the father of the Underground Tour. Instead of being torn down to build condos and parking garages, Pioneer Square maintains some of its original character from the turn of the century.

Bank Vault in the Seattle UndergroundThe Underground Tour exists because when Seattle was first founded, it wasn’t planned very well, and it wasn’t until about a decade later that the city realized that it really needed to build the city 12′ to 30′ higher than the original streets. When the new streets were built at levels that allowed residents to avoid problems due to tides and sewage, then the original first floors (and second, in some cases) of the buildings were now located under the streets. However, the original sidewalks to those buildings remained, so the neighborhood is actually navigable at this level. To get the rest of the story, I recommend visiting Seattle, buying Bill Speidel’s book “Sons of the Profits”, or both. The tour was pretty interesting, to be walking around beneath the city’s sidewalks, though the tour guide’s stories (tales of sewage, brothels, murders, and more) were more interesting than the sites we visited while underground.

After the tour, we were both pretty tired. We went across the street to Starbucks, and actually sat in Starbucks to rest and caff up. I guess it was a typical Seattle experience, except that nowadays, sitting in Starbucks is a pretty typical experience just about anywhere.

It was getting to be about 6 pm when we headed back to the car to get jackets, then went into the stadium. They gave us Franklin Gutierrez bobblehead dolls – just what I always wanted! We entered Safeco Field at the center field entrance and immediately found ourselves practically on the field. We were surprised to be so close to the field. Particularly surprising is that the bullpens are separated from the crowds by only a chain link fence, so if you want to stand there and heckle the opposing team’s pitchers during the game, it would be easy to do so.

Safeco Panorama

Dave and I walked around the entire stadium at field level, to see what there was, and to get some views from around the stadium. Considering the amount of public art we had seen so far around the city of Seattle, we weren’t surprised to find some in the stadium as well – baseball themed, of course. We were just about to head up to our seats when Kim called to say that she and Madison were pulling up to the stadium. We could see her car as she turned the corner, so we gave her some instructions to get to the garage, and then waited for her and Madison to walk back. We pushed their tickets to them through the gates, and once they had entered the ballpark, we all took the extremely fast escalators (scary for a four-year-old!) up to the upper deck. The seats were pretty good, with good sightlines to home plate, though the view of the left field corner was obstructed.

At the beginning of the 3rd inning, Kim, Madison, and I took a walk around the stadium to get food and beverages. We were gone for kinda a long time, but we were really surprised to find that it was the 6th inning when we got back to our seats! The game was going really fast, and not in favor of the Mariners. Things slowed down in the 9th, when the Indians scored several more runs, finishing the game at 9-0 Cleveland. The game was over by 10 pm – pretty quick for an American League game.

We saw SO many State Patrol on the way home, making up the entire tally for the day: 6 in all.

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