Seattle, Washington | Western USA Road Trip 2015

[A bit of a catch up in case you are confused: from January – August 2015 I studied abroad at Montana State University, Bozeman. In May 2015, my favourite boy and I took a road trip in our car (named Shane) across the western side of the USA. We camped in the car, cooked almost all our food on a Walmart camp stove and did a whole load of exploring. It was amazing. And I’m only just getting round to blogging about it!]

Remember way back when I said I was gonna recount my road trip experience? Well, that time is finally here. I have been back in England for almost 2 months now but am wishing I was back there, hiking on the weekend, going on adventures and cycling around sunny (flat) Bozeman! Dreams to move back to the great old USA set aside, let’s start where I left off: we had just left Coeur D’Alene, Idaho and were arriving in Seattle, Washington for Stop #2 of the adventure.

[Also, another side note: My sister met Ashley on Flickr a really long time ago (probs like 7/8 years roughly!) and in 2010, Ashley visited England with her friends: Jenn & Cait – during that trip, we all became sistahhhhs for life and the rest is history. Her family is like our family even before we met in person. Trans-Atlantic Friendships are fun! I had last seen Ashley at Christmas of 2014 – so not too long at all! But, I had not seen Jenn or Cait for 5 YEARS! And I had never even met Ash’s family – which is crazy to think about now cause it feels like we’ve known each other forever!]

Roadside Stop, Washington
Columbia River Overlook
Washington Drive – Sean on the path

So, after breakfast on the beach of Coeur D’Alene, we set off for Seattle, Washington with a 5-6 hour drive ahead of us, and a surprise planned for when we reached our destination. Sean was a trooper, driving for so many hours, and it was also a pretty hot day. We stopped at a beautiful overlook about 3 hours from Seattle and were amazed by how far you could see and how many lizards there were as well as the gorgeous sparkling river. I remember jumping and dancing about on the rocks; restless from the car ride but so excited to keep going and getting this first glimpse of exploring a new little place made me even more thrilled about the adventure we were embarking on.

On the road: Dust Storms

The drive continued, with dust storms on either side of the road, rolling fields all around and the barren landscape stretching all the way to the horizon. Soon, the dusty fields turned to a city skyline far away, but we eventually made it into the traffic jams of the city, the biggest place we had been in since leaving England the January before. Horns honked, motorcyclists wove their way through the traffic, cyclists were everywhere and there was a definite smog in the air. We dropped of Ben and Juliet at the bus stop; both laden down with backpacks full of reminders of their year long travels, promising to try and meet again soon before the end of the journey. Then, after navigating some dodgy intersections, rush hour traffic and a tree lined highway, we made it to Renton, a small city just outside of Seattle that I have been wanting to visit since 2010 when I met the 3 friends who reside there; Ashley, Jenn and Caitlin.

Flowers at Pike Place Market

Driving up the hill to Ashley’s family’s house felt like coming home, everything so familiar like a memory from my childhood or stepping into a pair of well worn winter boots after a summer without. I had seen so many pictures, had so many long conversations on Skype, I felt like I had been there so many times before, especially when I saw Ashley’s pink hair as she waved us up. We high-fived as we drove in and then got out of the car and the three of us hugged, amazed that we had made it and that the car had held up for such a long drive. Then, Cici (Ashley’s Mum) ran out of the house and we embraced with tears in our eyes, not quite believing that we were meeting for the first time, and not quite believing that we hadn’t met before. Ash was rushing off to a work dinner, so hellos were sprinkled with goodbyes as Sean and I were ushered in the beautiful house and given the most delicious mac and cheese and brownies and ice cream as we chatted and chatted and met Auntie Laura who popped round to say hi. It was like coming back home to family, though I’d never been there before. We are so lucky to have forged such a wonderful friendship.

The evening was spent chatting and catching up, meeting the family (though it felt like we already knew each other) and once Ash was back home, surprising Jenn who didn’t know we were coming. Ashley secretly invited her over for an ice cream and brownie party and I jumped out when she walked in, it was really fun and so good to see Jenn (after 5 years!) – the evening was spent catching up on everyone’s news before we eventually had to sleep after the long day of travelling despite wanting to stay up all night to talk and just soak it all in.

Sean, Ash, Me & Jenn – after the surprise happened!

It was so good to sleep in a real (and cosy) bed after the previous night in the car! We were so grateful for a lovely place to stay and the fact that Ash gave up her room for us for the three days we were there.

Pike Place Market
The Space Needle peeking out through the trees

The following day was Seattle Day! Ashley drove us into the city in her little red bug and our first stop was Pike Place Market, as it was a Saturday, it was a bustling haven of locals buying produce and fresh flowers (It was Mother’s Day the following day), tourists watching the fish throwers in awe, and so many people (!!!!) – after being in Montana for so long, it was a little overwhelming to suddenly be surrounded by such a hurrying crowd of people all desperate to reach their destination wherever that might have been. Sean and I both felt a little bit overwhelmed but happy to be there too. Strange how used to things you get after only a few months.

Hanging out in Seattle!
Pink hair don’t care!

The rest of the day was spent exploring the surrounding areas, popping into shops, eating lunch on a grassy knoll overlooking the water and finishing up with a look around the bottom of the space needle and the EMP (experience music project!) as well as the waterfront, the gum wall (bit gross but still really cool) and loads of other cool spots that Ash showed us including the fountain that sprays water to the music that is playing – we had such fun running to it and away as soon as there was any sign of water! 

Seattle Space Needle and the EMP
The Gum Wall

Then we drove home for some delicious food and a trip out kayaking on Lake Washington! We met up with a kind uncle of Ash’s who was lending out his family’s kayaks and drove us to the put-in. We then met up with Jenn and Tyler and their inflatable kayak and all hopped in, taking in the beautiful sunset views, floating down the river into the lake, seeing a bald eagle and looking at all the lakefront houses. It was really fun to all hang out together and have a little lake based adventure! It was so dreamy, drifting along the water (and paddling a bit too!) with some of my favourite people beside me (We missed Lulu!).

Kayaking on Lake Washington
Kayaking with friends on Lake Washington

The night ended with Blizzards at Dairy Queen – something S & I had never had but they were the girls favourite and we had to try them. Verdict: Cookie Dough was yummy but afterwards I felt like my brain might explode from the sugar high!

Favourite Boy/Travel Buddy/Bestie – Before we kayaked

On the Sunday (Full day 2), S & I headed into Seattle once more (this time solo as Ash was working!), we drove the car to a neighbourhood with a metro station then rode our bikes to the station and got on the train with them. Once we disembarked, we cycled around the city, got a bit lost and eventually found our way back to the Space Needle. We met up with one of our english Montana friends; Will who was also in Seattle and keen to go up the space needle. And up we went. When we reached the top, we were met with amazing views of the city and of the Olympic peaks across the water. It felt like something we had to do while we were in Seattle as touristy as it may be. But it was actually really cool and I would definitely recommend it if it is your first time in Seattle! It really gave me a perspective of how big the city is and what the surrounding areas are like.

View from the Space needle – spot the mountains!
Sean at the Space Needle
The City – We even saw Mt. Rainier from up here.

Later in the day, we met up with friends from Bozeman for lunch (Along with Ben & Juliet who we drove to Seattle with) and then went back to Ashley’s for more chatter and fun times and an afternoon nap for S. We cooked them one of our road trip staple dinners for tea and spent a final evening enjoying each other’s company. The following morning was overcast and a bit rainy, we said our goodbyes and off we went: to Portland, Oregon!

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