Who mentioned Starbucks?

Trip Start Jan 16, 2007
Trip End Aug 20, 2007

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Flag of United States  , Washington
Friday, June 15, 2007

Nestled between the Cascade Mountains to the East and the Olympic Peninsula to the West, it is fair to say Seatte enjoys its fair share of rain. It makes me feel right at home. Today's batch of rain has just ended, but I suspsect it is just a warm up to a massive storm this weekend. I have yet to look at the weather forecast, but I would be inclined to put money on it. To be fair, it's been pretty good for much of the time, meaning great conditions for doing some old spinning of the wheels. I've progressed to self-propelled, rather than internal combustion engine propelled movement now, and have acquired a new bike for my trip across the country. Though I'm sure that with a lot of planning it would have been really easy to get my bike from home sent half way round the world to an unknown address in an unknown city, I chose the really easy option and got one over here. It took a good couple of days trawling through pretty much every bike shop in the area to find what I was looking for in a size that fitted. I'd had little success in the more corporate stores, so did what any sane person would do in such a situation: go to the geeks for assistance. The geeks in this case were a firm called 'Recycled Cycles' down in the University district, and I managed to get in with the head geek who knew pretty much there was to know about any of the bikes in store. Not too reserved when it came to describing bikes (e.g. I wouldn't buy this bike (referring to a Raleigh Sport) unless I wanted to throw it in the skip), it was much better than the blokes in the other stores who either didn't have a clue what they were talking about, or were trying to hit that weeks sales targets for a particular model. The bike I ended up with was a DBR Podium 2, and it's the fastest thing I've ever ridden.

Since I got the bike last week, I've spent quite a bit of time riding it around the area, getting used to it and giving the wires an opportunity to stretch out (which they have). With plenty of bike lanes around the city, as well as miles of purpose built ones all around Lake Washington and through the hills around, Seattle's one of the easiest citys (apart from York) that I've ever ridden through. Something that's ace about the buses and bikes is that you can take the bike with you. There's a fold down rack at the front, which everything attaches in to, and you just whack it on when you board, and there you go. Some of the signage could be a little better though, as I took a while finding one of the tracks out in the suburbs, and ended up on a magical mystery tour of the area around Bill Gates' pad. Didn't see anything though. I quite fancied going into something out of a sci-fi film.

On the subject of Gates and Microsoft, it's not the only thing that's come out of Seattle that's hada huge impact on how we go about our lives. Whilst Microsoft could probably tell you everything you've ever done on any computer, anywhere (should they ever be inclined), Amazon takes the mantle for books, music, dvds, electronics, etc. Joining the Amazonians and Microsofties, there's Boeing and Starbucks to join the fray. The original Starbucks started out as a small coffee shop in Seattle's famous Pike Place Market (right round the corner from where I based myself) in 1971, before starting it's quest for world domination. Boeing also has a taste for ruling the world, this time from the skies, and with the lagest building by volume in the lower 48 states, it sure has the capacity to do so. World domination seems to have been a theme of any famous company that came from Seattle, along with Dr Evil in Austin Powers, who had his evil headquartersin the Space Needle, Seattle's Eiffel Tower. A remnant from the 1962 World's Fair (along with the monorail) it's perhaps Seattle's most iconic building, often seen in images with the city and Mt Ranier (the local, massive volcano) behind.

My experience of Americans so far has pretty much lived up to the image I had before I came over. Many seem to have built in megaphones into their voicebox, and they seem incapable of showing any restraint. Nowhere has this been more the case than at the hilarious baseball game I went to, where the Seattle Mariners were playing the Baltimore Orioles. Huge video screens flashed with slogans for the crowd to cheer, and when they did, it was often as you'd see on Jerry Springer - a lot of whooping, high-sky clapping, often standing up and doing so for no particular reason, with a lot of 'you go Mariners' thrown in. I was just cracking up pretty much the whole time. There are also Hummers (big cars, if they've passed you by). Everywhere. I'm not too sure how many gallons to the mile they do, but they are probably as environmentally friendly as Chernobyl. That's just the regular ones, let alone the stretched ones which come out to the size of a bus. You've got to love them though, as what more of a potent symbol to the rest of the world (just as a car driver) could you do than to stick two fingers up at the fun-spoiling, 4 by 4 hating greens and buy a nice big, fat, fuel guzzling behemoth to cruise around the mean, leafy lanes of town in?

Being based so close to the middle of town, the daily market at Pike Place is about 30 seconds walk away. A Seattle institution, it's 100 this year, and was the USA's first official farmers market. With over half a dozen stalls selling all kinds of fish caught in the past few hours, you can pick up pretty much anything acquatic that you want. In season now are Copper River Salmon, along with King Crab (legs 2 feet long!). Apart from the trout, all the fish are wild, and they are huge. The 'small' salmon at 8lbs, and the big ones around 30-40. Monsters. With veggie stalls and an excellent bakery (I think if I eat much more from there my bike may buckle), you just head down there when you feel peckish and see what's on special that day. 

Currently just sorting out the final bits for the ensuing cycle ride, the next time I write anything should hoefully be several hundred miles inland, surrounded by mountains. That is presuming they're progressed from the Pony Express in the sticks. 

photo linkage: http://yorkuk.facebook.com/album.php?aid=68009&l=3d831&a mp;id=222300048
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