Washington State

Having crossed the mighty Columbia, we headed to the west to follow the coast line north. Was long till we came to a small seaside area called Long Beach – so named as it’s supposedly the second longest stretch of uninterrupted beach in the world at 20 miles long. Long Beach is at the foot of a peninsula that ‘obviously runs out 20 miles’. We stopped for some lunch and to get some supplies and pushed on with the I101 – Coastal Highway. We called it quits at a state forest camp at an area called Twin Harbours. We were right up against the best so as headed out and I dipped my feet in the Pacific – nice and refreshing. Was nice to be on the beach and by the sea again – had been a while. The weather came and went this late afternoon – clagged in and then cleared and then clagged in and rained lightly as it got dark – putting pay to Carol’s hopes of seeing a nice sunset on the horizon.

On Tuesday morning we were up and on the road early – trying to get ahead of the traffic. Had a really good run through to the last coastal port town and then you hit the interstate (I5) and the traffic got heavier and heavier as we made our run towards Tacoma. Fuel prices were all over the place but we found a station just below Tacoma (in the Olympia area) that was less than $3 a gallon so filled up and then pulled up at Camp Lewis Joint Military base (Marines and the Airforce Airlift for the Pacific Coast is based here) to work out exactly where we needed to go. Our destination was the LeMay Auto Museum – claimed to be the largest car collection (in the US anyway). To make matters worse, this is just part of the collection – at the family’s home area outside of Tacoma at Marymount they have ‘his other collection’. LeMay sounds like he was quite the character – pre-WW2 he had a rubbish collection run and then after the war decided to buy a few more runs. As he and his team were collecting the rubbish they were also on the lookout for vehicles – if there was an old car on the side of the road or if someone said they didn’t want their motor anymore, LeMay picked it up and brought it back and worked on it. Not sure of the exact number of cars that he ended up with but apparently he really liked 1941 Chevy’s and ended up collecting 51 of the one model. The collection proper at the Auto Museum was very impressive – the museum is set on 5 levels – you wind your way down and then back up with each ramp up / down and level having a different theme of vehicles on display – I saw some beauties and the afternoon passed very quickly.

We pulled away from the museum later hoping the traffic would have subsided and made our way up the main interstate to a rest area below Seattle that would be our park for the night – noisy but okay. On Wednesday we were on the road early thinking we would get ahead of the traffic. They wasn’t quite the case – there was still plenty of grid lock at 6.30am but eventually we managed to work our way through to the Museum of Flight which is right by Boeing Field – a very busy freight haulage hub and private airport – there were a load of private executive jets flying in and out over the course of the day. We arrived at the museum car park at 7.15am – museum doesn’t open till 10am so we have plenty of time to make some breakfast and watch the airport coming’s and goings. Carol opted not to come into the museum proper so at 10am I set off – with the exception of coming back out for some lunch and a cuppa I returned at 5pm – there was a lot to take in. The museum is made up on 5 main galleries – the main gallery, the Red Barn which tells the history of Boeing, the WW1 and 2 gallery, the Space Gallery and the Open-Air galley. In the case of the Space Gallery and Open Air Gallery, these are both located across the road (the area is surrounded by Boeing manufacturing and right next to the museum is their Military installation – whilst we were there they were finishing some new military 767 refuelers and also some of the maritime Poseidon’s which New Zealand is scheduled to purchase). The Open-Air gallery is just that – it’s a large covered roof that houses a Concorde, B-17, B-29 and B-47 bombers, the first 747, the first 787, a Presidential One and several other significant machines. This is a great site to visit – there is loads to take in and you have the bonus of Boeing Field Airport next door and all it’s activity.

From the museum we made a short run up the road to a boondock site we had looked up – not to flashiest area but we parked up none the less. On Thursday morning we were a little cheeky and drove back to the museum car park to park the camper and from there we got a bus into downtown Seattle. We rode the bus to the area near the Space Needle and got off to have a look around that and the surrounding area. There is the Pop Culture museum which is a standout building – same architect as designed the Bilbao building. We didn’t go into the tower – everything was an expense so we had a nice look around the wider complex here and then made our way down towards the waterfront where there is a sculpture park and nice walkway. Wee trekked back downtown to Pike’s Market. The market is famous and you could tell by all the people about – a bit too manic for me. There are great fish vendors, the flowers and fruit stands looked good, there were a raft of crafts and much more all on offer. From the point of view that Seattle is a port town and the water is nearby, we liked that aspect, but I guess we have become fond of ‘smaller town USA’ and so we found the scale of Seattle just a little big for us and we were also somewhat over whelmed by the levels of homelessness in and around the city. It was a bit of an odd mix – on one hand you had well dressed business people getting around and homeless on a lot of the street corners looking for a handout.

From the market we headed up to the Info site to try and sort our bus ticket up to Vancouver and with that sorted, headed back to the museum and Romin. I showed Carol around the Open Air gallery (from the outside) and then we discovered that the museum is open free to the public on the first Thursday evening of the month 5-9pm so Carol came back with me and was able to have a bit of a look at some of what I had seen the day before. I used the time to study up some of the detail I had glanced over the day prior. After a long busy but enjoyable day we trekked across Seattle on the I5 up towards Everett to a rest area on the interstate and parked up for the night. Friday morning was another early start but it was only a short run through to Paine Field Everett – location of the Boeing Factory. I’d booked to take a tour and first tour of the day at 8.30am. Paine Field is a large international airport which is very well supported by the Boeing plant and all that comes out of the plant – the surrounding area was full of Boeing aircraft. The factory tour takes you into the Boeing factory – the building is famous for being the largest building in the world. I can’t recall all the stat’s but I think the space was something like 13 million cubic metres of space that covers a footprint of 98 arches. Under the factory there are a series of tunnels that run for a number of miles. The building was erected in the mid / late 1960’s for the construction of the new Boeing 747 – the Jumbo Jet. The building wasn’t yet finished when construction of the first 747 got underway. I think I heard the guy say that to prepare the ground area for the Boeing plant, more dirt was moved / graded that was moved for the construction of the Panama Canal – a big site.

The factory tour is very good – you get to see the 747 and 767 production and then you head down to the other end of the plant to look at the 777 and 787 production. Boeing are developing a new 777 model called the 777X – it has a larger wingspan and so as to be able to park it at current airport gates, Boeing have designed the wingtips to fold up when coming in to park – clever. A treat on the 787-production line was a brand new 787 for Air New Zealand sitting at the end of the line ready to be rolled out for final painting – to rub salt into the wound it was sitting ahead of a new Qantas jet. The guide said the plant produces around 5 747’s a month, 6 767’s (they are making a lot of the freighter and air force versions of these), 5 777’s and around 7 of the 787’s. Down the road they make the 737 and produce something like 50 of them a month. After the tour the site had a Future of Flight display to take in so I have a good look around and then did some shopping in the Boeing store. On the tour I got to talking to a nice chap Bill – he was from Michigan and was tripping around ‘in a big RV’. I got back to Romin to find Carol had moved next door – Bill had invited her in to see what a real RV looks like. To cap things off he had a large 1600 cc BMW motorbike that he carries on the back. We had a wonderful talk to Bill – he was in the boat building industry and did very well in the hay day and got well cashed up. He had homes in Florida and Michigan and of course his big RV. He was just tripping around with his dog Scobie with no real fixed plan. Big was a boat racer so I loved the conversation and the pictures.

But then it was time to pull ourselves back to reality and we headed off to find the RV park we had booked into for the night, and to store Romin whilst we head up to Vancouver and then Alaska. We had a very restful night (quietest night we had experienced in quite some time). Saturday morning was an early start – we had to be up to store the camper next door and get a taxi up to Everett to the bus terminal for the Bolt Bus to Vancouver. A very full bus rocked up at 7.40am and by 10am we were at the border – hoping it would be a straight forward process – will update you on that. So, summing up Washington, a state of great museums (Bill told me there is a great Hydroplane museum so may have to try and wangle a trip to there when we return), nice coastlines, very busy roads, Seattle was nice, Boeing have a huge building, and there are plenty of planes to be seen – all in all pretty good.

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