Friday, October 26, 2012

Sight Seeing in Seattle - Part 7 - Underground Seattle

For some reason I have a deep interest in underground places (ha-ha) which goes all the way back to when I was a kid and discovered a flooded mine near the grade school I attended.  Fortunately for me it was flooded because frequently bad things happen to people who venture into old mines but I could see the opening of the horizontal shaft going back into the hills.  I wondered who built it, why it was abandoned and what might have been left behind?   Years later I got to explore an abandoned mine in the Mojave desert and I found what had been left behind - hot rod magazines from the 70s and lots of rusty deviled ham cans.   When I was assigned to Germany with the Army I dragged the Missus on several trips through Bertchesgarden and  Ober Salzerburg looking at the old Nazi fortifications and bunkers.  The highpoint of one of the trips was a tour of an army bunker deep under a hotel.
When we went to Seattle recently we were told by folks to be sure to take the Underground Seattle tour.  Underground?  That got my interest, so the Missus, Young Son, and I headed off for Pioneer Square and the underground tour.  It was a warm and humid 90F that day, very uncharacteristic of Seattle so the cooler temperature under the sidewalk felt nice. 
Some history of how Seattle came to have its underground and how the tour started:
I recommend the tour to one and all, but there are flights of narrow stairs, cobwebs, dank smells, and a few tight places so be warned!   It was amazing to see how the first story of the buildings still existed at what had been sidewalk level and how the second story above was now the first!  According to the tour guide the tour changes as some areas are closed off by the building owners and others come open.  The pictures shown here are only a sample of what you will see.

The impetus for the revamp of Pioneer Square back in 1889

Here is where you start
The Grouch waiting for the group to form up so we could go across the street to start the tour.  I am looking grouchy because I wasn't feeling my best that day.
Skylights were added in the 'new' sidewalk when the road level was raised.  Over the century or more some of them have collapsed under the weight of pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk so if you see a blue-glass rectangle set into the sidewalk in this area, don't walk on it!
At the start - Young Son ponders what may lay ahead
Stuff was pretty much just left behind once the street was closed off above
Too big to bother to remove

You can see the retaining wall constructed to hold the fill in place that raised the street level
The openings for the first story windows were just bricked over
These windows were left open.  Interesting to see how modern utilities run through the underground area.  In some cases in looks like not much is holding everything up above.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

the Gun Addict Song

This guy is pretty entertaining and the song is clever.  I of course am nothing as he describes in his ballad!


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Scary times at Fright Fest 2012

So the Missus saw an item in the paper that said the local amusement park was looking for crazy scary people to be ghouls for the Halloween fright fest in October.  Now the Misuss isn't crazy or scary but she is up for anything that sounds like fun so she took herself over to the park to audition for a part. 

After screaming like a girl (wait, she is a girl!) and pretending to be pleading for her life and then getting electrocuted the park staff wisely saw that as a elementary school teacher her best fit was to keep the visitors in hand and keep them from getting too rowdy so she was hired as an 'usher' or in this case the person who stands at the front of the maize to keep order and decorum.  The fright fest is a series of mazes with themes in which  ghouls do their best to scare the customers.  It seems to work pretty well because the Missus reports some customers don't get past the first scare before running back out again, in some cases almost over top of her in their haste to get out!

Young Son also auditioned and got the role of the headless man in the Willoughby's maze and is acclaimed by many as the most scary part of that attraction!  It is doubly fun for Young Son because a friend of his is doing the make up for some of the actors so he gets a chance to visit with her when on break.  Sometimes he even sees his Mom!  How embarrassing for him.

This year's fright fest was well reviewed by the L.A. Times:,0,6126835.story
and it mentions the maize that the Missus works at (chapacabra) and the headless man (Young Son).

They are having a blast, however they are both gone Friday through Sunday evenings so I am feeling pretty lonely.

The Missus and her compadres

Scary ghouls and a chapacabra (different than a chewbakerby)

The chapacabra maze.  The Missus found out that the top part of the building is Styrofoam; it was laying on the ground while the feature was being constructed and she went to sit out what she thought was a large piece of concrete.  Turned out to be a large piece of Styrofoam! 

Getting close to the entrance!  The chapacabra did a number on the truck!

How nice, a dog house for the chapacabra!

This can't be good!  Blood splatters on the walls!!

I guess the day of the dead is describes what happens to people who go into this maze

Visitors who didn't make it all the way through!

A good place for visitors to say a prayer that they will survive?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Planet of the Apes land - AKA the Pinnacles

The Pinnacles located outside of Trona California has been the site of many a movie and TV show filming.  It is most evident in the 2001 movie "Planet of the Apes"  where the climatic finish was filmed.  The Pinnacles are located on BLM land and are accessible by a regular sedan although when it rains (and it does!) the dirt and sand road into the area will have deep standing water on it in many places. 
I journeyed to the Pinnacles today with two friends to see what was to be seen.  The last time I was there many years ago the weather was cold and rainy.  today it was brilliantly sunny and in the high 80s.  The silence and stillness was amazing.  We were able to drive in our 4WD vehicles throughout the spread out area which gave us a good appreciation for the variety and shapes of the pinnacles.  We spent almost three hours at the site, walking, having lunch, and driving through and around the spires.  It was a trip well worth making!
Here are the Pinnacles subbing for the future Planet of the Apes.  I like Chuck Heston's version of the movie better.
Approaching the Pinnacles on a somewhat washboard and definitely dusty road.

The main area of the spires.
Anyone see some large apes wearing clothing around here?
Very other worldly
Who is that handsome explorer?
We thought this looked like one of the aliens in 'Prometheus'
More of the alien landscape
Modern art?
We called this one "the eagle"
The trusty vehicles.  It sure is nice having air conditioning and satellite radio!

Another crazy scheme in the desert.  Something about the desert seems to bring out the dreamers and schemers.
This can be found after you leave highway 178 for the turn off to the Pinnacles.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Sight Seeing in Seattle - Part 6 - Mt. St. Helens

One of the important places to visit in the general Seattle area - at least for me - is the Mt. St. Helens volcano crater and devastation area.  The volcano blew and wiped out the area for dozens of square miles in 1980.  Some thirty years later the area is grown back except for the immediate area around the volcano itself.  That area is green but mostly treeless.  The slope of the volcano itself is dead and with the stiff wind blowing that we were experiencing the day of our visit, the ash was blowing in clouds from the volcano slope.  Mt. St. Helens is a pleasant 2.5 hour or so drive from the Seattle area along I-5.  Once you get to the visitor center right off of the interstate it is still another 45 minutes up the mountains to the observation point to see the crater.  Well worth the trip!
The visitor center at the bottom of the mountains.  Stop here to buy your pass to the Mt. St. Helens area.

The original bridge was blown away by the volcanic blast.  This one constructed in the 90s replaced it.  This was the furthest area of the blast.  The rest of the damage was from mudflows and ash.

A nice drive up the mountains on a windy (mostly) two lane road.  Plan enough time for the drive.

Getting closer to the volcano!
The trees were blown away and killed by the blast and ash.  Most of the dead trees were picked out by the Forest Service and contractors over the years.  The direction of the tree falls show the impact of the blast.
The landscape scoured clean by the volcanic blast
Inside the observation area facility - a tree snapped off by the blast and on display
Young son
Young Son and the Grouch
Just to prove the Missus was along on the trip!  I'm holding onto her so we don't blow away!
More devastation from the blast near the observation point
There it is, Mt. St. Helens with the blast area exposed - notice how part of the volcano is gone?
Still steaming and sometimes erupting!