USA: From Denver to Seattle

Our trip was almost complete, nearly two years after our starting date. The final leg of our journey was an overland trip from Denver back up to Seattle, from where we’d ultimately be flying home.

We chose the road because we had quite a few belongings in tow at this point, including boxes of pots and pans and other sundries stowed at Ian’s mom’s house as well as two decent-sized paintings to adorn our Finnish walls by Ian’s aunt in New Mexico.

A veritable blizzard in Denver.
Somewhere in rural Colorado.
Rio Costilla Valley, we suppose.

We took off from Denver in a rented Nissan Rogue on a bright and lovely morning; an omen, perhaps, for our upcoming trip. Our first stop was Ojo Caliente, in northern New Mexico, where we stayed with Ian’s aunt and uncle for a few days in their charming little cottage off highway 285. Our time there was well spent, feeding the wood stove and drinking and chatting on into the night. We also took a visit down to Santa Fe, and one of New Mexico’s best New Mexican restaurants, Socorro’s just north of Española.

Rio Grande in New Mexico.

During our stay, we realized that the paintings would surely not fit in our undersized Rogue, despite many attempts at wedging them through the tailgate. We called around to various Hertz offices in the region to check on their stock. We stopped at the office in the Santa Fe airport in hopes of swapping our car out for a larger one. The friendly attendant, apparently roused from watching online videos in the back office for lack of any other activity in the entire airport, gladly arranged a Nissan Pathfinder for us at no additional charge. It was the largest vehicle they had, and fortunately just barely did the trick, with not an inch to spare for the larger painting on either side through the tailgate. It was also a much nicer car, with all the bells and whistles of a luxury SUV.

Downtown Sante Fe.

After a few days of relaxing in the New Mexican countryside we said goodbye and got on the road again, this time on the way to Moab, Utah. We took the road west through Shiprock with a short jog into Arizona at Teec Nos Pos. We thought about visiting the Four Corners monument, but opted not to considering  the entry fee.

Four Corners monument.
So elevated.

We stayed in Moab for two nights and managed a visit out to Arches National Park. We made the short hike up to Delicate Arch around sunset, which was quite rewarding. The weather was spectacular, and the views were unbeatable as the sun was nearing the horizon.

Arches National Park.
Delicate Arch.

The following day we managed to get all the way to Pendleton, Oregon, via highway 191 and I-84 with a stop in Salt Lake City for lunch. This was by far our longest day on the road, clocking in at just about 12 hours. Accommodation in Boise was expensive, and there wasn’t much we wanted to see there, so we decided to just push on, and Pendleton looked charming. Some friends of ours who live in Kennewick decided to join us that night for some drinks at the Packard Tavern. We had almost given up on the prospect, considering the hour and the drive they would have ahead of them, and treated ourselves to some 9.2% ale with dinner, which all but put us under. Our friends ended up pulling through, however, and back out we went when they arrived at around 11pm. We stayed until the bar closed at 2:30am, said goodbye to our friends, and finally made it back to our hotel for some sleep before resuming our trip in the morning.

We only drove through…
The distillery in Pendleton.

Fortunately, considering the sizable chunk of mileage we put on the odometer the day before, we only had a few hours’ drive through the beautiful Columbia River Gorge to Portland. We hadn’t booked anything in advance, and the motels on Interstate Ave were surprisingly expensive. Nearly everything on the popular booking websites was fully booked, so we settled on the Super Value Inn for the night, with hopes of finding something better the next day. Our room was dingy and cold and smelled of rancid wine, but it got the job done, we supposed. At $70 per night it was tantamount to highway robbery for what we got, but was still a bargain compared to the other motels on the strip. For the remaining days we had in Portland, we booked a room at the Hyatt House just south of downtown, which felt absolutely regal compared to the Super Value Inn.

We enjoyed our time in Portland, and ate good food and drank fine drinks, and did a bit of shopping. A particularly noteworthy dining experience was had at Angel Face and Navarre, just off Burnside. We started off with drinks at Angel Face, which was the coziest of bars. We arrived just before it got busy, and were able to secure a spot at the bar top. We surmised that this was the type of bar we would like to own, or at least hang out in, with a selection of small plates and a wide variety of obscure liquors, with a focus on simple, classic cocktails and neat pourings. We walked next door to Navarre to put our names on the waiting list while we drank, and eventually went over for dinner. We were seated at the bar top between a few wine industry folks and an older couple, celebrating their 27th anniversary. We made pleasant conversation with all, and the food and wine was fantastic. It ended up being a great, if totally unresearched pick, and we left satisfied with our restaurant gauging abilities.

Angel Face.

After a few days of similar things, we headed up I-5 to Seattle with a stop in Olympia for lunch and to secure Ian’s proof of single status. In order to be wed in Finland, we both need to prove that we are not already married, and apparently an official proof of such a status is attainable at the Washington State Department of Health in Tumwater. After picking up the paper, however, we needed to drop it off at the Secretary of State’s office for an official apostille.

We had a Scandinavian brunch in Portland, complete with laskiaispullat.

We eventually made it to Seattle, and proceeded to handle all the logistical affairs that we had on our plate, such as renewing Ian’s driver’s license, a variety of doctor and dentist visits, and shipping all of our accumulated belongings, including the paintings and a couch we bought, back to Finland.

They’re remodeling the Space Needle.
Pike Place Market.
They pack to go.

We visited with family and friends and generally had a good time. One such good time was had at Melusine and Bateau on Capitol Hill. We joined a friend of ours for a night out, and ended up walking in to a nearly empty Melusine and having a seat at the bar. Our friend knew the bartender from way back, and he treated us to some glasses of bubbles to whet our palettes, followed up with some fantastic cocktails. Just as we were leaving, a bartender with whom we had made an affiliation the last time we were at Single Shot (more than six months prior) came to greet us, recognizing us while attending to his general managerial duties at Bateau next door. He ushered us to the only three empty spots at Bateau, right at the bar, and again poured us some welcome glasses of champagne (the real deal, this time, as Oona’s acute palette determined). He and the bartender began to make our night into something truly special, bringing out a nearly endless array of small plates and lovely drinks, both seemingly brought on by nothing more than the mere mention of such things in our inside voices, amongst ourselves, surely not overheard by anybody. Apparently our bartender had the ears of an owl, and a phrase like “fries would go perfectly with this champagne”, or something similar, at minimum volume, would elicit a plate of frites and mayonnaise, on the house, arriving in front of us minutes later. They made such an impact on us, in fact, that we demanded their business cards at the end of the night, in the potential preparation for starting our own such venture in Finland. After all, if we wanted to present good old American hospitality in Europe, we’d need purveyors of the original thing.

We stayed with Ian’s dad for the first few days in Seattle, but after that some close friends of ours were kind enough to host us in their spare room inside the city, so we moved up there. The perennial room mates were two adorable cats, Fiona and Cake, that were adopted several months prior. They were just young enough to be constantly playing, and are basically the best things ever.

Cake and Fiona.
Oona with a baby marsupial.
Cake is not into it.

All told, our trip back up to Seattle, and the final leg of our 22 month trip of trips was quite enjoyable. With a bittersweet sense of reflection, we headed to the airport to board our flight back home. The flight, fortunately, was quite pleasant, and both legs went quite smoothly and before we knew it we were back in the bracing cold of Finland.

A truly American pastime.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post to summarize our entire trip, and thanks for being part of our loyal readership.

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