By Ryan Vasquez
A little foreshadowing- for the first twenty-eight years of my life I lived in a place where the land is flat, the scenery is brown and tumbleweed actually rolls across major roads on windy days. That place is called Phoenix, Arizona and since I can remember I always wondered what it would be like to live in a different state. It wasn’t until July of this year that I was given an amazing opportunity to press pause on my crazy life and venture to Washington for a fresh start. However, other than one trip to Vancouver, Washington over ten years ago, I had never really experienced the northwest and I did not know quite what to expect.
Now, for the most part Washington has not disappointed me in the four months I have been here. I mean, how could I be disappointed with the beautiful green scenery, the mountains, the alternative lifestyles and having a lake within five minutes of me at all times? But there are certain aspects of Washington that I could certainly do without and that is what I intend to focus on in this narrative. Consider this a brief newcomer’s guide to Washington that provides you with a realistic point of view of the greater Seattle area as opposed to the same old trumped up brochure bull shit you can find via any google search.
Let’s start with the traffic. When driving in any major city, you can expect that traffic is going to be extra heavy during the morning and evening rush hour when everyone is completing their daily commutes to and from work right? And that is certainly true here in Washington as well. The only difference is that rush hour here lasts from 6:00AM until about 7:00PM Sunday through Saturday. I wish I was exaggerating, but I am not. For whatever reason there is always an excessive amount of traffic. I don’t get it; it’s as if everyone’s day job here is to help create a traffic jam. Seriously, there is no such thing as quick trip in this state. Driving as little as two miles to a grocery store can easily turn into a 30-45 minute adventure. It would be easy to blame it on the road infrastructure, but truth be told the roads aren’t quite as in despair are the drivers are. Considering Washington is a state that is known for excessive rain, it is truly baffling that its residents seem to have no clue how to drive in it. Even when it is not raining, you can expect for the flow of traffic to be at least five miles per hour (or more) under the posted speed limit at any time day. If planning to move or visit here, I suggest finding a place that is within walking distance of any places you may need to go.
Next, let’s focus on a couple of the popular tourist attractions in Seattle, starting with Pike Place Market. The home of probably the most unique farmers market in existence and of course the country’s first Starbucks. If you’ve never been and have only heard about it or seen pictures of this place, I could see how visiting it might be toward the top of your to do list when you get here. But for me, it is a place that you only need to visit once to determine that you don’t like it. First off, it is in downtown Seattle which is somewhat of a nightmare to drive in given the aforementioned driving skills of the locals, and even if you are able to get through portion of this journey, you will discover that finding parking anywhere near the market is next to impossible and if you are lucky enough to find a spot you should be prepared to spend a small fortune for two hour max parking. Now once you are actually in the market, I will admit it is a pretty impressive and unique place to see. One of the first things you will notice is the original Starbucks coffee shop. The next thing you will notice is the two mile line to get into said Starbucks, which is even crazier when you consider that there are about three other Starbucks locations within a half mile radius that are more than willing to sell you the same $7.00 cup of coffee. Granted, that’s less nostalgic but, for me anyway, nostalgia isn’t worth a two hour wait for an overrated cup of coffee. One other notable attraction at the market is the Pike Place Fish Market, better known as the place where they throw fish. This place is hard to miss, most because there is always a large crowd gathered around holding their cell phones in the air waiting for someone to place an order so they can record the workers in the front and the back of the market throwing raw fish to each other while yelling out the order. Don’t get me wrong, it is impressive and I’m not discounting their fish throwing and catching abilities but in hindsight it is men and women throwing fish at each other and not exactly worth the headache of getting there to see it, unless you’re into that sort of thing. Moving on, there are many other aspects to Pike Place market, including apparel, restaurants, candy stores and coffee shops which I am sure are great, but I am willing to bet that you could find the same or better quality without having to go anywhere near downtown Seattle.
Moving on, I want to briefly cover one more major tourist attraction. The Space Needle, which is arguably one of the most well-known and impressive structures in the United States, is also located in downtown Seattle. Meaning, if you are planning to visit you can expect the same frustration with traffic and parking that I previously mentioned. From a distance, the Space Needle makes for great pictures and is honestly just enjoyable to see as a part of the downtown skyline and up close it is even more amazing. But you run in to the same issues with crowding that you do at Pike Place Market and in all honesty there is even less to do here than at the market. Unless, of course, you don’t mind paying $26.00/person to take an elevator ride to the top floor or plan to spend a small fortune to eat at the rotating restaurant at the top of the needle. I am not saying that neither is worth the experience but personally have a hard time justifying paying any amount of money to ride an elevator. I am not telling you it’s not worth visiting, but honestly it’s not.
Again, Washington is an amazing and beautiful state that I am lucky to call my new home and I certainly do not intend to deter anyone from visiting either place I mentioned, but I would be remised if I didn’t take this piece as an opportunity to provide an honest review of the places I have seen and the things I have experienced in my short time here after spending my entire life in an entirely different place.