Spotted on the Roadside: Giant Chicken and Egg

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What came first, the giant chicken or the giant egg? If I was working on a project like this, it would for sure be the giant egg, as it’s much easier and would allow me to say I’m “half done” much sooner, which gives you a little insight into my creative process. Namely, that I’m lazy. It appears that the chicken used to have legs, but now doesn’t, for whatever reason, which also begs the question: we all know the saying about what the chicken does when its head is cut off…but what happens when it’s the legs instead?

Spotted on Bothell-Everett Highway in Bothell, WA.

The Lavender Festival in Sequim, WA

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Sequim (pronounced more like “squid” than “sequin”) is serious about its lavender. When I first decided to attend the Sequim Lavender Festival, I had no idea how central lavender is to the town’s identity. I didn’t know much about it at all, actually.

Sequim is located on the Olympic peninsula of Washington, and lies within the rain shadow of the Olympic mountains, which makes it much drier than the surrounding areas. They bill themselves as “sunny Sequim,” but I’ll have to take their word for it as it was overcast and threatening rain the day I visited. What was immediately evident was the town’s pride in their lavender. Lavender shrubs were everywhere, even growing in the landscaping of Sequim gas stations!

The Sequim Lavender Festival takes place in July, and activities are spread throughout the town, marked at their entrances by purple flags. There are two non-farm locations, one in downtown and one in Carrie Blake Park; I parked in a church lot near the park location for a nominal fee. They offered a shuttle and a hayride to Carrie Blake Park, but it’s an easy walk. From Carrie Blake Park, they have a free shuttle running back and forth between the downtown location, and one of the farms also offered a free shuttle from that location. Each place had their own spin on the festival; most offered live music, shopping, and food items with culinary lavender. Some offer u-pick lavender, some offer classes on distillation, crafting, cooking, beekeeping, and more. One offers high tea with George Washington!

This festival is incredible, both in scope and in quality. The farms and craftspeople are proud of their work and happy to show off to visitors, everything smells amazing, and I was in lavender food heaven. I wasn’t able to try everything I wanted to try, owing to limited stomach capacity, but everything I did try was so, so delicious. Peach lavender ice cream. Candied lavender walnuts. Piping hot mini donuts with lavender sugar. Dungeness crab cakes and greens with lavender balsamic vinaigrette. Lavender sweet tea. A warm from the oven apple mini pie.  A soft lavender sugar cookie. I may have proclaimed it the fattest day of my life.

 

The Olympic Game Farm in Sequim, WA

“Dad, don’t you want to know where we’re going?” “No.”  “DISCOUNT LION SAFARI!” “Damn these childproof doors!” -The Simpsons, Old Money

The Olympic Game Farm used to be the home of Disney’s nature film animal actors; they were the bears and big cats they’d film for close-up footage when it would be too difficult or expensive to obtain in the wild. The animals on the farm today are the slackabout progeny of these animal celebrities (plus a number of rescues), and for a fee, you can drive through the farm, pat some of them, and feed them whole-wheat bread.

When we arrived at the farm, after giving us a waiver to sign, an employee asked if we’d like to buy any loaves of bread to feed the animals. I’d told him that not only would we like to buy bread, but we’d take as many as he could sell us. It turned out the number they could sell us was only limited to money and car space, so instead, we bought his recommended amount, two loaves, so we could feed out each side of the car.

The tour started off slow, with nothing to be seen on either side of the road. The general consensus was that we hoped that eventually they’d have animals on their animal tour. I heard a noise out of my window, and Jason whipped a slice of bread past my head “just in case.”

Eventually, there were some yaks alongside the road. They mostly stood quietly, doing their yak business, although one of them would eat proffered bread if you placed it within an inch of his nose. This is when we learned that yaks can eat an entire slice of bread at once, much like a vending machine sucks in bills.

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Further down the path were some utterly disinterested  fallow deer and zebras. The deer stayed far away from the car path, wanting nothing to do with bread or tourists, while the zebras were closer to the road. I had hoped to feed one (even though we had been warned to watch our fingers as zebras can bite), but I was still excited to see a zebra so close. Zoo zebras are generally far away, and before that, the closest I’d come was a sad donkey painted with stripes in Tijuana.

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A little further down the path, we both had a “Is what’s happening down the road what I think is happening? OH MY!” moment. As it turned out, yes, two llamas were in fact giving a mating demonstration on the side of the road.

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Now, I could be an adult about this, but instead I’ll tell you that the noises that a male llama makes when he’s getting down are the worst. Imagine a regular llama sound but much throatier and jucier and you’re halfway there. Thankfully, Jason  took video so you don’t only have to imagine.

A bit further down the path, we had our first encounter with an animal that wanted all of the bread we’d feed to it: another llama. It is really disconcerting to have an animal stick its head into your car to be fed, especially when it knows that you’re holding out because it can smell the loaves you both have stashed between your feet. We tried to creep the car along, and it kept right along with us, insisting that we were being stingy and unfair by only feeding it four slices. Eventually, it was attracted to another car by the passengers waving bread out the window. I don’t know what the last car in line for the night does…maybe they take a llama home with them, or they’re subjected to a llama tantrum.

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In the bear fields, they had both kodiak and black bears; these were separated from the cars by two fences: one that a bear could use as dental floss, and the other electrified. I think the first fence was there mainly to keep the average dumbass from trying to hand-feed and/or ride a bear. The Olympic Game Farm advertises their waving bears, but no bears waved at us. One did, however, fetchingly snap a slice of bread out of the air. It reminded me of summers in northern Wisconsin with my grandparents, feeding marshmallows to the bear cub outside of a restaurant called The Honey Bear, only with slightly more nutritionally sound food and less cruelty as these bears have much more space.

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Speaking of space, the part I didn’t like at all (actively hated would be more accurate) was the predator zone. Here, they have a lion, a few tigers, some wolves, and other big cats in tiny, tiny pens that have chainlink on all sides. This area strikes me as cruel, and the farm would be better without it. Considering you can only see the predators on the driving tour and you obviously can’t interact with them in any way, the people coming to visit wouldn’t miss much from not seeing a bunch of chainlink fences and depressed animals, and on the flip side, the animals would benefit immensely from being in a sanctuary situation where they could actually stretch their legs and, you know, live.

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After the predator area, visitors are given the option to leave or enter the high risk area with the bison and elk. Since our last encounter with bison was with the invisible variety (and we didn’t get to feed them), we pressed forward. They make it very clear when you enter the park not to stop in the bison area, but to roll through at a low speed, as this reduces risk of damage to you and your vehicle. They state it in the rules pamphlet they hand out. They state it on a big sign before you enter the bison pen. What I’m saying is, they are very clear that you should not stop your car at any point during your trip through the bison pen.

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Unfortunately, the farm was so busy that just one person stopping was enough to create a domino effect, and so eventually everyone was stopped in the bison pen. I’m sure it didn’t help that they were standing at the entrance, waiting to mob anyone with bread. All of a sudden, you were in a scene from Jurassic Park, with a giant eye scanning the contents of your vehicle while you look straight ahead and try desperately to avoid eye contact so as not to draw its attention.

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“But why are the pictures so crappy?” you ask. “Crappier than usual?”

That would be because I was busy flinging bread through a crack in the window as hard as I could to draw them away from the car, and pictures became a lower priority than rolling the window back up before another fur-covered, ropey-drool monster could shove its head into the car, snot all over everything, and rip our arms off in the hunt for bread.

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Toward the end, when we were completely out of bread, I saw the largest bison by far on the side of the road and tried to take his picture, which drew him over to the car and enticed him to try and snap off our sideview mirror, which was both exhilarating and terrifying. I guess I don’t understand this almost frenzied desire for whole wheat bread, because I find fiber boring. However, once I broke off a sideview mirror while backing out of the garage and thinking about pie, so while the objects of our desire may be different, our game is the same, bison friends. I bet if I really tried, I could eat a piece of pie in one bite, too. I’d high five you if I wasn’t scared that you’d eat my hand.

The Giant Shoe Museum in Seattle, WA

Bigfoot isn’t the sole object of Seattle’s large foot obsession. Tucked into the Pike Place Market under the main arcade, the Giant Shoe Museum proves it’s not the size of the museum that counts, but the size of the shoe. Just a dollar’s worth of quarters will reveal to you sizeable shoes at which to gawk and apply your own theories as regards to common foot size stereotypes. One thing’s for certain: the clown shoe they have on display looks like a creepy deflated dong.

Spotted on the Roadside: Giant Hat and Boots

Hat and Boots

Georgetown Giant Hat

Huge Cowboy BootsThese giant cowboy accoutrements were built in the 1950s as part of a cowboy-themed gas station named “Premium Tex”. The boots contained the restrooms, and the office was sheltered under the hat; the gas station closed in the late 80s and both hat and boots had fallen into disrepair. They have been moved and recently restored, and I don’t believe it’s possible to poop in a boot any longer unless you’re really dedicated to vandalism and boot goofin‘.

Spotted in Georgetown, WA.

Spotted on the Roadside: Kountry Korner’s Krazy Kreatures in Kingston

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I love that they have both kinds of mermaid: the human upper body with the fish tail, and the fish upper body with the human legs. It would have been the ultimate troll in The Little Mermaid if the sea witch gave her the legs she wanted…but also gave her a fishy upper half in exchange. I’d like to see THAT movie play out.

Spotted on Highway 104 in Kingston, WA.

America’s Car Museum

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My father has always been a car guy. Not in the “let’s take this engine apart and put it back together” sense, but in the “this looks sleek and powerful, let’s see how fast it goes” sense. I vividly remember him borrowing a friend’s Corvette and taking my brother and I on screaming joyrides on dark Wisconsin backroads, complete with warnings that we were never to tell Mom how fast we really went. There was always a stack of Car & Driver magazines next to the recliner, and I’d thumb through them, picking out my favorites.

In my own way, I’m now a car girl. I’m not as handy under the hood as I’d like to be, and I’ll never get my hands on the Lotus Elise I so coveted as a teen, but I’m in love with the freedom that cars represent. While I’ve handled not owning a car just fine, I loathe being reliant on mass transit or on the kindness of friends. Being behind the wheel opens up a world of possibilities. If I don’t like the situation I’m in, I can always pack up the car and leave…and that’s how I ended up in Seattle almost ten years ago. I crammed everything I could fit into my car and hit the road, moving into the area sight unseen. Although I have no intention of leaving the greater Seattle area any time soon, I still love the open road, and (as evidenced by this blog), take road trips as often as I can manage.

America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington, manages to appeal to every type of car lover, from the mechanic to the aesthetic to the symbol. They cover what cars have been from their earliest stages, to what they are becoming, from the early coachbuilt models for the super-rich to a completely solar-powered car, from art car to turbocharged, from ubiquitous hippie wagon to ultra-luxe one-of-a-kind. Every few steps, I found a new favorite, and by the time I left, I had a newfound appreciation for all things automotive.

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Correction: I don’t like your girly weeds

Our house came with a giant cement slab in the backyard, indicated in the listing as RV parking. As we have no intention of ever purchasing an RV,  and it’s actually one of the best areas in the yard in terms of sunlight, I decided the best use of the area would be to set up a container garden. Not the mishmash of pots we had at the rental house, but essentially large raised beds, only on concrete instead of more soil.

I’ve learned a few things during this endeavor:

  1. Lumber is expensive. Like, really expensive. I thought the saying “grows on trees” was devised to describe something that was plentiful and cheap, as opposed to the things which do NOT grow on trees, but apparently I was mistaken.
  2. The phrase “dirt cheap” is also a little misleading.
  3. My spatial visualization skills are poor to nonexistent.

First things first, we needed to buy some lumber. The best stuff to use is untreated cedar. However, when the dude at the lumberyard told us our grand total, I decided that pressure-treated wood probably wouldn’t cause me to sprout a third arm. Once the wood was delivered and assembled to our liking (we decided to go with two taller beds rather than four shorter ones to give plant root systems plenty of space to spread out), it was time to order some dirt and some rocks for drainage.

The company we ordered our dirt from had a split-load fee, but more than that, they required that each item type you order be a minimum of two yards, which was much more than we needed. That’s silly, I thought. There’s a materials yard not far from the house, so I’ll have the dirt delivered, but I’ll haul home the rocks myself.

The soil was set to deliver on Saturday, so I needed to pick up the rocks on Friday so I’d be home for the soil delivery the next day. I drove off to the materials yard in our dainty Saturn SL2 with one of those plastic storage bins, a couple of home depot buckets, and a couple of heftier plant pots, just in case. It wouldn’t be that many rocks, after all.

When I told the woman at the counter that I wanted to buy a yard of rocks, she looked at me, looked at the car, looked at me again, and asked if that’s what I planned to haul it in. “You don’t have a friend with a truck? Home Depot rents trucks, you know.” “I know, but I think it will be fine. Look, I brought a storage bin and some buckets.” “Well….under the circumstances, how about I sell you a half yard for now and you can see if you want more later?”

I said that would be fine, and she sent me down to the rock area to wait for the guy with the loader. When he arrived and scooped an entirely full bucket and asked me to set my bins down in front of it so he could “pour it in” and save me some work, I began to realize I had made a mistake. My buckets filled almost immediately and the rocks kept coming and coming and coming. A half yard of rocks was a lot more than I’d envisioned. Then I discovered that the storage bin was so heavy that I couldn’t budge it so much as an inch, not even pushing against it with all of my body weight. There was simply no way I was going to be able to lift it into the car. The loader operator asked if maybe I’d rather have the rocks delivered instead, and that sounded like a good idea to me, but when I found out that it would cost six times more than what I had paid for the rocks to have them delivered, I decided that I’d made my rocky bed and I needed to lie in it. I rolled up my sleeves, asked if it was ok if I made a few trips, and got to work.

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It took me six trips to get all of the rocks home. Six trips. I don’t think they expected me to keep coming back after trip two. By the time trip six rolled around, I was so bright red from my exertions that one of the employees helped me load the last of it into the car because I think he was afraid I might burst a vessel and die on their property. The important part is that I did manage to get it all home so I’d be ready for the dirt delivery the next day.

Ah yes, the dirt delivery. I took measurements and calculated how many yards we needed to order and confirmed these measurements and calculations with the soil company, so I cannot even begin to explain how we ended up with so much extra soil.

10156125_10152108862193940_7262591148502042693_nFrom this angle, it doesn’t look like that much.

10259914_10152108862098940_6698304441558772917_nThis angle tells the story better.

We have literally twice as much dirt as we needed to fill the beds. I’ve filled the beds, some containers, spread some out on the landscaping, and we still have an enormous dirt pile covered with a blue tarp in the backyard that sort of looks like we might be hiding a body. Or twenty. Just a big ol’ corpse pile, hanging out. Eventually I plan on building a strawberry tower, which will help use some of the dirt, but it looks like Mellzah’s Folly (yes, the dirt pile has a name) will be around for some time yet. The smaller rock pile, Mellzah’s Folly Jr, will be keeping it company.

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The plants are loving it, though, and I’m loving having a happy garden. Plus this third arm is really coming in handy!