Travel journal from Mary Rumpel, one of our awesome chaperones for the June Travel Club trip to Seattle, Washington.
All images are property of the Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota and may not be used without permission.
The Living Diary: The DSAM Travel Group Goes to Seattle
Thursday, June 14th six self-advocates with some chaperones set off from Minneapolis to Seattle. Once landed, they took the rail to the International District Station in China Town where they stayed for four nights at Hostelling International; getting to experience other travelers from several different nationalities and cultural upbringings.
Thursday afternoon: we walked around Chinatown and experienced several Chinese markets with strong aromas of spices, herbs, and strange Eastern medicines; including many types of mushrooms/dried fruit/herbs/etc. Bob bought some funky black herbal roots and really strong ginger candy that we all tried. We stopped at a Noodle Restaurant where we tried new authentic Chinese dishes; including: plates of pork and cod, spicy pork or chicken with noodles, chicken noodle soup, wontons with noodles, and some steamed vegetables including a shredded ginger salad.
Then off to the Mariners game we went. While the Mariners lost to San Diego 2-6 there was still a lot of fun and food to be had. Lori danced her heart out between late innings; making the big screen with Jessica. Because of such a great show, the cameras came back between the next inning and captured Gretchen and Peter dancing – what a wonderful time! The walk back was spent enjoying the background of city lights with bike taxis whirling about.
Friday: The ladies woke up early with Mel threatening us with “duct taping us to our beds tomorrow”. After a breakfast of oatmeal/breads/oranges and washing our own dishes at the hostel, we headed out to the Space Needle. We worked on our traveling skills by taking a combination of walking, busses, and overhead light rail. The weather was perfect! As we walked around the top, we could see farther and clearer than the maps in front of us. We saw the Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains to the west, Mount Baker (2nd highest continental point) to the north, Glacier Pt (within the Ring of Fire in the Cascade Mountains) to the east, and – to the south – Mount Rainier; the highest point in the lower 48 and actually a real volcano that is considered one of the most dangerous even though it appears quite tranquil now.
Onward to the Music Experience – and what an experience it was. First, we enjoyed the music video display, then the Science Fiction/Horror exhibit, then the Avatar exhibit including the red room where we became Avatar one at a time – emailing links to a youtube video to our homes. Likewise, we went in a picture booth that captured our best “scream” and also emailed that home and, then, another interactive part was in front of a “horror” green screen where Allie’s green clothing matched the screens green and so it looked like she didn’t have a mid-part of her body. Cody, Peter, and Lori dressed in appropriate clothing and each did a “Godzilla” scene for us with some kids interjecting “animals on sticks” to attack. The real screen picture looked a lot different than what was in front of the green screen! We saw Delky and the Star Trek chair with Tribbles in front in this area, also! Finally we were then HUNGRY and saturated with all the new experiences….so alas we took the time for a needed break and scarffed down some food at a nearby McDonalds.
Returning, we took in the interactive music section: starting with a large circular table that made sounds as you touched different circles; then onto the multiple rooms of keyboards/guitars/mixers/drums/etc, jammed a rap by moving records back and forth, and had a few vocal lessons. THEN came the real fun – Mel found a couple of opportunities and we gave them our best shot in a small recording studio! First, we had a 10 minute jam session and produced a CD from the group we named The D-SAM’s. It included continuous jams by all; including: solos on the drums by Lori and later by Gretchen, a keyboard riff by Allie, the ever-smiling Jess strumming out a piece on acoustic guitar, and a monster electric slide-guitar jam by Peter, and harmonious vocals by Cody….. One of our chaperones, Jack, kept us perfectly in-sync with a rhythmic bass guitar lead. Now…that wasn’t enough for our D SAM group – they then needed to make a DVD of themselves singing “Wild Thing”…. with Gretchen starting the song out with a 1-2-3 count followed by playing the drums, Allie being wild on the keyboard, Peter rocking out on the electric guitar, and Jessica, Cody, Mel, and Mary being the vocals with maracas and tambourine. Stan and Lori were working the side stage. It was quite the feat! Tickets were going for $60 to this concert – if you don’t believe me, I have a ticket and poster to prove it! Lori followed it all up with a solo on drums! Yes, there were a lot more things to see; like the Nirvana or Jimi Hendrix exhibits, the AC/DC room, a history of guitars room, etc., but we had to move onward past the 2 story tower of guitars to the other adventures that awaited us on this fine day.
Next, we caught a bus down to the harbor for our late afternoon Harbor Cruise; boarding the “Lady Mary” – obviously named after our own chaperone Mary! Things we learned about: the largest manmade island, cargo ships of crates being unloaded from all around the world, crane operators having dangerous jobs where they work a 4 hr day and making 6 figures, and the many islands and peninsulas with ferries that run each hour moving people – just like buses on the road and trains on the tracks – through this beautiful scenery.
Landing, we went back up the Harbor steps – MANY harbor steps, but never enough for this die-hard crew – past the “gum wall” onto “Pike’s Place” and into a wonderful restaurant whose owner came to talk to our group about her role as a coach for Special Olympic downhill skiing coach (30+ years with 70+ Olympians on her team). One long-term special needs employee came out to talk to us about her job as the bookkeeper and a hostess. We tried different fish dinners – including the local grilled smoked salmon – and Allie acted as our official “wine taster” when it was delivered to table (and it was an excellent choice by Allie). Our server was very engaging and added significantly to the evening of fun.
Onward to the bus station – an opening of blue trees caught our eye as we walked past – so we went to check it out….there was a “forest” of blue trees with sculptures of men all around – some standing/pondering, some sitting on benches – lots of fun poses shared by all…. Christian rap music at the end of the open area… so, we danced.
After the bus ride back to China Town, we went up to the street level and – voilà!! – yet another group of musicians; drumming, singing, chanting and dancing with excellent Karate moves (the were an official karate club in China Town). Of course our team jumped right in and the play-by-play went something like this: the troop engaged us and the encircling movements started:
- Peter and the bulk of the crew jumped and prowled like the best panthers ever choreographed and, then to everyone’s surprise, Gretchen went for a flying cartwheel/flip/full splits move.
- The karate leader went for the copy move but let’s just say no way! Otherwise there was going to be extreme pain. It was Advocates 1: Karate Dudes 0. The crowd went wild.
- Then the karate team reengaged our entire group at the individual levels we could reach. It was a wonderful demonstration of full acceptance and friendship that the world needs to learn. Advocates 1: Karate Dudes 1, GAME OVER and ALL WIN! Yes, the night came to an end….but what a wonderful day it was!! A night of well earned snoring ensued.
Saturday: Breakfast and off by 9:00 am to Pike’s Market! Bob introduced us to a fruit part of the market including blackberries, peaches, raspberries, pears, and our first taste of lycii fruit in our lives, and on and on. Onward to many fish markets – including the famous fish flying through the air! We bought some goodies including: a classy leather cap, cheesecake, smoothies, and shrimp; yes multiple orders of fresh jumbo shrimp with cocktail sauce seemed fitting for 9:00 AM. We saw the first Starbuck’s coffee house and then ended in the park with totem pole at the end of the street.
Moving onward to the Aquarium where we started by touching with one finger starfish and fish that would clinch onto our fingers. We saw a reddish octopus that was as big as us, colored fish from Hawaii, starfish, sharks, eels, flounders, sea otters, and other sea animals. What a great experience!! We had sandwiches on tables outside by the harbor and then walked up the dreaded Harbor stairs once again!! Peter always made it a point to beat Bob to the top of the steps while the rest of the advocates had made it a point to take every step when possible; even forgoing various escalators to march to the top. Bob’s favorite mantras of “we like to walk” and “let’s try new things” were bearing fruit.
Next, we took a bus to the Pacific Science children’s museum. The Omni Theater was sold out for the day and the King Tut exhibit would have cost us an extra $15 and at least 1.5 hr wait so neither of those were part of the experience; however, we didn’t let that stop us! Some of us enjoyed the Tropical Garden of Butterflies, with large insects outside of it, others the dinosaur walk where movable ½ scale monsters moaned and roared into real life. Finally, a bubble show – where the bubble caught on fire – gave us a sitting break along with a nice snack in their café.
Dinner was at the Hard Rock Café. Peter’s Aunt Linda and Uncle Dan joined us. They enriched us about what it was like to live by Seattle and were likewise enriched seeing Peter again after many years, and seeing him enjoy music was just one highlight for them. There were 3 bands performing that evening so – as they warmed up and had sound checks – we enjoyed their music by dancing to their short pieces they used to warm up – fun for us!! Of course, the DSAM financed meal was welcome after such a busy day!
We arrived back to the hostel about 3 minutes before 9 pm….so we actually got to enjoy a dessert – Mary and Mel’s dream of: chocolate cake, ice cream with fresh fruit, coconut cheese cake, etc….we slept well again that night!!
Sunday: The ladies and gents all slept until 7:30 am….late for us!! Fatigue was catching up to us. Off we went to a new bus stop to catch a bus out to the Airplane Museum where we spent most of the day. First, we toured 3 planes outside: Air Force One that had been used by everyone from Eisenhower to Kennedy to Nixon – saw the “Doggy door” and the place where Lyndon Johnson would keep his cowboy hat – like Bob’s! Next plane: Supersonic French commercial plane – long and skinny – the 2nd fastest commercial plane ever used – discontinued because of some unsafe landings at that speed with tires burning up! Last one: the 747 wide body jumbo-jet – a lot bigger than the others!!
Next building – World War I and II planes – started with the WWII ones. As you walked in, there was a US plane that had two wings of the type that if one got blown away it could still fly. The Second plane, a great German one that was so fast that the US had to reengineer their planes in order to compete. Next – OReilley’s Daughter that had 6 pictures of zeros by the captain’s window – which showed that this one had shot down 6 Zeros (Japanese planes). We turned around to see the Japanese Zero. Onward to the aircraft carrier model where planes that could “fold their wings” in order to park – we witnessed these planes with folded wings, and then stopped to watch a WWII movie with Hitler and highlights of the war. This sad and tragic part of world history made a lot of impact on us.
Next, we went upstairs to WWI floor where we got to stand in a hot air balloon basket. Next we saw biplanes, triplanes, and other WWI planes that were much slower than WWII ones and had wooden propellers and paper skins to them. We all tried a hand at a flight simulator, most of us had a hard time keeping the planes in the air….but still had fun! Whew! the needed food break…..
Onward to the third area – modern planes and space craft! There was a huge spy plane – SR72 Blackbird – that would actually elongate when it reached speeds above the speed of sound. We saw early single engine public planes, took a jog up to the overlook tower, we saw a movie about the history of planes, climbed into a miniature plane, and “flew” a glider in the kids’ area. Stan became so engrossed in the exhibits that we lost him for a minute – Those chaperones, you need to keep an eye on them at all times! Wonderful day – especially thanks Jack for giving us insights that some of us wouldn’t have known without his Air Force experience!!
Finally we went back to the hostel for a break – some took a nap – some played cards – and others chose “we like to walk” and meandered for 1.5 hours through the Chinese market and coffee shops!
Lori and Cody thought we should all find a pizza place for dinner – after a bus ride and walking we found an open pizza restaurant the “Crocodile”. They served individual brick oven pizzas – awesome! We could order anything on the pizzas: anchovies, garlic, olives, sausage – whatever we wanted to choose!
It had a quaint atmosphere with one bartender/waiter for the whole thing. Fun place – lots of teasing….Jessica brought up a Beach Boys song “Bob Bob Bob….Bob Bob Baran”…..the group followed in perfect harmony, and…..low and behold….10 minutes later….it came on the music system….yes, fun by all! They had run out of “Jack’s beer” but other beers were good and, while waiting, Jack taught us a few magic card tricks and Gretchen did fortune telling; I don’t know what Bob and Jack will do with those 17 wives, 14 cats, 7 dogs, and the millions that each of would lose while alone on a desolate Pacific island. Pictures of famous people who had performed there were around, including Curt Cobain. They had live music each night and we got out as an interesting hard rock band was warming up for the evening; let’s just say that watching the glasses move across the tables because of the sound level was more than we needed after a long day.
As we returned to the hostel, Bob and Mel went to print off Monday’s boarding tickets and Gretchen led the other 5 self-advocates in a discussion about their jobs. Mary stood on the outside of the circle and really enjoyed the advocates beaming with excitement as Gretchen turned to each of them to share – and share they did – with lots of expression! It was evident how proud they were to being independent and learning their job skills.
Monday: We were all up, packed for home, and ready for the day by 8 am!! Ladies: “I’m standing here outside your door – I hate to wake you up to say Good Bye – but I’m a leaving on a jet plane – don’t know when I’ll get back again – Oh babe, I hate to go…..”Lori didn’t like that song being in her head so she gave us a taste of the Eagles J. Off we went back to the Market area! To Mary’s happiness, we ALL saw some fish flying through the air today! Bob treated us each to one more shrimp cocktail and it was delicious! We then returned to Pike’s Place and ate “all you can eat” Belgium waffles (raspberry, blueberry, strawberry) or a wonderful omelet! Great meal – and the owner came to say “hi” once again….wonderful lady!
Last stop: the market for those last minute gifts to take home: tie-dye t-shirts, cheesecake, apron, CD’s of wonderful street music, etc… Back to hostel to pick up luggage and off to the airport! J
Voilà!! – it was a whirlwind….but so much fun….great experience with safety – but a place where we could learn some of those independence skills. Self-advocates knew where the bus stop was by the end and how to use it! Cody got REAL good at escalators!! Communication skills increased! Etc….we all learned something – some of us learned a lot!!
Thank-you Mel for joining us and taking care of all of those small things that we couldn’t have done/dealt with without you! Thank-you Kathleen and the DSAM staff for organizing! Thank-you to DSAM and its Board of Directors for making this possible!
And especially, thank-you self-advocates for wanting to expand your horizons! What a Wonderful Trip!!