A top tip for anyone crossing into the USA border by road: have more than a vague plan to give to the customs officer. Our responses of “We’re not really sure yet pal,” to his questions, ‘Where are you going/when are you leaving?’ meant that we had to wait 45 minutes to be cleared and granted entry compared to everyone else’s 2 or 3. Eventually, they believed us that we would be leaving the states before our ESTA expires and we had enough money to not need to work here; and our Chevvy van pulled onto the Victoria-Port Angeles ferry.
Our first stop (after a night in the Port Angeles Walmart carpark) was Seattle, a city that from the outside was not a van-friendly city. We drove straight through the heart of central, underneath the Space Needle, and were met with a barrage of ‘No overnight parking’ signs. We considered Walmart again, before getting a tip from another traveller that Alki Beach has the most relaxed parking rules in the state. No time limits, no rules on overnight parking or ‘vehicle habitation’; so we joined the dozens of RV’s and vans on the side of the Seattle Bay. A water taxi to central runs every hour for $5.50, which is much more convenient than the 3 hour walk around the bridges that I took after a night in Capitol Hill (last taxi is at 11pm!).
Our main thing that we wanted to do in Seattle was kayaking across the bay, and we rented out 2 kayaks for $16 each on one of the mornings that we had in the city. We paddled all around Alki Beach, towards Harbour Island and in and around a floating bunker that lies in the middle of the bay. On previous nights, we had heard what sounded like seals or sea lions calling to each other, so we were delighted to find out that sea lions do in fact inhabit the bay- and were feeding on the many fish in the shallows. We spent most of our time on the kayaks following them and letting them swim right underneath us.
Nightlife in Seattle was really good, most of the bars were around Capitol Hill which was a half hour walk from the water taxi drop off point. It wasn’t as expensive as we were expecting for a big city, with friendly locals and bartenders who are happy to point us in the right direction. We’re still getting used to having to tip after each drink/round. Before we headed to the bars, we decided that 2 weeks of living in a van is probably taking a toll on our hygiene so we paid $20 each for a 24hr gym pass, giving us access to a pool, showers, sauna (and once we cracked the 1234 code, a hot tub that was ‘out of order’ for some reason). Luxurious.
After Seattle we drove to Olympia (the state capitol, despite being a small run-down town with a serious drug problem), other than having the capitol building I’m not really sure why Seattle doesn’t have the crown; but it was a nice stop off point walking around the parks and flea markets.
We stocked up on water and imperishable snacks for our slightly longer drive to Portland, Oregon in the coming days.