August 5: Seattle to Everett, Washington - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

August 5: Seattle to Everett, Washington

"Hi," says the monkfish. He's at the height of children's eyes. When a child moves for a closer look, a salesman pulls a string and the fish's mouth opens and closes. Whether the child laughs or screams depends on its nervous disposition.
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SEATTLE IS KNOWN for coffee, for computers, for its Space Needle, an observation tower built in the sixties for the World's Fair, and for flying fish in the market. I suppose the crowd for the last is less than for the others but it must be the most disappointed.

Some years ago a firm of fishmongers found it was quicker to hurl dead fish one to the other and that the spectacle drew a crowd. Since then it has been featured in every guidebook to the city and people with cameras but little need for fish - there's not much you can do in a hotel room with a halibut, unless your desires verge on the abnormal, anyway - stand about waiting to see a fish repeat evolution and take flight.

The crowd waits for a fish to fly. The salesmen wait for a customer to buy. Then a fish flies across the counter. I promise there's a flying fish in this picture. But I can't see it. Can you?
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The fishmongers aren't dim. They throw fish only when somebody buys it. Since almost everyone there is a tourist, that can be a long and self-perpetuating wait. And, of course, it happens in a moment and it's hard on photographs to work out what is a fish and what, for instance, is an English tourist's bald head.

We did see the fish and we went up the Space Needle and we visited the wonderful public library, where walkways rise slowly from gallery to gallery, marked with the Dewey numbers of books they are passing. And then, after a couple of happy days of wandering about and enjoying Mark and Lindi's hospitality, we rode on north.

Specifically we rode north with Mark along the city's excellent Interurban bike trail towards the Boeing factory. Mark has lived in Seattle for a long time but, as with most who have a tourist attraction nearby, he has never toured of the aircraft factory.

You know that Boeing is one of the world's two largest makers of planes. The other, Airbus, is 100km from where we live and both companies present figures to show that it and not the other is the larger. What you may not know is that Boeing provides 1,600 bicycles and tricycles for staff to get around the assembly plants. I won't go on about other details because you'll know them if you're a plane buff and you won't care if

The Seattle troll, built under a bridge for no reason, it seems, than that there was space there. You get a sense of scale when you know that's a real Volkswagen it's crushing. And that's a real Steph standing beside it.
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you're not. But I can tell you there's no feverish activity. Thousands work there but you see hardly any of them, not least because they're toiling inside the aircraft and not on the outside. Those you do see appear to lead relaxing lives, gazing at computers, talking and walking or cycling from one plane to another. You wonder how the things get built at all.

What you may not know is that a Boeing 747 costs $397 million if you pay the catalogue price. But, if you're tempted to, you'll want to know that that includes the lavatories but not the fittings and not, crucially, the engines.

I can tell you, too, that a Rolls-Royce engine fitted to the new Dreamliner, which is made of plastic like a construction kit and forecast to last 80 years, will empty an exhibition hall of air in three seconds. Four if it's a very large exhibition hall.

Our final trip was pure Americana. We went to a baseball game, played by men in quaint 1930s outfits with their trousers tucked into their socks as though they'd turned up by bike. Everett AquaSox (curious name which the announcer pronounced Ockwa-sox) were playing Boise (pronounced Boys or Boyzee, seemingly to taste). The problem for a European, to whom baseball is unknown, is to work out if it really is as simple as it looks. We marvelled at how hard and straight the players could throw the ball but couldn't understand, that being the case, why the pitcher so often threw it into the ground at the pitcher's feet.

The least accurate part - and I accept we may have missed some finer points - was where the ball was likely to end up once the batsman had finally managed to hit it. Most of the time he doesn't bother to try. Even he seems to have little idea where it will go. It may go up, along, high, low, into the crowd or simply at an angle behind him so that it never enters the playing area at all.

The other problem for a European is that baseball is remarkably like a park game called rounders. Which is played mostly by Cub Scouts.

There must be more to baseball than meets our eyes. Or really isn't and that accounts for why it never really caught on outside North America.

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