Michele and I just got back this weekend from a five-day vacation in Seattle. A while back, she was traveling for work on Airtran and volunteered to get bumped to a later flight in return for two free tickets. If you’re ever traveling Airtran, you should definitely volunteer to get bumped if they’re overbooked. Airtran’s deal is the best of all the airlines – you get two free round-trip tickets to anywhere they fly, even if they’re just bumping you an hour later.

Anyway, we chose Seattle because it’s about as far away as they fly, making it the most value we could get from the free tickets. And we picked last week because last Thursday (7/15) was our ten year wedding anniversary. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long (though if you see how young we look in the wedding pictures, it’s a little more believable). Also, when we went on our honeymoon ten years ago to Victoria, British Columbia, we spent an afternoon in Seattle on the way there. So we thought it would be neat to go back ten years later.

One of the things I missed last time I was in Seattle was seeing the sculpture that inspired the name of the band Soundgarden. I didn’t know much about it; I just knew there was some kind of sculpture that made noise in the wind. This time, I was sure to plan a visit beforehand. It’s actually not as easy to visit as I had expected. Being a big Soundgarden fan, I assumed this would have some prominent place in the city. It’s actually not in a city park at all, but inside the NOAA Western Regional Center. NOAA’s campus in Seattle is so large they have some outdoor sculptures, and “A Sound Garden” is one of them. Luckily, anyone can visit for free. But you have to be there on a weekday during business hours, and get a pass from the guards (who searched my car, but strangely enough not my backpack). From what I’ve read online, years ago there was a lot less security, and you could even walk in from a neighboring park, which is probably how Soundgarden saw it in the first place. Click on the image for the pictures I took at the sculpture. We arrived around 10AM, which the guard told us was really early for Soundgarden fans, so there was no one else there. It was great to finally see the sculpture.

Speaking of Soundgarden, there’s a music museum in the city as well called the Experience Music Project. It’s mainly focused on Seattle music, of which there is a ton. For instance, I didn’t know until I visited that Jimi Hendrix was from Seattle. In there, they had an exhibit on grunge music and some memorabilia, including some lyrics to Soundarden songs handwritten by Chris Cornell. Again, geeky, but to me that was very interesting to see.

While we were in Seattle, we rented a car one day and drove out to Mount Rainier. It took a couple of hours to get there, but it was worth it. Once we got part way up the mountain and started walking around, I was amazed that there was so much snow still on the ground in mid-July. There’s even a picture of me standing next to a pile of snow that’s taller than I am.

This trip also provided me an opportunity to try out my new camera which Michele got me for my birthday last month. It’s a digital SLR, a Canon Rebel XS. I have always wanted to take better pictures, and a while back got a book on photography. I decided to step up to a “big boy” camera because most of the techniques in the book (like changing aperture size or changing shutter speed) can’t be done with a basic point-and-shoot camera. I’ve been reading tons of stuff online and in books the last month or two on photography, and it was great to have a chance to get out and try to take some shots. It’s harder than it seems, though, but I think the only way to learn is by trying. For instance, I’ve already learned several things not to do based on the pictures I took last week!