America the Beautiful, Starring Washington State

Tuesday, 27 Aug 2013 07:10 PM

By Jon Friedman

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Once, on the old TV sit-com "Married With Children," the Everyman hero Al Bundy observed that he was going to take his family on an old-fashioned motor vacation to see a place that Americans go to when they can't afford something better: America.

It's a funny line, all right, but Al Bundy was dead wrong about that, however. Our great national secret is that America is a FANTASTIC place to visit. Any time.

Especially now, on the eve of the big Labor Day weekend, our last fill of summer before the onset of back to school, football weekends, cold weather and those endless election advertising cycles.

I should know. I just returned from spending five days seeing the great state of Washington by car. With a native friend acting as a trusty tour leader, driver and local historian, we proceeded to spend nearly a week checking out hundreds of miles of the Evergreen State, starting in Seattle and heading due east to see the splendor of the Grand Coulee Dam and scenic Walla Walla.

Thank heavens for our nation's terrific highway system!

I began my brief vacation by renewing my deep affection for the city of Seattle, a place everyone should take the time to see. The famous Pike Street Market is always lively and memorable.

Tourists flock to watch the fishermen selling their wares in an open market. For you city dwellers, imagine a street fair taking place everyday featuring fish. It's always a hoot to see this place.

Plus, my hotel was located near the center of the University of Washington, and I immediately had the uneasy feeling that the only uncool person on the whole campus was — you guessed it — moi. It's a very impressive university.

Right now, on the eve of the 2013 NFL season, Seattle is happily in the grip of Seahawk Mania, as diehard and casual pro football fans fervently believe that this will be the year that their local heroes go on to win the Seattle Seahawks franchise's first Super Bowl trophy next February.

In addition, Seattle also offers the iconic Space Needle, which shows off the city in all of its glory from high above. As a card-carrying Sixties rock and roll fan forever, I really enjoyed learning about Jimi Hendrix's life and times at the Experience Music Project.

Hendrix, who was from Seattle, is one of the town's most revered native sons.

The real treat of the whole week was seeing the Grand Coulee Dam up close. Our knowledgeable guide David, who hopes to continues his engineering studies by the way at Washington State University, gave our little tourist group a thorough history of the dam in a tidy hour.

Let it be known that when our tour bus rolled past a statue of a man playing a guitar, I was the one in our group who correctly identified the minstrel as the great Woody Guthrie. Guthrie wrote such classics as "Roll On Columbia" and "Grand Coulee Dam," to immortalize the area.

David was right, you know, when he suggested that the dam should be identified as the Eighth Wonder of the World!

All too soon, it was time for me to stop over again in Seattle and then head back to home — New York City — and my usual life. I suspect, though, that I'll carry with me a good deal of the karma and good vibes that I encountered in Washington State.

Jon Friedman writes the Media Matrix blog for Indiewire.com. He is also the author of "Forget About Today: Bob Dylan's Genius for (Re)Invention, Shunning the Naysayers, and Creating a Personal Revolution." Read more reports from Jon Friedman — Click Here Now.

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