Sunday, October 23, 2005

A Capital Place to Visit


We hit Interstate 5, heading south out of Seattle. The motorways are not my preferred form of travelling, but useful when needing to exit from, or bypass a large city. Mt Ranier loomed large on the skyline in the crisp, spring air. It was the first time I had seen this mountain. It can be elusive and often hides under cloud – much like Mt Egmont/Taranaki, in New Plymouth (where I grew up in New Zealand).

I found its presence a welcome reminder of home, and noticed the locals referred to it simply as "the mountain", just as we would have in Taranaki. It’s amazing how the littlest of things provide comfort, when feeling homesick. All over the world people are moulded by their natural surroundings, as well as by their families and other circumstances. When I meet others who have a bond with similar natural surroundings to mine, I feel like I have met a distant relative.

My usual optimism was restored, dispelling the doubts of the night before. TH and I led the way in our trusty Series IIA, with the Series I cradled in our slip stream. (Well, as much slipstream you can get from an old Land Rover).

A vision of loveliness drew us off the Interstate about 60 miles south of Seattle. Like a siren, the sight of the Washington State capital of Olympia "called out" to us. I was drawn by it’s beautiful capitol building which, to my uneducated eye at that stage, looked like a copy of its bigger "cousin", the capitol building in the District of Columbia (Washington DC)

Olympia’s Capitol building stands on a grassy knoll (no, not THAT grassy knoll (in Texas)), surrounded by park-like grounds and overlooking the Southern tip of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. Constructed with truckloads of Alaskan white marble, it gleamed purely in the late afternoon sunshine. It was a heady mix of Roman, Greek and neo-classical architecture, topped with an exterior cupola. I just had to venture inside to see what glories lay within. The huge, Tiffany chandelier took my breath away. The rest of the interior was pretty damn good, too.

A conveniently timed public tour of the building provided entertaining stories and insights regarding the construction, which was completed in the 1920’s. With plotting, planning, building delays, cost overruns and politicians grandstanding nothing much has changed. Of particular note, though, the inspiration of the design was from a man who was eventually shot by a jealous husband. For those who want more about this history, check out:
http://www.historylink.org/essays/output.cfm?file_id=5443

I found out later that 40 out of the 50 American state capitals have a cupola (dome) in their government buildings. However, my personal opinion is that Washington State has one of the most beautiful, and in one of the prettiest settings. For more details on USA State buildings:
http://www.cupola.com/html/bldgstru/statecap/cap01.htm

We were allowed a wee peek into both debating chambers – the House of Representatives and The Senate. I noted that the discussion topic underway in The Chamber was common to politicians the world over – whether to name a city park after one of them who had long service, but was still serving (i.e. not dead). Of course, the parties were divided into whether they were on the same side of the house as the politician in question. The tour moved on, and I never got to find out who won. A cynic would say that the answer would be obvious. Eventually, even if not on that day, somewhere in the city a park would be named after a politician.

There were a lot of people milling about in the halls and corridors – aides, lobbyists, "rubber neckers" and tourists. We were dressed in our Land Rover branded gear. I was approached by two men – they were tall, clean-shaven, were wearing smart suits and had the air of someone used to their surroundings. I mentally summed them up - too old to be bodyguards and too smooth to be under cover cops. Lawyers, maybe? Not my favourite species.

"Do you have anything to do with those historic "Jeeps" outside?"

"Yes, and they are Land Rovers"

"We’re interested in them"

"Why, are they illegally parked?"

"No, ma’am, they’re allowed to be in the parking lot, like everything else".

I nodded. I was always careful where we parked. I looked at the men curiously. They seemed lost for words. Maybe not lawyers, after all.

As it turned out, like most other Americans, they were simply interested in what we were doing on the expedition and why. They were oil company lobbyists, who spent vast amounts of time trying to influence the decisions of politicians. Bored with the debate in The Chamber, they had wandered in the lovely grounds outside, seen the Land Rovers and then found us inside the building.

I got the impression that I was to be the entertainment, while they waited for the politicians’ debate to finish. It was getting late, and we needed to move on. Always a marketer, I suggested that there was an opportunity to become one of our sponsors. They politely declined, said their goodbyes and wished us well with our travels.

We needed to find a bed for the night. The tourist office suggested "Olympia Campsite", just a few miles further south. It was quite cold when we motored through their gates and we settled for two little woodsy looking cabins. Each had a double bed. The bed head and footboard were made of moulded plastic tree trunks - just like Disney Frontierland.

We bought provisions in the camp store and whisked up a feed in the deserted cook room. It was still only early spring and not yet camping weather. We noticed some large RV’s (recreational vehicle campervans) with their lights on, and assumed our fellow campers were cacooned inside with heaters blazing.

The cold was starting to bite at our fingers. TH, F1 and I quickly huddled over the road map and planned the next few days’ travel. F2 completed a few more stitches of her embroidery. Then, we retired to our cosy cabins and the comfort of our three-season sleeping bags.

Note: Photo is of the Land Rovers at Camp Olympia, with the woodsy (somewhat twee) cabins in the background.
© Eventful Woman, 2005

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1 comment:

  1. Nice to see you back again :-)

    ReplyDelete

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