If you’ve been following our story, you may be wondering why we on earth we are not vacationing in Oregon right now. Well, it turns out that after just three months, our brand-new Denali RDS 257 Fifth Wheel needs quite a lot of repairs – most of them minor, but one that is major. The dealership said the repairs would take from two to three weeks, so that delayed our departure from Canada – and also left us with the issue of where to vacation while our RV was unavailable. Our solution was one that we think many RV ownners might be interested in, so we are sharing it here.
We are members of an organization called Trusted Housesitters. Although it’s called house sitters, it’s mainly about pet sitting. Their byline is, “Helping pet lovers travel.” The basic idea with this organization is that sitters get to enjoy a free stay in a city they want to visit, while pet owners get to have their pets cared for in their own homes, for free. Of course, there are layers of security checks and references, but fundamentally it is up to you to find sitters you believe you can trust. And if you want to do some sitting, it is up to you to establish your credentials, collect some references, and create a compelling profile so that people will want you to take care of their pets. Once you have done that, you can apply for house sits all over the world, and perhaps get to take an affordable vacation from your usual life! There are some amazing possibilities on the site – one of the best we ever saw was to take care of a tortoise on an estate on the island of Corfu for six months! Sadly, we both worked for other people back then, so we could not even apply. I still dream of it, though … especially as one of my favorite books growing up was My Family and Other Animals.
Last year we used Trusted Housesitters to find a really nice young couple who took care of our dogs and our home while we visited Paris. This year, we decided to switch sides and look for a house to sit while our RV was at the dealership. We found a great option in Seattle, taking care of Fiero and Pesto, two sweet, elderly dogs in a lovely home in a beautiful neighborhood.
We drove our truck to the house, loaded up with our bikes and kayaks. We planned to do some kayaking and fishing at nearby Green Lake, but that never actually happened. We did get to ride our bikes quite a lot, though.
In Seattle we had both our truck and the use of the owner’s car, but driving into Seattle is not recommended, due to traffic. So, we pretty much only used transit and bikes to get around. The house was just half an hour from downtown Seattle, by bus or light rail. The gig was just about perfect for us. We both love dogs, and we became very fond of 12-year-old Pesto and 15-year-old Fiero. In particular I bonded with Pesto, who has the soul of an exuberant, joyful puppy in a surprisingly strong and youthful body, despite his age.
Pesto and I enjoyed many walks in a tree-filled neighborhood full of craftsman-style houses.
I enjoyed the scenery while Pesto enjoyed the smells! Pesto’s owner rescued him a long time ago from a life of dumpster diving, so it felt especially good to see him so happy.
Of course, we were not with the dogs 24/7. Well actually, the first week we pretty much were, as Maggie was sick. But once she was better, we took off for a few hours a day to explore Seattle. We enjoyed an exploration of Pike Place Market, where the seafood was simply astounding.
The Burke-Gilman Trail
We also enjoyed a marathon bike ride along the fabulous Burke-Gilman trail. This is a bike trail about 24 miles long that snakes across the city. Riding along a bike trail is an excellent way to explore a new city. You are going slow enough to discover cool stuff, but fast enough to cover a lot of ground before exhaustion sets in.
Here is a video of the Burke-Gilman Bike Trail, showing some of the highlights. Notice how incredibly varied the terrain is, and how you go past so many interesting parts of Seattle.
On the Burke-Gilman bike trail we discovered the dramatic Gas Works Park, right next to the trail. This is a public park situated on the site of the former Seattle Gas Light Company. I found the old gas works machines quite breathtakingly awesome.
Here’s Maggie riding through the Gas Works Park.
From Gas Works Park there is a great view over Lake Union.
Along the Burke-Gilman trail, we discovered the Fremont Brewing company, where we stopped for a couple of local ciders. Always doing our best to support local businesses!
The choices were overwhelming. And Fremont Brewing had clean washrooms – always welcome on a long bike ride.
In danger of losing weight from too much bike riding, we made sure to also enjoy several delicious meals during our stay in Seattle. Along the Burke-Gilman bike trail, we enjoyed delicious clams and friendly service at Saint Helen’s Café. This cafe is also situated directly on the trail, so it also offers the opportunity of parking your bikes within sight. In the photo below, our bikes are right behind us!
Tourist Attractions We Enjoyed in Seattle
In downtown Seattle itself, our favorite restaurant was Lowell’s, a seafood restaurant at Pike Place Market that has the amusing tagline, “Almost classy since 1957.” I enjoyed some delicious King Salmon there.
We also loved Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour of Seattle – where we learned a lot about the truly extraordinary history of Seattle. Including the fact that the development of the city was largely financed by voluntary contributions from women in the sex work industry – notably Madam Lou Graham, who gave more money to educate Seattle’s children than the rest of the city’s prominent early citizens put together.
On another day we met a senior man in downtown Seattle who told us about one of the best deals in town – the ferries. As a result, we paid $9 to take a picturesque cruise on a ferry to Bainbridge Island, which turned out to be a lovely, bike-friendly island with great scenery and restaurants.
Coming back to Seattle from Bainbridge Island, we enjoyed spectacular views of Seattle from the ferry.
Another great find in Seattle were the Lime bikes. These are shared bikes that you activate with an app from your phone. The really great thing about them was that you can find them and lock them up anywhere. The lock simply locks the back wheel. Each bike has a GPS tracker so you can find it with the Lime app on your phone (and presumably to stop theft). Best of all, most of the bikes are ebikes, so they are really great for transportation. We saw these bikes everywhere, and eventually started riding them. By the end of our visit, we had figured out how to incorporate these ebikes into the transit system so as to get around Seattle really easily.
Although our plans changed a whole lot from what we originally planned, we feel very relaxed and happy with how things turned out. For starters, a big part of our original plan was to stay in the Vancouver area in our RV for the first three months. First of all, to see family over summer, and to organize getting our daughter settled into university in early September. Which has now happened, I am very happy to report – Celena has started her studies at the school of engineering at UBC, and is living in residence there.
But the other reason was to see if there were any teething problems with our RV. We thought it would be a lot easier to get them fixed at the dealership where we bought the RV, rather than trying to get issues sorted out in Alaska or Mexico. Well, turns out there were quite a lot of issues, up to and including an explosion, a small fire, and a soft floor – more about all that in a later post, when I review the Denali RDS257 Fifth Wheel and the dealership. So, we are deeply grateful that we chose this approach, even though it seemed almost overly cautious at first. Turns out, it was the right way to go.
Also, we are just grateful that we are no longer 9 to 5’ers, and can change our plans on a dime. Can’t go RV’ing this month? No problem, we will just go pet sit in another country, and enjoy exploring a strange city – one of our favorite things to do!
Which brings me to the biggest plus of this whole experience – discovering Seattle. Despite living just a couple of hundred miles away from Seattle, we have never actually explored it. My closest exposure came from watching episodes of Frasier! But now we have spent a big chunk of time there, and what a great city it turned out be! We were really surprised at how much we liked Seattle. We could imagine living in Seattle, with its friendly, progressive people, great transit, tons of fun, eclectic stuff to see, great bike rides, plenty of cyclists, good cycling infrastructure, great food, low crime rate, dogs allowed on buses – and even the bus drivers are cheerful and friendly.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention something especially wonderful – wine is cheaper in the USA than in Canada!
So, what are our takeaways from these developments in our adventure? Here we go:
- It’s great to be a member of Trusted Housesitters, as it gives you some options. In years to come, we may well do a few more house sits. In particular, we would like to do one in the London, England area. We both love London. And perhaps New York, which we love almost as much. And Paris … the possibilities are endless!
- When you first buy your RV, it’s best to use it a lot while staying near home. That way, you can get warranty repairs done before heading off on epic adventures.
- Relax and go with the flow. Although I am not deeply religious, I have always liked the saying, “Man proposes, God disposes.” Basically, no matter how much we plan, stuff happens, and we might as well just relax and make the best of it. We had booked a month of camping in two different camps in Oregon, and were really looking forward to that. But we had to cancel all of it. However, never mind, Oregon is not going anywhere, and will still be there when we eventually get to it.
- We have decided that especially in the off season, we are not going to do too much advance booking. Instead, we will see where we happen to be, and then book accordingly. And hopefully, we will often find that changes in our plans have unexpectedly good outcomes!
- Take your time. Now that we finally have control of our own time (after decades of 9 to 5), there is simply no rush. Really, the travel days are the most stressful part of an RV trip, so why not just enjoy the destinations for as long as we can?
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