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A Vacation Adventure in Renton
by Don and Peggy Doman

The Black River Reparian Forest in Renton, Washington.

For Father's Day weekend, we wanted to do something different. We decided on seeing one of our favorite musicals and just relaxing a little bit. We ended up with lots of laughs, some good music, and enough food for a several extra meals after we got back home.

My Fathers Day card from son Del.The Doman family is a tad artistic. It runs rampant in our little group. Our son Del, likes to experiment with sandblasting on marble and granite. I am so glad my Fatherís Day card from Del was actually on paper. A granite card would have been awfully expensive to put in the mail . . . and perhaps too heavy to carry out to our car.

Some of our favorite pieces of art welcome people to our home. Del's sandblasted Celtic knots and quotations lean against trees along our walkway and driveway. I love the funky little piece of granite that could be a tiny bear, or a mountain beaver or a hedgehog. We reposition it every once in a while to give it the appearance of moving. I fantacize about some yard art terrorist running up and trying to punt the little critter. A punting toe would be broken and damaged for some time. It is not a light-weight object d'art. I think the creature is a remnant that Del rescued rather than created, but then recognizing found art is creative, also.

Del's card hangs on the back of a bookcase among photos, cards, and a huge anniversary card about two feet behind my desk chair, so I can see it every day, now.

Del looking at his new marshmallow gun in Parkland, Washington.Just as we like non-traditional art as well as traditional art, we like presents that you can't always predict you'll receive. For Del's Fatherís Day gift we gave him two Marshmallow Blasters. For my own Fatherís Day gift I had already purchased my two Marshmallow Blasters. I thought I would share the wealth.

When we had friends over for dinner a week earlier, I had gone downstairs to retrieve one of my blasters to show it off. To surprise my friends I fired a full-size marshmallow from the bottom of the basement stairs across the deck foyer and through the kitchen. One of my buddies had to shoot, reload and shoot the confection bazooka several times.

When I later told another friend about my marshmallow gun, he said, "I want one." I patted his arm and said, "I know. I know." This is known as the "Men are Basically Eight-Years Old Syndrome."

Shooting marshmallows in Parkland, Washington.I knew Del would love the gun and I knew his kids wouldtoo. As soon as the gun was out of the box we were on his deck launching marshmallows over the neighbor's fence, which is more than forty-feet away. The kids had more of a problem. Since you had to elevate the gun to increase the trajectory (I think there is a geometry lesson to be learned, here), there were several misfires where the marshmallows bounced off the deck roof. Within minutes however, they corrected their aim and were soon sending Stay-Puffs into the neighbor's yard and skipping them across their own fish pond.

Del's family has two pigmy goats that keep some of the brush down. Since goats will eat almost anything, I want Del to train the goats to stand on their hind legs and catch marshmallows in their mouths. I think they could win some money on one of those home movie programs on TV. I think I'll try it with seagulls first.

Granddaughter Izzy with a box of Krazy Kritters in Parkland, Washington.While we were giving Del his candy-blasting bazooka, we also were giving the girls some Krazy Kritters, fun energy drinks fortified with vitamins from Orca Beverage. We had scored big time with a trip to their bottling plant in Edmonds a little over a month earlier.

"Krazy Kritters are fruit flavored drinks fortified with VitaZoo supplement. The unique animal shaped drinks are a crowd pleaser and favorite with kids. They can be used for any occasion including parties, picnics, and special events of every kind. The bottles are refillable and collectable. They come with a smart spill control sport cap. Available in six great flavors: Apey Grapey, Apple Gator, Dino Melon, Roarin Orange Lion, Blue Raspberry Dino, and Cherry Lion." The manager of Orca Beverages told us some of their best customers are zoos and other child-friendly venues.

Ezra Meeker with his oxen Dave and Dandy.We left all of the kids, adult and young, with their new toys and headed to Puyallup. Instead of checking into our hotel right away we decided to dine first. We were caught by surprise. It was Meeker Days in downtown Puyallup. "Ezra Meeker was an early pioneer who traveled the Oregon Trail by wagon as a young man. Beginning in his 70s, he worked tirelessly to memorialize the trail, repeatedly retracing the trip of his youth. He was the principal founder of Puyallup, Washington.

Meeker was born in Huntsville, Ohio, to Jacob and Phoebe Meeker (1830); his family relocated to Indiana in 1840. Married in 1851 to Eliza Jane Sumner, in 1852, with his wife and his newborn son Marion, he headed to the Oregon Territory during the era of the donation land claims, ending up near Puget Sound. They settled permanently in Puyallup in 1862, where Meeker began growing hops for brewing beer. By 1885, his business had made him wealthy. His wife Eliza Jane convinced him to allow her to build a mansion similar to those she had seen in Europe. Three years and $26,000 later, her mansion was finished."
-- Wikipedia

The classic and custom car show during Meeker Days in Puyallup, Washington.Meeker Days is Pierce County's largest street festival. Funds raised during the festival support the Puyallup Main Street Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating a vital, inviting downtown that promotes quality business, cultural and community growth.

Meridian, the main street in downtown Puyallup was closed off and there were booths and special events all over the heart of Puyallup. There was a very nice custom/classic car show (featuring a pair of convertible Buick Reattas - I have a coupe and still drool and dream of a red convertible) and music almost everywhere. Near the car show I heard a group called Awesome Pressence (I think.). They sounded like more, but not on a Saturday night when both Peg and I were already dragging.

Charlies Restaurant in Puyallup, Washington.Peg and I parked illegally and visited Charlie's Restaurant & Lounge. Actually, Peg walked past the barriers and went to Pioneer Bakery for some sweets to share and then bought a couple of books at the book store next door.

I went into the nearly empty restaurant and checked out the menu and a local "ad rag." I am so glad I read almost everything. I rediscovered Rhubarb Days (July 14th and 15th) in nearby Sumner. Sumner calls itself the Rhubarb Pie Capitol of the World. I've sampled rhubarb pies from several Sumner restaurants, and I am always ready to put my life on the line to sample, again and again.

On August 3rd and 4th is the Sumner Art and Rhubarb Pie Festival, so we might have to visit Sumner at least two times this sumner . . . I mean summer. Rhubarb Days promises different rhubarb concoctions and recipes, while the Art and Rhubarb Pie Festival speaks for itself.

Fish and Chips from Charlies Restaurant in Puyallup, Washington.While waiting for Peg I ordered Charlie's fried prawn appetizer: six deep fried prawns with a lemon wedge and cocktail sauce. The prawns are huge and not over-cooked. I was already down one by the time Peg showed up. I ended up eating three more, while Peg only had two.

Peg ordered the "lite" meatloaf dinner, while I ordered the special Meeker Days Fish 'n Chips for only $5. Both of us had the salad bar as well. They have "crinkle cut" pickled beets. Everything always tastes fresh.

Even after giving me a hunk of her "lite" meatloaf, Peg left about half of her meatloaf. Although she enjoyed the taste, it was still more than she wanted to eat. She left all her mashed potatoes as well. We're not big on joining the clean plate club. We like to eat only what we want or think we need. I had three or four French fries, but finished all three pieces of my fish (with a fourth for Peg, of course).

Grant Reike on bass, Ryan Leach on drums, and TJ Cope guitar and vocals - Cloud Chowder.While we had dinner, we could hear a band playing in the bar at Charlie's. Although they frequently have live music there, and we've missed Little Bill (a frequent guest) several times, it was too early for their usual entertainment. Cloud Chowder is young group still feeling their way into bar playing. "Cloud Chowder formed in August of 2011. We play a mix of several genres mostly of a rock/blues style, but also with jazz and folk thrown in sometimes. We are big fans of improvisation and jamming. All three of us have made music a big part of our lives and have devoted a lot of our time to our music."

After I took the photograph of Cloud Chowder, Janice, the owner of Charlie's came over to our table and asked if we were with the band. She said people are really enjoying them. We like seeing young entertainers get their start locally.

By the time we left Charlieís, the restaurant had filled considerably.

Breakfast in Kent, Washington.I noted that Charlie's had a Fathers Day special for breakfast on Sunday, however the next day Peg slept in a little bit and by the time we drove to downtown Puyallup, the streets were full of people and every restaurant had lines out the front doors. We headed north up the valley on the West Valley Highway to Renton via Sumner, Pacific, Auburn, and Kent.

We only saw one possibility. The Bad Monkey Bar & Grill between Auburn and Kent had their door open, but no cars in the parking lot. We settled on Mitzel's in Kent. A chain restaurant is not what I had in mind, but we had plans for the day including dinner after a musical, so we needed to grab something for breakfast.

I ordered potato pancakes, not stuffed with bacon, fried only on one side so it tastes a little doughy and with no applesauce on the side. Okay, that's not what I really ordered, but that's what I received. Peg's medium rare steak was much more medium than rare. They had been busy before we arrived, but they weren't busy enough to explain a longish wait and the combination of over-cooked and under-cooked food.

Ducks in a pond at the Waterworks Gardens in Renton, Washington.One of our main sites to see in Renton was the Black River Riparian Forest. "The Black River Riparian Forest and Wetland is home to more than 50 species of birds, including one of the largest great blue heron colonies in the region. The site is a complex ecosystem with an abundant wildlife habitat. The Black River Riparian Forest and Wetland is a year-round bird watcher's paradise and provides an oasis and a unique view of nature within Renton's city limits."

What we enjoyed more than the forest was King County's Waterworks Gardens. "Waterworks Gardens is a public park next to King County's South Treatment Plant in Renton, Washington. This is a place where art, technology and nature join in a unique way. Along with trails, public art, native plants and wildlife, the ponds and marshes of Waterworks Gardens filter and clean stormwater from the treatment plant's 50 acres of roads, parking lots and hard surfaces."

The entry of the Waterworks Gardens in Renton, Washington."Waterworks Gardens is designed as a series of garden rooms. The Knoll is the entry to Waterworks. The path then passes through a series of leaf-shaped ponds, an inlaid mosaic Grotto and wetlands." What the description calls an "entry" we saw as a pillar-lined mosaic pathway that leads slightly down into the garden rooms. I can imagine rainwater falling on the path and creating streams flowing downward and sometimes through the steel grates and then cascading into a catch basin pond.

As we walked the streambed we came to the first observation point. The little brown water pond had two ducks swimming around and an orange dragonfly zipping here and there along the little shore line. It was relaxing to watch the wind-blown branches, as well as the flowers, shrubs and wildlife.

A downtown park in Renton, Washington.The forest and the water treatment plant work together to form a beautiful green belt in the urban center of Renton. From the treatment plant to downtown Renton we were amazed at the number of trees and lawns among the smallish concrete warehouses and offices.

Once we parked our car in what seemed like a landscape void of people we enjoyed the beauty of trees, flower gardens, and more mosaic walkways. An empty beer can in a brown paper bag, revealed the fact that there were real people in the area somewhere. I took several photographs of buildings to show a friend of mine, who used to own a grocery store in the downtown area close to the Renton Civic Theatre.

The Renton Civic Theatre in Renton, Washington.I had seen information on the Renton Civic Theatre in the program of Federal Way's CenterStage (one of our favorite theatres in the Puget Sound area. Two plays caught my eye, Crossing Delancey and Pump Boys and Dinettes. Crossing Delancey is a favorite film of ours and Pumpboys is one of our favorite musicals. Although we've never seen a theatrical production of Crossing Delancey, we have seen three different productions of Pump Boys. By the time I got around to ordering tickets, we were left with Pump Boys only.

"Pump Boys and Dinettes is a musical written by a performance group of the same name. The performance group, "Pump Boys and Dinettes" consists of John Foley, Mark Hardwick, Debra Monk, Cass Morgan, John Schimmel and Jim Wann. Not only did the members of this group write the musical, they starred in the Broadway production and directed it as well.

The musical premiered on Broadway on February 4, 1982 at the Princess Theatre and closed on June 18, 1983, after 573 performances . . . The musical tells the story of four men who work at a gas station, and two women waitresses at the "Double Cupp Diner", a dinette, located somewhere between Frog Level and Smyrna, North Carolina. The music is mostly from the country rock/pop music genres. They perform on guitars, piano, bass and kitchen utensils."
-- Wikipedia

The cast of Pump Boys and Dinettes at the Renton Civic Theatre in Renton, Washington.As we opened up the program of the Renton production we were happy to read that we had seen the director/actor John Kelleher as the butler Underling in Tacoma Musical Playhouse's production of The Drowsy Chaperone. Kimberly McFerron, who played the part of Rhetta Cupp, we had seen also in The Drowsy Chaperone, but it was in the Seattle Musical Theatre production.

It had been so long since I had actually seen a Pump Boys production that I could only name one of the musical numbers, but as the cast worked its way through the musical the songs all came back. I enjoyed the presentation and the energy. There were a few technical/soundboard issues, but the audience didn't seem to mind.

I liked the audience . . . well, I liked their age, anyway. They made me feel young, again . . . really young.

The original cast and crew from Pump Boys and Dinettes.We first saw Pumpboys and Dinettes in the late eighties at Tacoma Actors Guild. The production featured two of my favorite northwest actors: Jayne Muirhead and Richard Gray. OMG Muirhead was sexy. As one of the waitressing Cupp sisters she was fantastic. She could have served me grits anytime.

Richard Gray played the part of L.M. who is kind of the heartthrob of the production. He had two of my absolutely favorite numbers, Drinkin' Shoes and Farmer Tan. It's the little things that sell a musical number or a dramatic scene . . . little pieces of business that catch the eye. Henry Fonda as Wyatt Earp in My Darling Clementine sitting in a chair on the boardwalk and rocking the chair back and forth by pushing on the roof support by alternating his booted feet is one example. Richard Gray strutting around and tapping as he wears a pair of red leather cowboy boots with taps on them and singing "Put on your drinking shoes" is another. And Richard Gray pulling up his sleeve to reveal a white bicep at the end of singing Farmer Tan is quite another.

An actor and our granddaughter Talia in Dockton, Washington.About twelve years ago, we took our oldest granddaughter to see Pumpboys and Dinettes in a production on Vashon Island. She had never seen the musical before. It was an outstanding production and she loved it. Afterwards we took her photograph with the actor who had the part of L.M. He retrieved his prop bottle of Scotch for the photo op and she was thrilled and embarrassed at the same time.

A few years after Pump Boys we took her to see the Tacoma Actors Guild production of 1940's Radio Hour. There is one scene where a prim and proper BBC radio announcer, played by northwest actor Peter Jacobs, is forced to appear in drag wearing a red dress. When he came on stage, Talia nearly fell out of her seat laughing. Later when we took her to dinner for her twenty-first birthday, we gave her an autographed photograph of Peter, "Don't ever be embarrassed to wear a red dress. Peter Jacobs." I love northwest theatre.

Barbecued brisket in Renton, Washington.After the show, we drove about three blocks to the Cedar River Texas Style Smokehouse Barbeque. I placed the order for a full pound of pulled pork, a pound of beef brisket, two ears of corn, a blackberry cobbler, a St. Pauli Girl for Peg and a sweet tea for myself. I knew we could never eat everthing. Peg loved the beer and I loved the sweet tea. I had been hesitant about the corn. I was afraid that it would be over-cooked and mushy like KFC makes it, but we ate both ears of corn. They were excellent.

I was surprised by the brisket. I thought it would be one big piece or sliced. Instead it was chopped, which wasn't what I wanted at all. The pulled pork was pulled pork. The sauce, served on the side, was too spicy for Peg. The pork made wonderful tacos the next day and the brisket made a fantastic beef and carrot stew. I'll eat there again, but next time I will ask for a "piece" of brisket. I think what I missed in both the pork and the beef was a lack of fat. I prefer my meat with flavorful fat. Other people prefer lean. I think there might be a nursery rhyme in there somewhere.

Now, the people we sat next to had meaty and fatty ribs and those looked absolutely perfect. So, there are several reasons to return to Renton.

The Richard Beyer donkey in Renton, Washington.As we drove back toward the freeway we saw a donkey in a small triangular park. The donkey art is entitled Donkey Run Away from the Mines. It's an aluminum sculpture by artist Richard Beyer. Beyer has many well known sculptures throughout the Pacific Northwest. We had just visited one of our favorites on that trip to Edmonds a month or so previously.

The donkey sculpture with his mine working harness reminds me of KoKo, my Shetland pony I had as a child. Shetlands were bred for the hard work in the coal mines and the low ceilings. Shetlands are short and shaggy. Some parents still buy their children Shetland ponies or they have them ride the ponies at carnivals and fairs. In reality, Shetland ponies are mean little buggers. They may be cute, but looks will only get you so far.

An interesting and flowering bud in Renton, Washington.On this adventure we saw quite a few flowers. There were gardens and hanging pots in Puyallup and Renton . . . and even at the chain restaurant in Kent. We enjoyed them all and especially when they were combined with greenery. The favorite part of our adventure was the Waterworks Garden in Renton. It was bursting with color and life.

We stayed at the Fairfield Inn in downtown Puyallup. We were on the second floor looking out into maple leaves and overlooking a small stream below. The hotel has fenced off the stream to preserve the wetland along the stream, which runs parallel to the road. I like the view. It's easy to miss the beauty of it, which I think is one of the reasons I like it so much. It reminds me of Clover Creek. My parents owned a motel in Ponders Corner. I had a part-time job helping the local paperboy. I delivered the Sunday papers or relieved him when he went on vacation. After I delivered the papers, I would stop and sit along the banks of the creek and simply enjoy the tunes of the water and the greens of the leaves and underbrush. Like the little stream by the Marriott my private spot was only fifty feet away from I-5, but it was a world away from the busy world.

My cluttered desk.Back home at my desk, I opened up my last bottle of root beer from Orca Beverage, swallowed an Aleve from the container that I had forgotten to take along with us on our weekend trip and started going through my photographs of Puyallup and Renton.

Peg and I coordinated our journals and penciled in our next adventures. We're going to have a fun summer. There is so much to see and do.

I've got a fun golf tournament coming up. I think we're going to rent a sailboat for a couple of days in Poulsbo. We're going to be staying for a weekend in Olympia and seeing a rock and roll musical revue. Peg might be taking in an international calligraphy convention in Portland. And of course, there's a lot of rhubarb sampling coming up in the Puyallup Valley this summer.

There's simply too much fun to miss.

The stream view from the hotel in Puyallup, Washington.

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