An Open Letter to the Seattle Business Traveler

On whether to get hammered at the hotel bar or brave an unfamiliar world.

Are you a bored business traveler stationed in SeaTac for a few days wondering what to do? Well quit your fucking wondering, because I'm going to tell you how to have an awesome time in the city so lame, they named it after an airport. Don't bother trying to use Google to find SeaTac fun: A cursory Internet search for the phrase "things to do in SeaTac, WA" brings up some pretty lame suggestions. The name "Fireworks Gallery" will appear repeatedly, but don't be fooled: this store isn't nearly as cool as the name might suggest. That's because Fireworks Gallery sells purses and jewelry, neither of which would be remotely useful for blowing up a drunken redneck's hand. You need a vehicle to experience all the awesomeness SeaTac has to offer. That's because SeaTac, unlike your mom, requires finesse and skill to tease its secrets out into the open. If you need wheels, SeaTac has many car-rental companies, most of which will ignore your request for a Ford Fiesta and give you a minivan instead, and then insult your intelligence by calling it an "upgrade." But minivans aren't cool. Instead, head down Pacific Highway South and check out Eaglerider (22616 Pacific Hwy. S.), where you can rent a Harley-Davidson Road King for $149 per day. Then you too can be King of the Road, just like a divorced dad! If you enjoy two-wheeled travel but don't like the uncomfortable homoerotic urges you feel while riding a Harley-Davidson, you can also rent a Vespa from Eaglerider for a mere $39. Or better yet, head a couple blocks north to nearby Angle Lake Cyclery (20804 Pacific Hwy. S.) and rent a bicycle. The shop is pretty disheveled, packed wall-to-wall with new and used bikes for sale, but don't get discouraged: Owner Dale Clark will hook you up with a rental for only $20 per day. He'll even rent you a recumbent bike, if you insist, but please try to remember that the recumbent bike is the Elephant Man of bicycles. Once you've got your rental bike, head to the North SeaTac BMX Park (1855 S. 136th St.). Yes, you read that correctly: SeaTac HAS A FUCKING BMX TRACK. You'll have to get a one-day visitor's pass, which is free. You'll also have to have a BMX bike. (I told you not to rent a recumbent bike.) They usually have races on weekends, so if you want to do some bunny-hops and nose manuals and other badass Garrett Reynolds tricks, you should probably go on a weekday. Spectating, of course, is always free. If you don't like to ride bikes, or if you can't hold onto handlebars because one of your hands got blown off by a tragic purse explosion at the Fireworks Gallery, then why not try a relaxing round of disc golf? Just across the street from the BMX track is the North SeaTac Disc Golf Course (2000 S. 136th St.). You'll need a disc, of course, and the nearest place to buy a disc is at Chainbangerz in Burien (637 S.W. 153rd St.), about three miles away. No, Chainbangerz isn't the name of the club your mom's ex-boyfriends founded, it's a store dedicated entirely to disc golf and other disc-related pursuits. The discs are organized by weight and type, stacked in bins like 45s at a record store. The cheapest ones are around $8; the most expensive will set you back $20 or more. North SeaTac is a beautiful course. It's really pastoral, with wildflowers, grassy meadows, fuzzy bunnies, gnomes (actually a homeless guy), and of course the crushing roar of descending jets about 200 feet overhead. There are also lots of trees. In fact, there are so many trees on the course that, according to the website Northwest Disc Golf News, there's been a rash of "unauthorized course maintenance," a hilarious military euphemism for "angry golfers cutting down trees that were in the way of the holes." Performing all that unauthorized course maintenance will probably whet your appetite, so why not grab a bite? If you dig a little deeper and ignore all the fast food, you'll find that SeaTac has some interesting places to eat. Pancake Chef (15215 Military Rd. S.), for instance, is a slice of Americana virtually unchanged since the 1950s. Homey paintings hang from the walls, geezers trade war stories, the orange juice is freshly squeezed every day, and the hamburgers and fries are handmade. Try the Nightmare Burger ($9.79), a big, charred beef patty, still a little pink in the center, on a grilled sesame-seed bun with all the typical burger condiments: lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, pickles, onions, and bacon. It comes with a ramekin of "special sauce," a creamy, orange Thousand Island–style sauce speckled with sweet pickle relish. I encourage you to drizzle precisely half of the special sauce over your burger and save the other half for the fries. The fries are generally tasty, if a bit greasy, and the whole place smells like the food court at a county fair, but Pancake Chef is pretty good. Two eggs, five pancakes, and sausage sets you back $9.49. The pancakes were merely OK, but the eggs, fried over medium, were perfect—the whites solid without being rubbery and the yolk still just a little runny in the center. If you want to try something a little more exotic, next door to Pancake Chef is the Bakaro Mall (15245 International Blvd. S.), an indoor Somali bazaar. It's technically a "mall" in that it's "a shopping center with stores and businesses facing a system of enclosed walkways for pedestrians." But it's actually a warehouse with a bunch of hastily thrown-together cubbies inside. Old ladies sit inside tiny offices not much larger than supply closets selling handmade gowns, jewelry, hair-care products, and weird stuff like "caviar soap." I can think of a hundred things that would be good in soap, but fish eggs isn't one of them. There's also a food court. No, you can't get an Orange Julius. By "food court" I mean a dude who sells nafoko for $1. Nafoko are mashed-potato dumplings, deep-fried in a yellow, eggy batter, with a hard-boiled egg in the center. They look like big yellow Easter eggs, and they taste OK: bland and a bit heavy. I'm guessing they don't have Karmelkorn in Somalia. SeaTac isn't just a bunch of shitty hotels and fast-food joints. There are plenty of both, but if you take time to scratch the surface, you'll see, lurking below like a creepy sea monster, that SeaTac has plenty to offer. Of course, if you're a business traveler with some downtime, you could always just sit at your hotel bar and get shitfaced and charge it to your expense account. Come to think of it, that's actually what I would do too, so long as the night ended with a little disc golf.

 
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