Tour of Washington State Movie and TV Shooting Locations Part 1–Northern Exposure in Roslyn

Roslyn, Washington, aka Cicely, Alaska: Home of Northern Exposure

We’re starting with Roslyn, Washington, for two reasons.

First, it’s the town where Northern Exposure — my favorite television series ever — was filmed (check out Moose Chick’s excellent fan site here).

Second, it’s a chill little mountain town smack dab in the middle of the Snoqualmie Pass, which is one of the prettiest drives in the state of Washington. In my opinion, only the White Pass drive can compete with it.

The town shown in Northern Exposure as Cicely, Alaska, is actually Roslyn, Washington. The town hasn’t changed much at all, which is good for visiting because you can see every show-related site in just a couple hours.

It’s been about two months since I was there (August 2017), but as of that time, Dr. Fleishman’s name was still stenciled on the window of his “office,” and a sign still identified Chris in the Morning’s K-BEAR radio room.

The Brick is actually called the Brick, and would be a great bar/restaurant even if it wasn’t associated with the show. The place, built of brick and wood with an enormous bar and full-sized spittoon, is enormous inside and feels like something from the Old West. The whole town feels that way, really. The people of Roslyn are almost universally friendly and easy to talk to, and I’ve had a great experience every time I’ve visited there.

The famous camel mural on the side of Roslyn’s Cafe is also still present. The iconic image in the show was called “Roslyn’s Cafe” because the real cafe was named for the town: ROSLYN (singular) Cafe. Show producers had to cover up for the fact that the town’s name wasn’t actually Cicely, so they added the apostrophe to turn the “Rosyln” into “Rosyln’s.”

Roslyn is a relaxed, quirky town with more than its share of quirky characters…not too unlike our beloved fantasy town of Cicely, Alaska.

You can hit Roslyn and North Bend (discussed below) on the same day without any rush. They are less than an hour of gorgeous driving from each other.

Roslyn was also shown in the 1977 film Joyride and the 2014 film Man in the High Castle.

Aberdeen, Washington: Not the Lying-Down Kind

The city’s bridges sag over their rivers like hunchbacked men carrying too-heavy loads for too long.

On the streets, tired, dim-eyed cars float into mist as a foreign country’s nighttime overtakes everything.

Orange lights glow in pub windows, the buildings thus resembling cooling embers from a scattered fire. They’re the secret hearts of this world carved out of fog, those pubs. Their walls thump with rock, pop, and hip hop.

A tortured, mewling voice echoes faintly through the alleyways. “Come as you are,” it says, “and then be gone with you.”

The whole of Aberdeen sleeps on the threshold of yesterday, dreaming of beds.

In the warm thump of the secret hearts the people laugh. Nothing said ever lasts. Every word fades into fog rolling down out of the mountains.

Yet, for all their subtracted voices, the people stay, and in staying they honor a history of hard work and tough family. Theirs is not a surrendering sadness. No, not that kind.

It’s triumphant and proud, and it laughs. It harvests life out of the hollow and doesn’t give a damn for lying-down things.

Aberdeen is a mother feeding her baby after a double shift. Aberdeen is a grim lumberjack, hands numb with callouses, laughing with abandon as his son tickles his stomach.

Sometimes hobbled, but never cowed, Aberdeen is its people.

“Let’s get to work,” they say. “Our bridges may sag, but they never break — and neither do we.”


Talking Ghosts at Alfred’s Cafe in Tacoma

Interesting Conversation

One of the great things about being the Northwest Nomad is that I have a permanent excuse to drink beer and chat with strangers at bars. It’s what I call “conducting research,” and I’ve found all kinds of interesting informational nuggets out there that way. A couple days ago I had such an encounter at Alfred’s Cafe in Tacoma.

I’ve been to Alfred’s Cafe a few times before. It’s one of my favorite breakfast spots in Tacoma, in fact. On this day, though, I heard something very intriguing — Alfred’s is haunted!

I’ve ordered some books to see what I can verify about the restaurant’s paranormal past, but for now I want to relate what I heard as I heard it, because it was an interesting conversation for sure.

Alfred’s Cafe: The Woman in the Corner

My conversation with the bartender and the patron turned to ghosts when the lights in the building started flickering. They did so in two clusters, roughly five flickers each, set about a minute apart. I didn’t think much of it, but the bartender and the patron smiled knowingly at each other.

I asked what they were smirking about, and they proceeded to tell me that it was probably the ghosts at it again.

The nuts and bolts of the tale are the standard pictures-falling-off-walls and mysterious-footsteps kind of stuff, but one particular aspect of the tale lent it more validity than the typical haunting story.

At least two Alfred’s Cafe employees have quit the restaurant after seeing the reflection of a woman sitting in the corner of the eating area. The sightings occurred on two separate occasions, while they employees were shutting down at night.

Quitting one’s place of employment isn’t the sort of thing people normally do for a hoax, especially not a hoax that brings them no fame or fortune.

The Little Girl in the Window

Alfred’s restaurant occupies the bottom floor of one of the oldest buildings in Tacoma. That bottom floor has been renovated for the modern age, but the upper two floors remain as they were when the building was built. There’s a massive grand staircase that connects the top two floors (the employees told me about this). The staircase used to run down to the ground-level floor, too, but it was taken out a few years ago.

The upper two floors are today used only for storage, giving plenty of time and space for the ghosts to scamper about at will.

One of the entities living up there, I am told, is a little girl who can occasionally be seen looking out of one of the top-story windows. But how did she get there in the first place? Well, the story behind that little bit is rather interesting.

Prostitutes and their Daughters

The reason why ghost is a young girl and the other is a grown woman lies in the history of the structure.

The building that now houses Alfred’s used to be a brothel. This much I was actually able to verify with some internet sleuthing.

Brothels were notoriously dark and violent places in early America, and the legend is that some ugly, ugly things went down in the building that now houses Alfred’s — things as ugly as murder. Does this mean the woman’s ghost is some ill-fated prostitute? We can’t be sure, of course, though evidence leans that way.

As for the little girl, the Bull’s Eye indoor shooting range across the parking lot from Alfred’s was supposedly once a school for little girls. The prostitutes working the brothel would send their daughters over there during the “work” day.

Well, according to legend, decades ago that school burned down, killing seven girls.

So, perhaps the woman and the little girl are mother and daughter?

Or, perhaps there’s a whole host of women and little-girl ghosts there, singing and crying to each other. Maybe the many sightings have actually been of multiple different people.

There’s no way to know for sure, but I do intend to find out.

Let the Paranormal Adventure Begin

The Alfred’s conversation has inspired me to add a new section to this blog and a new mission to my travels. I’m going to begin covering paranormal destinations in the Pacific Northwest.

I’ll get to the bottom of this Alfred’s thing soon enough. I’ve got my books coming, and I’m going to do some gumshoeing.

So, stay tuned, friends. Also, please do let me know if you’ve got any tips on this or any other Pacific Northwest paranormal story.


Where to Stay in Downtown Tacoma: Hotel Murano

When it comes to choosing deluxe downtown Tacoma accommodations, the Hotel Murano is pretty much a no-brainer.

That line sounds kind of like a slimy sales pitch, but the Northwest Nomad is no one’s peddler! In this case, it’s just the fact of the matter that the Murano is heads-and-away the most distinctive, unique, and classy hotel in downtown (probably in all of Tacoma, really).

When I first visited Tacoma over a decade ago, one of the sights that most branded itself into my memory was the enormous, decorative “swoosh” sculpture that stands outside the hotel. It was a sunny day and the light caught that green glass just right, and the sculpture looked captivating. I decided then that the next time I visited Tacoma, I’d stay at the Murano. I did, and I was not disappointed.

That first experience was many years ago, and today I actually live right across the street from the hotel. I see a lot of the crowds they get for their conferences and other events.

The Murano is beautiful, inside and out. The lobby is full of beautiful Native American artwork and unique glass sculptures, and the place never stops exuding energy. I walk or run by their main lobby often, and there are always guests hanging around just outside the lobby enjoying the vibe.

The location is about as good as it gets in the city. Stay at the Murano and a you’re a short walk or a free link ride away from great sushi, several art and history museums, country line dancing, the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts, the Weirdest Building in Tacoma, and too many other places to list here without creating an absurdly long post.

The Murano’s prices generally aren’t as high as you might expect, but they are a bit higher than some of the other downtown-area hotels. The sheer convenience of the location more than makes up for that, though. It also doesn’t hurt that the Murano is a few steps above the other hotels in terms of personality and quality. It’s also an establishment distinct to Tacoma. There are La Quinta’s and Holiday Inn’s everywhere, but only Tacoma has the Murano. It’s the city’s signature place of lodging.

Oh, and if you’re a potential Tacoma visitor weighing whether or not you want to visit the city, check out my thoughts on that. I’ve traveled every nook and cranny of the Pacific Northwest, and I fall in love with this region over and over again, but Tacoma’s got a unique combination of energy and grit that I’ve found nowhere else. Downtown Tacoma rose from the ashes in the 90s and has been growing nonstop ever since. The vital energy of that transformation is palpable on every street corner.

As always, feel free to contact me for any insights I might be able to share. The Northwest Nomad loves to talk shop.

(Featured image courtesy of Provenance Hotels. I am not associated with the organization in any way; they just happened to have a beautiful picture of the establishment, and one a few steps above what I could provide.)

Whitewater Rafting the Sauk with Triad River Tours

Earlier today, the Northwest Nomad rafted the Sauk River with Triad River Tours. Short version of my experience: it was awesome. Long version: keep reading.

I wasn’t able to get any pictures on this tour because any phone or camera taken on the rafts is basically guaranteed to get destroyed. So ye, my fair readers, shall have to get by with my textual account only. I shall strive to use an inspired pen with which to charm your optical ears.

I’ve rafted Washington whitewater twice before. Both experiences were fun, but a little tame. When I read that the Sauk would be Class 3–4 and that there was some degree of legitimate danger, I assumed it was being exaggerated as a way to boost appeal. I was wrong about that.

Portions of the river were tame, and those were nice because I got to take in the beautiful scenery surrounding the river. The North Cascades are awe-inspiring mountains. I’d be tempted to say the trip would even be worth it just for the views.

Between the tame portions or river were stretches of rapids with names such as Jaws and Whirlpool. These rapids were a lot of fun and had enough wild parts that it got my adrenaline flowing. I bent forward at the front of the boat, howling like a jack ass and paddling euphorically.

Some of those in the back of the raft told me that they were slightly less thrilled. They had fun, too, but if you’re looking for the biggest rush, you want to go to the front of the raft.

Our guides were laid back, fun guys, but also professional and knowledgeable. I never doubted their expertise They shared plenty of whitewater-rating-guide insider jokes, such as this:

“What do you call a river guide without a girlfriend?”


“Homeless.” (Badoom doom!)

The highlight for me was when we were allowed to jump out of the raft and into the water to float down a short stretch of rapids. This situation was far hairier than I expected it to be, and I swallowed a lot of the Sauk.

It was invigorating, though, and I’m sure will be my best memory.

This experience was the best whitewater rafting experience I’ve had. I definitely recommend it.

You can check out Triad here: