US West Coast Road Trip

Road trip’s starting

Day three was car pickup day and for some reason that I’m sure was perfectly reasonable at the time we’d chosen to pick up the car at the downtown office of the car company (instead of at the airport, which was just next door). So we had to lug our bags to the bus and then walk four blocks (in the pouring rain) to get to the car company.

We got there alright though and was presented with a shiny red Saturn Ion. It was kindof scary to drive an automatic for the first time but I soon got the hang of it and I must confess that it’s very convenient, especially starting uphill is a breeze (although motor-braking doesn’t work that well). Another drawback with picking the car up at the downtown office was that we had to drive an unfamiliar car in through the downtown traffic. Not too fun, so we just drove more or less straight until we found an open parking lot where we could figure out the GPS properly and direct it to an electronics store (at this time we had decided to buy another laptop so that we could get working Wi-Fi). We keyed in Fry’s at the GPS (I don’t know that many electronics stores) and it cam up with ‘Frys Welding’ as its best hit. We decided that this probably wasn’t what we were after and tried ‘Best Buy’ instead. That gave us a hit and we started driving. After whirling around for a good while we came up on the supposed Best Buy which turned out to be just another house out in some crummy suburb. After som cursing of the piece of junk we bough we decided to just key in ‘electronics’ and see what came up. This took us to ‘Renton Electronics’ which was right next to a Wal Mart. We couldn’t resist going in (we had to use the bathroom anyway), and all preconceptions were fulfilled. The store sells everything from laptops to garden furniture. Ah well, to speed it ahead a bit we finally ended up at a Circuit City where we picked up the new laptop and were finally able to start the actual roadtrip.

First stop was Aberdeen, just before the coast. We walked around some, trying to find a place to eat, and the only place that didn’t look outright bad (or was closed) was a Pizza Hut.

After Aberdeen the scenery started to get interesting with a bit of water and a lot of marshland, it was actually mostly like that all the way to Astoria where we stopped for the night.

US West Coast Road Trip

The Orca trip that went bad

Day two we had reserved a kayaking tour to look for Orcas so after breakfast we ordered a cab to take us to Anacortes (from where the ferry to the San Juan Islands was supposed to go). We had just assumed that Anacortes would be where all the other ferries seemed to go from, that is, just outside the downtown area of Seattle. But when the cab showed up the driver (which we for the intent of this story will call Bogdan) acted rather confused and was questioning if we would make it (the ferry left at 8.45 and we were supposed to be there about an hour before and now it was about 7.20). We thought that he was joking when he said that we probably wasn’t going to make it until we found out that Anacortes actually was roughly 100 miles to the north of town.

So after talking it over we called the kayak tour people and said that we weren’t going to make it. The guy was very apologetic about that he hadn’t made it more clear how far it was and suggested that we give them a call when we were back in Seattle before the trip home and that we probably could do the tour then instead. So we’re hoping for that and we’ll be sure to rent a car for it so that we can get there in time.

Instead we had the day off to explore Seattle some more and we started by going to the tourist agency and picked up a couple of the coupon broschures that are full of discounts for various motels in the state (and Oregon as well). There we also found out that the Seattle Aquarium was open, even though it was Labor Day. So next stop was the aquarium where they had lots of giant starfish and anemones. I had no idea that they had so much exotic looking fish in the Puget Sound, I guess I expected about the same as in Swedish waters. But the had all kinds of Nemo-esque fish and also sea horses and a few sharks.

After that we went to the ‘Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe’, which was your usual ‘we-sell-every-kind-of-ceramic-figurine-crap-that-you-can-imagine’-store despite it’s claim to be more of a freak show store. Afterwards we went and ate an all american burger place called ‘Red Robin’ where they had a giant menu with more kinds of burgers than you can shake a stick at (this seems to be a recurring theme, every menu we’ve encountered so far has been gigantic). The burger was delicious though and so was the fajita-wrap-thing Jonna had.

After lunch we decided to check where the car rental place was so that we wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. It turned out to be not that hard to find so we decided to wrap up the day by going up in the Space Needle. This time we walked there and it was surprisingly far. Feet aching, we went up the Needle ($16 a person, very steep) and looked at the view. It didn’t actually seem that high but it was still a nice experience, especially all the informational posters about how it was built and so on. It was also fun that you could, through binoculars, see the some of the houseboats featured in ‘Sleepless in Seattle‘.

Afterwards we walked back to the center of Seattle and caught the bus back to the hotel.

US West Coast Road Trip

First day in Seattle

Our plan was to start out by walking from our hotel to the, according to Google Maps, rather nearby Best Buy electronics store and buying a GPS. After a few blocks of semi-aimless walking (in a rather ugly suburb, filled with yardsales) though, we were starting to question the closeness. We pushed on however, and as we were walking down our eight or ninth block we were greeted by a dog. The dog turned out to belong to a lady down the street and we stroke up a conversation. We told her that we were going to an electronics store that was supposed to be nearby and she started to describe the way. Turns out that we were about halfway there and that there is a rather steep hill to go down. We were in luck though, I guess the woman felt sorry for us and she told us that she and her daughter were going to church anyway and they could give us a ride. We figured that since they were good christians and very likable they would at least ask permission before raping and killing us, so we accepted the offer.

The daughter seemed a bit sceptical though but warmed up a bit in the car when we got to talking about the Seattle-native Starbucks and how it, to our knowledge, hadn’t established itself in Sweden. “I mean, they have it frickin’ Africa, it should be in Sweden as well!”. And after showing us where to catch the bus back to the airport they dropped us off at a Starbucks just a few yards from the Best Buy.

We sat down for a coffee to wait for the Best Buy to open (it was Sunday after all, so they didn’t open until 10). We had our mind set on the TomTom One XL, but the tattooed sales guy made a convincing case for the Garmin Street Pilot since they, according to him, came with infinite map updates once you bought a map. So we bought a c330 instead (I haven’t been able to upgrade the map yet though since it wants me to pay for it and then send me the map on a DVD, is that how it normally works?).

With our new GPS we trodded off to get the bus and yet again found out why the U.S. isn’t made for walking. When the bus finally came we found out that the bus drivers don’t carry change, and since we only had $20 bills this didn’t seem like a good deal. The good natured bus driver felt sorry for us though and said that we could ride for free to the airport.

At the airport we went and got change and caught the bus to downtown Seattle. As we were planning to go the Sci-Fi museum (which is up by the Space Needle at Seattle Center) we bought tickets for the famous Seattle monorail (key Simpsons Monorail-song!). Apparently it was build at the same time as the Space Needle, that is, in time for the World’s Fair in 1962, a taste of the future indeed! But, as fate would have it, the train we were supposed to board had a flat tire(!) and was instead rolled away for maintenence. So we got a refund for our tickets and went to get ourselves fed in the food court situated in the same building.

We settled for mexican and I had a Chimichanga (which I up until then, thought was a made-up word). Afterwards we got in line for the monorail again and had some better luck this time. The monorail ride itself is rather, well, short. Only about a mile or so and since that is the only route it takes, it’s kindof pointless really. But it, along with the Space Needle, has served it’s role admirably in putting Seattle on the map.

The Sci-Fi museum was rather cool, it seems like most of the stuff came from Paul Allen‘s collection (which really makes him an alpha geek). We learned all sorts of important stuff, like the costume Seven-of-Nine wears prohibited her from wearing any kind of underwear since the lines would show. Also that the first Superman costume was sown out brown fabrics since the blue and red didn’t turn out that well on a black and white screen. They also had some other cool things like Indiana Jones’ whip and jacket and the hat of the Wicked Witch of the West.

After taking the monorail back we wandered aimlessly around the city center a while before taking the bus back to the hotel.