Crossing the Date Line

By flying into Hawaii from Samoa, we are going back in time. Crossing the international date line means that we leave at 6 pm, and arrive just after midnight on the same date! I almost screwed up our hostel booking because of it, but luckily we caught the mistake and booked our first night at a motel right next to the airport. The next morning it’s a short bus ride into Honolulu and our hostel.

Honolulu is a pretty small city, and surprisingly walkable. Nice, wide sidewalks and several streets that are only for foot traffic – certainly unexpected for a US city! A local gave Jen a friendly warning as she was about to jaywalk. Apparently the police don’t hesitate to fine you for it, so better mind the signs.

Honolulu view
View from Waikiki
Walking around downtown is really pleasant, it’s clean, the weather is nice (obviously), and there’s a nice variety of stores. Even the touristy knick-knack shops are nice and don’t just have all the cheap crap that you normally see. It’s a bit pricey, but seeing as we’re used to China and just travelled through some of the poorest countries in the area, I suppose our baseline is a bit off. We dine on a deliciously disgusting Philly Cheese Steak – seriously; I would love to try the real thing some time, but for now this memory (and ball of fat) will linger for a good while.

The following morning we get picked up by the dive shop and taken not even two blocks down the street to their shop. I chat with another diver on the boat and he tells me he’s an old navy diver with thousands of dives under his belt. I was a bit surprised about how thorough the safety briefing is, they’re really treating us all like complete newbies. The first dive is on a very well-preserved, downed Corsair fighter plane (the pilot ran out of fuel and did an expert emergency landing into the ocean). The wreck itself is really cool, lots of morays hanging out and schools of tiny fish. But there’s not much else in the area, just sand, so you have these seven people – plus Divemasters all crowding around this little fighter plane. It’s almost unbearable, especially since these are the absolute worst divers I’ve ever come across. No awareness of where the other divers are, almost entirely upright in the water coupled with zero buoyancy control, so they’re constantly flailing to stay in place. We end up just hanging back, trying to stay out of the way of their fins. Even the guy claiming to be a navy diver was just terrible, so I suppose he was just lying about his experience.

Trying to make fire by rubbing sticks together
The other dive sites are more reefs, so it’s easier staying out of people’s way and explore on your own. There are pretty hefty currents now and then though, so you need to be careful not to get separated. On the last dive, one of our DMs catches a tiny octopus and lets us hold it before letting it go again. It’s pretty cool, feeling the suckers on your hands. He shows us that we need to keep rocking our hands back and forth to make the octopus stay in our hands, because if you stop it will bolt. Generally the rule is to not touch anything under water but our DM explains that he’ll only do this if it’s certain not to hurt the animal and it is safe to do for all parties. I suppose that’s fair, at least if you’ve put in the research.

On the way out on our last day of diving, another guy in the group tells the DM to set up his equipment (attach the tank, set up the regulator, et.c.). The DM asks him if he’s forgotten how. The guy responds that no, he hasn’t, but that he does this maybe a handful of times a year, whereas the DM does this every day. The DM does set up his equipment in the end and later, back at the dive shop, another DM exclaims “He slammed us on Tripadvisor!” and they all have a good laugh about it. Never before have I seen so many entitled and terrible divers. Speaking to the DMs we find out that people have absolutely no qualms over lying about their experience, which is why they need to keep a very close eye on everyone. I suppose they get a lot of tourists that don’t do a lot of diving, but for some reason want to appear like they do. (which is especially stupid since diving is not something you should take lightly – screw up bad enough and you could die).

In the afternoon we’ve booked a Luau – it’s basically a barbecue and show, and this particular one features “The Chief“. The Chief is a pretty funny native stand-up comedian and in addition to that and various island activities like making a fire by literally rubbing sticks together (something I fail miserably at) we’re treated to a dance show with native dances from throughout the south pacific. One of the dancers asks about my t-shirt (I bought it in Samoa and it has their main beer brand on it). He’s really happy about it, and explains that he and pretty much all of the other dancers are from Samoa and nearby islands. The best thing about the Luau was the fantastic food though, and by that I mean the pulled pork. They roasted an entire pig and there was just heaps of pulled pork to be had. I hardly ate anything else from the buffet (something I later regretted as I spent the next evening on the loo, evacuating what felt like rocks…)

Soon-to-be pulled pork
Our last day I rent a surfboard and spend a couple of hours getting horribly burnt and getting tossed around the surf. I just have to come to terms with having to put in a lot more practice if I’m ever going to be able to stand up surfing for more than a second at a time. Our last thing on the TO DO is the Pearl Harbor museum – it’s over at the actual naval base so we need to take a bus over there. This means we get to be stuck in traffic, waiting for the filming of a Hawaii Five-0 scene to be done. Not too bad though, and Jen actually follows that show, so it was cool. The museum itself has a huge line to get in, but they’re pretty efficient so it doesn’t take very long to get in. It is hands down one of the best museums I’ve been to. Tons of models, info and eyewitness accounts, not only by Americans either – there are several by Japanese too. And just like the Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima, they’ve taken pains to remain objective. We were expecting a lot of flag waving and talk about how great the US is, but there’s actually very little of that. A highlight is the Pearl Harbor monument, which is out on the water, on top of the USS Arizona, one of the sunken battleships. It has a glass floor, so you can look down on the actual wreck as you read about the different parts of the ship. A very powerful experience, definitely one of the top five museums I’ve been to.

Overall I was surprised about how much I liked Hawaii. Sure, it has the usual US annoyances; such as that all land is private so you can rarely walk along a beach without running into a fence and having to turn back. And how once you get outside the immediate city center, not having a car turns into a real problem. I think it was mostly the mood that got me, people are friendly, it’s warm, and very walkable in the city. I regret that we didn’t have time to rent a car and drive around the island. What we did see of the rest of the island while we were bussed to the Luau was very pretty, and I wish we’d gotten to do that at our own pace, and stop whenever we felt like it.

Delightfully Dallas

I arrive at Arlanda just before 2 am and make myself comfortable at our designated meeting spot. At about 4:30 people start showing up, seems like a timely bunch. Aside from Thorstein who I traveled in India with I discovered the the Friises who I went on the transsibirean trip with. We’re sent off by Eddie at the Pink Caravan, since our tour leader Karina is already on location in Mexico.

At Heathrow we have our first celebrity spotting when Robyn is going on the same plane as we are (she looks really good, like she was to walk up on stage right then and there). But aside from that, Heathrow means trouble as we learn that the plane has some technical difficulties and they have to get another. This means that we’re about 2-3 hours behind schedule taking off. We don’t manage to make up that much on the way either but remain optimistic since we had over 3 hours stop in Dallas. The crew also assures us that the customs people on the ground has agreed to ship our luggage directly from our plane to the next instead of re-checking our bags like we were initially told to (which just highlights what a sham the security procedures are when you can just sidestep it when there’s money on the line).

Just before we land we’re told however that we won’t be making our connection after all and that we will be issued hotel vouchers and a new flight in the morning. Oh well, that might be nice as well, I’ve never been to Dallas. The staff at the airport in Dallas leave something to be desired however, they’re mostly helpful but seem unable to admit when they don’t know the answer to a question and instead direct us the wrong way a bunch of times. It is especially hard to get a boarding pass for the new connection for Cancun the next day since the staff at both American Airlines (the airline that will actually fly us there) and British Airways (the airline that brought us here late) are both pointing fingers at each other. So after having been given the runaround for about two hours we’re finally on our way to the Hyatt Regency hotel.

The Regency turns out to be a really nice hotel with rather luxurious rooms but I don’t linger long since I’m planning to see some of Dallas before it gets too late! I talk to my fellow travelers and try to get them to come with me in search for an authentic Texan steak house (I’ve had one recommended by several people already that is on Grapevine, just a shuttle ride away form the hotel), but they have all decided to use the dinner voucher to eat at the hotel restaurant. I can’t really blame them since it’s a free meal for up to $35, but since this might be the last time I’m in Dallas, or Texas for that matter, I want to go for the real McCoy.
My plan starts off badly however when I discover that I missed the last shuttle bus by mere minutes and that the next one isn’t for another hour. The concierge suggest I get something in the hotel restaurant on the voucher while I wait for the next shuttle and that seems like a good idea. I join the rest of the group at the table and order a starter (if I should expect to down a steak later I better not fill up before). I get a smile from the waitress when I ask for some kind of girly drink and fetches the cocktail menu. The service is kind of slow though and I never manage to get my starter before it’s time to catch the shuttle.
The shuttle drops me off right next to the steakhouse and I’m greeted by a very friendly staff. I start asking all kinds of questions and end up with a lemon drop martini and a 22 oz steak that I’ve forgotten the name of, a ribeye something. The steak is hands down the best one I’ve ever eaten (that makes for two of the best steaks I’ve ever had within a couple of days since Derya and I went to Östgötakällaren before I went to the airport in Stockholm), perfectly grilled and seasoned with the meat just melting away in the mouth. My waitress is delighted as I sing the praises of the beef and wonders if I want dessert. As I alluded to feeling like a beached whale it’s not a very serious question. Before leaving I quiz her about the surroundings, if there is anything to do while I wait for the shuttle back which is still an hour or so away. She says that there isn’t much to see along the Grapevine, and besides, it’s all closed now anyway. But there are a few bars there and her favorite, the Tap Inn is down the road. It’s a ways down the street however and I’d better take a cab there. But with 22 oz of steak in my tummy I’d rather walk, so I start down along the Grapevine. The area isn’t terribly interesting, it’s a mix of one of those places where you put big box stores like Elgiganten and IKEA and a regular city center (a mall the locals call it), but there are a variety of touristy stores scattered along the road and eventually it actually looks more like a city street.

At the end of the street I finally locate the Tap Inn (after walking something like 700-800 yards, not that far if you ask me) and it’s a cozy place with $4 drinks and karaoke night. I start idly looking through the list of songs when a guy gets up and starts singing, rather awesomely, a country song that I don’t remember the name of. The guy comes up to the bar afterwards and we start chatting. He’s a freelance contractor named Chuck that fixes up houses and sells them who comes here after his 12 hour workday to relax a bit before going home. We get along great and before I know it he has convinced me to sing Creep by Radiohead, not being a guy who says “no” that often (especially when I’m on vacation) I agree even though that it means that I have to follow his incredible performance.

It doesn’t go all that great, but okay I guess and I’m enthusiastically cheered on by Chuck and the others. After some more chatting it’s time for Chuck to leave, but not before giving me his business card and telling me to look him up next time I’m in Dallas and he’ll fix me up with a place to stay and show me around. This southern hospitality sure is a wonderful thing! He also sings one last song, Johnny Cash’s cover of Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt and it’s even better than the first one.

All this means that I missed the last shuttle back to the hotel so I need to find a cab (walking is not an option here in the US). Unable to find any I walk into a gas station to get the number for a cab, the problem is that they need my phone number so that the driver can locate me and my Swedish number won’t do since it’s too many digits. I have to ask the gas station attendant for his number and it all works out fine in the end. While waiting for the cab I chat with the attendant and as he hears that I’m on vacation and for no less than five weeks he gets a bit bitter and tells me that he hasn’t had a vacation for eight years. Maybe there’s an upside of living under an oppressive socialistic regime! =P

The cab driver is a friendly Kenyan guy and we chat about ABBA and the Jante law. All accounted for a pretty good start of my vacation!

Today’s spending:
Hotel drink: $12
Shuttle: $5
Awsomests steak evar: $42
Lemon Drop: $10
Tap Inn drink: $4
Cab back: $20

Shamu! Shamu! Shamu!

Wednesday was Sea World day and we first went to the Orca pools and looked at the few of them we could see. In another pool we could see a giant fin, so tall that the top part was bent. We then thought that it must’ve been Shamu, the original Orca. Some research on the topic unveiled that the original Shamu died in 1971 and that it’s just kept as a stage name for, well, any of the orcas really. The Orca show wasn’t until 12.30 so we went and looked at the dolphins.

The dolphins were housed in a pool with rather low edges so that if you bought some fish you were allowed to feed and pet the dolphins at a few set times during the day. We didn’t do that though, it was way too crowded.

We didn’t get much breakfast that day so we got a early lunch at an ridiculously expensive cafeteria. Food was good though and we rounded off the meal by splitting a classic American chocolate cake. Very nice! We had some more time to kill before the Orca show so we went to the fourth aquarium of our trip. Each one has been slightly different and in this one there were sea turtles and really cool big fishes.

At this time we heard a call for the dolphin show and we went to where we thought it would be. It turned out to be wrong so we went and petted some Bat rays instead. They were rather friendly and swam right up to the hand. There were some Guitarfish in the pool next to it, but they weren’t as interested in being petted. You could also go down a ramp to see the parts of the pool that was under water. There they kept the Moray Eels (Muränor) and there were quite a lot of them! Basically it looked like a pot of spaghetti at places…

We still had some time before the Orca show so we looked at the Sea Otters. They weren’t as interesting as the ones at Monterey Bay but they were probably taking a nap or something. You could also look through a window to the nursery where they kept a baby otter. It was very cute and playful! It tried hard to soak a towel they had there but the keeper caught the towel in time…

Finally it was time for the Orca show, we seated ourselves in the soak zone (= the first 12 rows) and got a great view. The show was a bit corny with a lot of wilderness romantics, but the Orcas were great! At one point one of the handlers started spinning on his back in a break dance-esque move. This was apparently the signal for one of the Orcas to slide up on the platform and spin 360 degrees! Really awesome to see such a big animal do a thing like that. Other than that they did the usual stuff, jumping, carrying trainers and the like. One thing was a bit weird though; at one point it was time for the wetting of the audience. The trainers then instructed everyone to make this sign mimicking an Orca tail fin splashing while chanting “Shamu, Shamu, Shamu”. It almost felt like a revival meeting… All the chanting didn’t help though, we didn’t a single drop of water on us, which I found a bit disappointing.

Done with the Orcas we went to see the Clydesdale horses, what they are doing at Sea World I don’t really know, but they were nice all the same (update: the owner of the park is Anheuser-Busch, also owner of the Budweiser beer brand which apparently have the Clydesdales as their mascot).

We continued on to see the Polar Bears, but instead found ourselves by the log ride equivalent and a tank full of Commerson’s Dolphins . They were really cool to watch as they were beautiful and constantly racing about, playing with each other. Afterwards we found the building housing the Polar Bears, and to get in you had to first see another one of the 4D movies that are so common. This time it was a helicopter ride through the Arctic to a mock research station, of course there was a near crash and all that usual stuff. (Jonna comment: afterwards I overheard a little girl saying “is it true mum? Are we really in the Arctics now?” and the mum answered “…Yes” 🙂 ) After the movie we got to go through the research station where they had Sea Elephants, Beluga Whales and a sleeping Polar Bear.

Next up we had the Penguins; housed in a giant refrigerator with a flat escalator going by a big viewing glass. Penguins are always fun, and they also had some Atlantic Puffins (Lunnefåglar). Outside of the Penguin fridge they had the pet show that we initially didn’t plan attending but since it started just as we walked by we went in. It was a bit too American for my taste with very loud presenters and pet tricks that mostly reminded me of America’s Funniest Home Videos. (Jonna comment: one of the dogs was pretty clever. It went in, missed catching the frisbee and then stayed and got scratched behind the ear for the rest of the show. No trick necessary!).

We had a spot of time afterwards before the Dolphin show so we watched the Sea Lions getting fed. Quite greedy buggers those lions… At the Dolphin show we once again took a seat in the soak zone and listened to the warm-up act; a pop star wannabe handler doing some songs on his guitar. At the start of the show they introduced a family that got to pet and feed the dolphins, we didn’t pay it much mind at first but after a while it started getting weird. Finally the mom falls into the water and gets a backwards ride around the pool from a kind of whale with a very long name that I can’t remember, that’s when we smelled the rat… The mom was of course a trainer in disguise.

The show was good with lots of jumping and pushing people about. We also finally got really wet during the splashy part (it was the whale with the really long name doing the same things the Orcas did earlier). After the show we went to the freshwater aquarium before attending the last show; some sort of animal theater involving the rescue of a Sea Elephant, plenty of otters and a couple of Sea Lions. Most amusing was actually the mime doing the warm-up show.

Last of all we checked out the Shark building, it was really nice with a big acrylic tube under water so that you got to see the sharks up close. Walking out to the parking lot we saw a few weird towers with staff in them, telling people what to do in the parking lot. We didn’t really get the point of it but apparently it was important enough to pay someone to do it.

This was the day we were supposed to turn in the car again but we called and got an extension since we wanted to back to Coronado for a swim that evening. So Jonna just keyed in some random destination out on Coronado and we started driving. It had been a really long day at this point so Jonna dozed off while I followed the GPS directions. When I found myself on a one-way street leading up to a very official-looking guard booth I woke Jonna up wondering what she’d actually put in as destination. It turns out that half of Coronado is a Naval base and we were heading right for it. I did some half-assed explaining to the guard that asked for my license. “I’m going to hold on to this while you turn to that exit over there and then I’ll give it back to you.” Said and done, I got the license back and we were on our way again. Jonna felt a bit bad about sleeping, serves her right… =)

We went back to the same place we were the day before and played around in the waves some more. There was quite a lot of kelp washing in so we took a couple of pictures with it. All cooled down we went back to the motel to change before walking downtown to get some food. We had seen a nice Indian restaurant the night before that we wanted to try. I asked for spicy food and the waitress seemed to think it was unusual. When we got the food she actually lingered for a bit ‘just to make sure I didn’t choke on it’ she later confessed. The food was really strong, but I wasn’t too impressed with the taste. Mostly felt like they’d put lots of dried chili in and not bothered with the other flavors that much. Still good though.

Cape Disappointment doesn’t disappoint!

After our night in Astoria we backtracked into Washington again in order to check out the Long Beach Peninsula. It turned out to be a real drag though, with no real view and just one long straight road. But before we left Washington again we hade one thing left to visit; Cape Disappointment!

To be honest, I didn’t have much hope for this one but as we drove out there (with Billy Idol – Rebel Yell playing on the radio) it seemed that we would at least get a good view. The road finally ended in a parking lot where a trail started that took you out to a lighthouse. We started on the trail and was immediately surrounded by huge pine-looking trees, very cool! We took a few pictures and went on down the trail. There were also a lot of realy big ferns, giving the whole place a really cosy feel. After a bit we came to a sign announcing ‘Dead Man’s Cove’ up ahead. Dead Man’s Cove turned out to be just as cool as the name. It looked like something pulled right out of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ with white sand, lots of white driftwood, steep walls enclosing the beach and loud waves crashing on the rocks outside (wi also made a brief recording). We spent a long time down there before walking up to the lighthouse as well.

On the way back we went up to the little ‘Lewis and Clark Interpretative Center’ that was also there (named after a couple of explorers totally unknown to me but apparenly very famous over here for charting most of the pacific northwest). The center was $5 a head to get in so we skipped that and instead walked yet another trail that took us to what was left of a couple of WWII Cannon installations. After yet another mile or so we were back at the car again and left to resume our trip south. Not before after making another excursion to Long Beach Peninsula. This turned out to be a mistake though.

We drove back over the Columbia river into Oregon again and continued along the coast to make another stop in the kitschy/idyllic Seaside. There we took a walk down their main road, called Broadway. It was mainly a lot of souvenir- and salt water taffy shops but at the end of it was a magnificent beach. We took off our shous and wandered up and down the beach, looking at sand dollars, seashells and tiny ball-shaped jellyfish. We toyed with the idea of spending the night there but decided that we ought to cover a bit more ground before nightfall.

We decided to stay in Lincoln City (since we had a good coupon for that) but it meant a rather long drive. Even so we stopped to see the Ecola State Park, which came highly recommended in our road trip guide book. Admission was $3 per car and was easily worth it. We didn’t have time to walk any trails but we climbed up to a rather nice viewpoint and admired the scenery (as well as filming a bit). We also drove down to a beach where a couple of surfers unsuccessfully tried do something stylish. The thing about Ecola State Park is that the drive to it and between the sights is almost the best thing about it. Lots of narrow, winding roads with beautiful lush scenery and very big trees. Highly recommended!

It started to get rather late by the time we were done with Ecola and we contemplated staying at Cannon Beach. The motels all looked rather pricy though (in fact, the whole place looked upscale) so we decided to drive all the way to Lincoln City anyway. On the way we passed through Tillamook with its, apparently famous, cheese factory. We had no intention of seeing it though (even if all the guide books talks about it) so we weren’t that sad to miss it. After some tiresome driving we finally arrived in Lincoln City at around 9 pm. Lincoln City by the way, is one of those really boring towns that are just a collection of fast food joints and motels along a larger road, not recommended. In the evening I also got to try something something I’d been looking forward to for a long while: Beef Jerky!

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.

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.

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.