Friday, June 17, 2011

From Home to Bellingham - two days in one

Thursday 9 June was exceedingly long. We spent the morning doing last minute chores at home, last minute packing and panicking. Just when we were ready to leave Mac remembered that he needed to fill the goats’ water buckets and as I sat waiting in the car with the door open, Spike jumped in and curled up on my feet. Spike sometimes explores cars when no one is around, but rarely if watched. Mac got in the car, started it up and still Spike sat firmly on my feet – I had to pick him up and throw him out. We started down the drive and Bob the Dog followed – he never follows the car. The van and the motorbike yes, but not the car. We stopped and told him to go to his kennel, but he just stopped still, and then followed again, so back we went to lock him in his kennel. It never ceases to amaze me how our animals know when something different is happening.

Thus began the journey.

Jeff and Konny took us to the airport. Following Rebecca’s advice, I asked to swap our seats for an isle seat so Mac could stretch his legs, and I sat in the middle seat. I looked out the window and as I turned back glanced down and saw the papers the Man next to me was reading – sure enough, Mac knew him: he worked for Environment Waikato! 

The flight from Auckland to Los Angeles was interminable. Half way through I wondered if I might lose it, and start screaming and running amok – it was just so boring and hot and stuffy. I totally understand why the very rich own private jets!

 Los Angeles was a long stop for immigration and customs, but contrary to my expectations was far less intrusive than in 1975, although the wait was long. We checked our luggage in and walked to the domestic terminal for Alaska Air, expecting to have time for coffee, but by the time we went through the security check I only managed half a cup – it was a much more thorough check than at Auckland. So all we saw was the airport, which was slightly grubby and tatty. We both felt disgusted at the sight of the ‘complimentary shoe shine’ stand where men sat and played on their cell phones while totally ignoring the guy polishing their shoes – especially considering the standard of the rest of their attire, which didn’t match shined shoes!

While we were standing in a long line for Alaskan Air security I looked out a window which overlooked a roof area with air conditioning ducts. Some large birds barely registered until one moved in a way that did not fit my subconscious asumtion that they were the ubiquitous seagulls I am used to – a second look showed they were black crows, and we saw them again in Seattle, outside our hotel.

Once we got through the security an onto the Air Alaska plane, I was relieved – a smaller plane, but more relaxed and friendly, and although the seats themselves weren’t as comfortable as Air New Zealand, there was a lot more leg room. We good views of the landscape below, especially once we cleared the haze and got closer to Seattle. At one stage there was nothing to be seen except fluffy white clouds – and in the distance, a snow covered mountain top poking up through the cloud cover. Later Robin told us it was Mt Rainier.

As we came in to land it was obvious that Seattle was a very different city from LA. So much green, with trees everywhere. After landing we caught the light rail to the city, (just $6 for the two of us for a 45 minute ride) and the ride confirmed the beauty of this city, with so many trees, and lots of old impressive buildings. A friendly woman pointed out various buildings and landmarks. We hadn’t known that Seattle was the home of Starbucks until she pointed out their head office.

From the end of the line we had to walk only a block to our hotel, and although we were very tired, the exercise and fresh air did us the world of good. We unpacked a few things and went down to the restaurant below the hotel. It seemed absurd to go eat at a mock English pub on our first night in America, but we were too tired to go any further. The Elephant and Castle looked like the English pubs we had visited in London way back in 1975-76 but was cleaner. The food was better and the service was wonderful. Apparently Seattle is known for it’s beer, and we asked for local beers. One was made just a block or two away; the other about 13 miles away – and they were very good. Food and a pint of beer finished us though – bed called and we crashed.

In the morning we got up and walked down the street a little way and found a wonderful clothing store. Well, I didn’t actually look at the clothing because I was so busy looking at the Singer sewing machines all over the shop. The windows were filled with the little turn-the handle models like the one I have tucked away in my craft room at home, which I brought back from England where I had used it to make new curtains for our VW. Throughout the rest of the shop, on walls and as background to the displays, were big industrial Singers and parts of machines. Not being a fashionable person I was unaware that such stores are found all over including London. Ah well, it was new to me.

After a quick breakfast, 

we packed and checked out, then waited outside for Robin for a few minutes. Robin took us for a quick drive around the city centre to see a few of the notable sights, including the famous Space Needle. 

We then drove to to Alki Beach, West Seattle, to see Robin’s apartment and to have something to eat at one of her local coffee shops, 

before she drove us to Bellingham to catch our ferry. We were all a bit nervous that we’d get delayed by traffic or such like so of course we got there early, so we had plenty of time for a walk around the tourist shops, and to put some petrol in Robin’s car: Americans may think petrol is a dreadful price but it seems pretty cheap to us!

Driving around Seattle, and on the motorway, we noticed that most people here too, are driving smaller, more fuel economic cars these days. The motorway seemed to have very few trucks compared to the Auckland motorway we had driven on just a short time earlier – probably because of the extensive railway system we had seen which obviously serves this port city well. Something else we noticed was all the lovely yellow flowers on the side of the motorway – I thought it was broom, Robin thought gorse. Which ever, it made us feel at home!

When we booked our ferry tickets we had tried to book a cabin but were told they were all gone and we were put on the waiting list. A couple of weeks before we left home, we heard we had a cabin and we are so glad of that – we had a four berth cabin, so neither of us had to sleep on the top bunk, and we had that extra space for ’stuff’. We also had our own shower and toilet: all very compact, but clean and comfortable.

So much better than sleeping in a chair, or in a tent on deck, which is all very well, maybe even fun, for the young, but not for two people our age who had just travelled 7500 miles in a couple of days. 

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