Friday, June 15, 2012

Back to Seattle on a Big Ol’ Bus


After taking a ferry to Seattle from Bremerton, and then a train to Vancouver, and then enjoying almost three whole days with loved ones, it was time to hit the road, Jack.

I pretty much reversed my track back from the Marina to Pacific Central Station.


But I grabbed one shot of me by Science World. Who knows when I will be here again!

After having my shoes stolen my from my room when I got back to Seattle, I am relieved to see that I’m not losing my mind…I actually did buy two pairs of shoes and took them home with me on the long trip back to America.

It was raining again today. I left the boat around 4:00 PM, and we had spent most of that morning in our PJs enjoying the wonderful rain all around us. I love weather like this.


So the plan was to take the last train to Seattle (they only have two per day, and I wasn’t about to get up at 5:00 AM to catch the early one). While buying my ticket, however, the counter clerk mentioned that there was a bus leaving in just twenty minutes that would get back into King Station in Seattle around 8:30 that night. It was faster than the train and left sooner. Just to redeem myself, I knew about the bus but didn’t think that it would be a good fit for me to ride home. The train just felt like a better idea for someone so clueless as me. I was picturing a city bus that makes a million stops along the way.

But it didn’t. So I, of course, bought a bus ticket instead. This prevented me from having to wait for the 12:50 AM ferry back to Bremerton. In fact, I now made the goal to catch the 9:05 PM ferry if the bus experienced no delays.

I didn’t know what to expect from the bus, but it was one of those big charter buses with lots of room. Truth be told, I actually liked this means of transportation better than the train because I had an awesome view of the scenery and towns that we passed!


All of these tracks are leading to the train station, which I just departed. Goodbye, Vancouver! I already miss your cool temperatures and soft rain.


On the bus, we stopped at two hotels to gather more passengers for our trek south. I kept getting the feeling that things looked familiar to me, and sure enough, we passed the hotel that I always frequented when staying in Vancouver for my last job!

I don’t know why I found this so cool. Even Canada can be a small world?


Of the 3.5-hour ride to Seattle, an hour of that was simply getting out of the city during rush hour. Lots of people who work in Vancouver obviously live in the multiple suburbs south of the city limits. We got to slowly creep along the freeway with all of them. It was nice to sit back and relax while someone drove me home.


Did I mention that the views were just wonderful from the bus? I was up high and got to take in all the beauty. We passed lots of farming communities. I love the shape of this old barn roof.


One difference between the train and the bus is that we actually did have to stop at US Customs and Border Protection to get back through the United States. On the train a few days before, we simply cleared Canadian Customs in the train station when we arrived.

I didn’t mind this 30-minute stop. We had to wait for the bus in front of us to move ahead before we could exit our bus to head inside for passport and luggage checks.

Once again, being nice to people and using humor makes everything easy.


This was the gate which we entered to clear Customs. You can see the normal non-bus traffic in the back clearing the car stands into the country.

It felt great to almost be “home.” I love America.


Once we cleared things inside, we had to wait for the bus to pull forward to pick us up again.

One guy from Canada didn’t come back on the bus, and the driver started pulling away. When we asked him about it, he said, “Oh, he isn’t coming with us.” So he got busted at the border! Cool!


With the bags safely stowed underneath, we were on our way again. I wish that my camera could have better captured the incredible lush paradise through which we traveled. Wowsers!


I took this as proof that I not only got some great shoes while in Canada, but I also had a healthy snack on the ride home. These just happened to be in my computer bag, and I’m so glad that they were. There wasn’t exactly a bistro car on the bus that could feed me dinner!

Aren’t those shoe boxes nice? There are cute shoes inside them, too. I’ve heard back from the hotel. Other than the housekeeper who entered my room to clean it while I was gone, no one was in my hotel room.

Guess what? My room didn’t get cleaned while I was gone. When I came back, it was still dirty. So whoever had been in my room to “clean it” simply took my shoes and left. I called the hotel back but just got voicemail and am waiting to hear what they say about that!


It rained on the entire bus ride back to Seattle. I love weather like this, as long as I’m not driving!


This was at 8:00 PM. Can you believe how light it is? The sunset is just now beginning to grace the western sky. Wow, that sounds like a Louis L’amour book, huh? I should be a writer!

We finally got into downtown Seattle and made a whole mess of turns to arrive at the King Station. I had the oddest sensation that I had just been here!


Goodbye, Bus Transportation from Vancouver! Thanks for the ride, eh!

I couldn’t stand around chit-chatting with the bus. It was 8:45 PM and I had a ferry to catch 0.7 miles away at 9:05. So I booked it!


Oops! I accidentally had time to stop in the middle of an abandoned street to take a picture of eastern downtown Seattle. So pretty with the departing sunlight!


Man, another picture? Isn’t there a ferry to catch? I was close enough now and still OK on time, so I risked another photo of my walk to the Seattle Ferry Station. It wasn’t even raining on this trip, like it had been a few days before. Muuuuuuuuuch nicer to walk in weather like this.


Goodness, isn’t that pretty? It’s my awaiting ferry to Bremerton! I made it!


It’s 8:58 PM right. I arrived with seven minutes to spare. Of course, I had to figure a way to get all of my luggage through one of those twisting-people-counter-things while everyone watched. I had no idea that I could be so entertaining.

But I was glad that I had already purchased my ferry ticket back. It made me feel so prepared, even though it was all an accident!


Hi, Ferry to Bremerton! I’m glad I don’t have to wait until 10:10 PM to take the next one over. This way, I should be back in time to grab a very late bite for dinner. I haven’t eaten since my Oreo snack on the bus, and those don’t last as long as they should these days.


Just to confuse tourists like me and invoke temporary panic, the ferry next to us left just as I was walking up the ramp to the ferry terminal. Did they leave early without me?! Did I miss my ride home?!


Nope, I made it! Now I have an hour to relax (and people-watch) on the ferry until we arrive at Bremerton. This might tell you how hungry I was…even Subway sounded good! And there was one outside of the Bremerton Ferry Station that I was hoping stayed open late…just for me!


Goodbye, Sweet Seattle. I love you and can’t wait to see you again. Maybe in a couple of months we can spend some quality time together?

What a fun trip to Vancouver and back. It was a nice way to spend the week on the road.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Very Canadian Boating Experience


Did I mention that my entire purpose for coming to Vancouver on a train was to spend a few days with some fun ladies and babies?

On a giant boat?

Please refer to the map above in reference to my laborious journey from the Pacific Central Train Station to the Quayside Marina Boat Dock. It’s hard to see, but the path is in red.


I left the train station on-foot after clearing Customs. I had about six blocks to walk to arrive at the ferry station. It was raining but luckily not as much as this morning in Seattle.


I crossed through a few busy streets in downtown Vancouver and finally arrived at Science World. I’ve been here before and enjoyed it. I actually have no complaints about the entire city…I love this place!


From where I stood on the dock near Science World, I could see Yaletown and the Marina in the distance. Not very far to go on this ferry, for sure!

Can you see the buildings over there? The Marina is just beneath them but not visible from this angle.


Just a short walk from Science World brought me to the right place to catch a ferry. This colorful sign is hard to miss.


Luckily, I wasn’t in a wheelchair to get down to the dock entrance. This ramp was so steep! I wonder how many elderly bodies exist in the shallow water at the bottom of this incline because their wheel brakes gave out half-way down?


Since I couldn’t see any ferry-looking boats on their way, I passed the time by observing the tide lines and lots of moss on the bank of the water. Aren’t the color gradients neat? Of course, it never gets warm enough here to kill the moss, so it thrives even in the open air.

That is a pretty difficult concept for a desert girl like me.


After waiting about ten minutes, and beginning to wonder if I was in the right spot, I saw a ferry on its way to my dock. I boarded and paid $5 (in American…bwaahahaaahahaa) for it to take me to the Qauyside Marina. I was the only person on-board.


The ferry captain knew the boat on which I would be staying for the next few days. He said it was a beauty, and he certainly wasn’t lying! It is the second-largest boat in dock at the Marina. Needless to say, my jaw dropped when I saw it.

Not that I was expecting a rubber life raft or anything, but this thing was pretty impressive! My brother and sister have been here and tell endless stories about how fun it is. I am so tickled that I finally got the chance to experience it in person.


This was a Canadian neighbor to the side of us. It seems that people wash their boats in the rain, which I guess makes quite a bit of sense. You can tell how much I’ve been around boats, huh?

No offense, but I still think airplanes are cooler.


This was the backyard view from the boat. Can you imagine waking up to this every day?! I mean, I could do it, if I had to do it. I loved the view of Yaletown and being so close to the action of downtown Vancouver!


This was a picture with Chris, our steward, me, and Captain Woo, as my niece likes to call Captain Lou. I have bubble-headed my other adorable niece in this picture to protect the innocent. And to appease my brother’s wishes that his family never be on my blog.

These gentlemen were so nice and really good at their jobs. Captain Lou has worked for the family for ten years, and this is Chris’s second summer with them. They both live in Vancouver and thus didn't sleep on the boat with us.

But it was nice to have slave labor available to us all day, that’s for dang sure! Even now, I keep asking for Chris to vacuum things without realizing that I am home now and no longer have a vacuuming man at my disposal.


So, I guess if I have to be here, it might as well be a pretty boat. And it was. Holy cow.


These were my sleeping quarters during my sojourn in the Vancouver Marina. It was actually quite comfortable, and with the lights off, very cave-like. I slept like a baby and wondered every time I woke up if it was noon since I had no reference to outside light.

It was wonderful waking up to the sound of raindrops on Thursday morning. That may have been my favorite day, since we stayed in pajamas and girl-talked and read books while it poured rain outside on a chilly day.

Now that is my type of boat living, people!


When I arrived at the Marina dock around 1:00 PM on Tuesday, four pretty ladies and one boat boy were waiting for me. While he towed my luggage, I gathered up a sweet baby on our short walk to the boat. It was such a treat to be here, and it all felt very surreal.

That evening, Captain Lou and Chris made us dinner of pasta (pronounced “pasta” like “canasta” by our Canadian friends) and homemade Caesar salad with rhubarb pie for dessert. Did I mention that these guys cook, too? And that this was my first time eating rhubarb pie?


On Wednesday, the weather cleared up and allowed us to explore a day in downtown Vancouver. Of course, in my present company, showing me Vancouver simply meant that we went shopping in Vancouver.

I didn’t complain one bit. I even got a few pairs of shoes to show for the fun time that we enjoyed.

This is a shot of Robson Street, which is where the bulk of shopping takes place in this city. I stood outside with the baby stroller while everyone else went inside Guess. I feel a little out of place in some stores, and that definitely qualifies as one that makes me feel unworthy to enter!

So I stayed outside to people-watch.


Across the street from me was an awesome shoe store called Spring. I got a pair of shoes on clearance here that were just adorable. They looked like Toms, which I’ve always wanted, but were way more comfortable than Toms (I was surprised at how much I didn’t like the fit of Toms). And they had snake-skin texture with a sparkly leopard-print pattern. Man, they were cute.

I also got a pair of Keds on clearance, which I have always fancied having, too. They were slip-ons and bright blue and comfortable and SO CUTE!

I talk about these two pairs of shoes in past-tense because they are no more. I’m pretty sure they were stolen from my hotel room when I got back to Bremerton a few days later. Weird, huh?! It’s still “being investigated” by hotel personnel.

Considering that I never buy shoes and had purchased two perfect pairs of shoes in one day, only to have them practically ripped from my trembling fingers in Washington state, I was pretty bummed out.


Anyway, where was I? sniff sniff

This is a picture of lunch while out on the town. We ate at The Cactus Club, and I split the spare rib sandwich with my sister-in-law. We also shared the fries and ordered a small (yummy!) Caesar salad to enjoy. After dipping the sandwich in the au jus, all was well in the world.

Of course, at this point in time, I still had two perfect pairs of shoes in my possession…


It was a wonderful day out exploring downtown with a bunch of fun ladies. That night for dinner, I received a tour of Yaletown on foot. Then we brought some Mexican home to everyone on the boat. It was delicious, but you know how I feel about Mexican food. I could eat it all day, every day and be juuuuuust fine.

Oh, and when I’m incredibly wealthy, I would love to live in Yaletown someday. What a great place!


While we stayed on the boat, we were entertained by endless groups of rowers in the harbor. People actually pay for lessons on this. It sounds like an awful lot of painful work to me! It was fun to watch them from the boat while holding sweet babies and reading books about dinosaurs to my niece.


This is the After 8, which is by-far the largest boat in the Marina. He owns several car dealerships and had eight kids. This is what he bought after all of them finally left the nest.

Maybe I should look into owning several car dealerships as well. Sheesh!


Soon, it was time for my visit to end. I admit that it was a little tough to pack up my things and head back to Seattle. What a wonderful visit with some wonderful people. At around 4:00 PM on Thursday, I caught the ferry back to the dock near Science World to walk back to Pacific Central Station.

Goodbye, Quayside Marina! See you next week?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Train Ride to Vancouver


After getting up early and catching the ferry from Bremerton to Seattle, it was time to wait in the passenger lounge at King Station for my Amtrak.


It only costs $38 to take the train from Seattle to Vancouver. I am definitely going to remember that any time I have a few spare days in the Pacific Northwest on my hands. I was really looking forward to my mini adventure.


We didn’t have to stop at the Canadian border but cleared Customs in Vancouver. However, just to check that I had all of the proper documents, I had to present my passport when I made my purchase at the ticket window.

My passport is a whole lot cooler now that I’ve been to the Caribbean twice in the past few months…


As you can see, they have spared no expense in making their awaiting passengers comfortable. I am just hoping that this area looks so awful because of the construction being done on the station. It could very well look this inviting all the time. It is Amtrak…

I was an hour early for my train, so some pretty good people-watching took place as passengers filed in for the 7:40 AM northbound.


All aboard! I love trains. They are so powerful and beefy. Two qualities that I look for in a good train.


Sorry for the rain-blurred picture, but I though the cart used to haul checked baggage to the train was just out of this world! They were probably using this exact same cart to load western coaches in the 1870s! Doesn’t it look ancient?! Are those metal tires?


I’ve ridden an Amtrak fewer times than I can count on one hand. I felt even more adventurous knowing that I was doing something so out of-the-norm for me. I just pretended that I knew what I was doing when I found my seat in the first car behind the baggage car.

Fake it ‘til you make it.


It was difficult to get good pictures during the four-hour train ride, as it was pouring rain against my window for the entire trip. I love rain. But not when I’m trying to get some shots of the beautiful landscape in between Seattle and Vancouver!

Shame on you, Rain.

Also, we were moving pretty fast. That always provides a challenge to cameras to avoid blurring.


After we were on our way and had made a few stops shortly after Seattle, I decided to see what this Bistro Car was all about. I was hungry and had already been up for five hours. Sounds like breakfast time to me!

On my walk, I passed this empty car. Since we had about seven stops on our way to Canada, they left this car empty in Seattle for the future riders. It was nice that they properly planned things so we didn’t have to share seats right next to us.

I like strangers and all, but not that much.


The train tracks ran right next to the water. It was really neat to be so close. We even passed a beach where several golden eagles were loitering. Maybe it was a gang?

When I tried a picture of them, it was a blur. Of course. Golden eagles may just be too majestic for my little camera to handle.


I love mini milk cartons (chocolate, of course. I hate drinking regular milk). The carton made me feel like I was back in elementary school! The bagel was good, too. Anything is good when you haven’t eaten for a while!


Hi, Bellingham, Washington station. Allegiant Airlines flies directly to you from Mesa. It would be so fun to head up for a few days in Seattle with Hubby. However, he didn’t seem so crazy about the idea when I pitched it to him a few days ago. How did I marry someone who doesn’t like to travel?!


On the train ride, I read my book (on my Kindle app on my iPod Touch…turning a page every three seconds because the screen is so tiny!), checked email, and watched the beautiful scenery outside my huge window. I love that the train had wi-fi. Bonus.


We passed some pretty sites and some not-so-pretty sites. I would include these houses in the latter grouping.


Here we are crossing the border into Canada. As always, it looks like we are way more concerned about who enters the Unites States compared to who leaves. It is this way in general aviation Customs, too! They don’t even come to the airplane when you land…you simply call them on the phone to tell them that you’ve arrived, and they look out of their toasty-warm trailer to confirm. Then they wave you on.

I can’t say I blame them. I wouldn’t want to leave a toasty-warm trailer to check on an airplane when it is minus fifty outside, either.


This is White Rock, which is the first town in Canada after passing the border. It was cute, and I wanted to stop and wander around. I bet there is a fudge shop somewhere in this general area. A girl can always use more fudge.

I stayed on the train, however. It helped that the train didn’t stop here!


We are nearing the city of Vancouver now. The train had slowed down through every town we passed, and it was now going about 20 MPH. The last ten miles took almost an hour to the station.


The Amtrak train is just one of several trains operated in this lovely country. These tracks are for the Sky Train, which runs through all of Vancouver and its suburbs, as well as for the Canadian version of Amtrak, Via.

I love this picture because it looks like the White Roller Coaster at Lagoon. My sister is going to Disneyland this week, so maybe I am just excited that she is going to a fun theme park by relating this photo to a ride from my childhood?


I don’t remember what this river was named. I was too excited thinking about almost being with my family. Sorry that I am not being a very good tourist on this one.


These skyscrapers mean I am definitely getting closer to downtown Vancouver. When I showed them to Hubby, he thought they looked rather Communist. This coming from a man who lived in Hungary for a few years, so he would recognize such buildings…

Canada? Is there something that you want to tell us?


I have to hand it to the teenagers of Canada. They have some mad graffiti skillz, and I got to enjoy lots of their colorful work on my train ride to Pacific Central Station.


Here we are parked after arriving at the train station. The few workers first unload the baggage before passengers can disembark. This is the Via, which is the Canadian version of Amtrak.

Maybe they aren’t as heavily-subsidized by the government as our little train?

Whoa. Sorry to get all political there for a minute. Sheesh.


With my luggage in hand, I played the annoying tourist yet again by taking a picture of Ralph, our train. I knew he was a “Ralph” from the moment I saw him.

Aren’t trains so big and cool?

I made it safely to Vancouver and had butterflies in my stomach from my adventure in motion. I love living on the edge like this! This is considered living on the edge for someone as Type-A as me, by the way.

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