Friday, April 25, 2008

Seattle: A Few Thoughts

This trip report on our anniversary get-away to Seattle seems to be coming in installments. Sometimes when I sit down to write, I’m not quite sure where the post is going to go.

Today, I’ll just share some random thoughts that might be helpful if you and your loved ones are thinking of traveling to Seattle.

And if you're not, then keep reading anyway. It might be entertaining.

Our trip started dark and early at 4 a.m. when the alarm awakened us. Of course, since we had a 7 a.m. flight requiring us to set the alarm to wake up at a ridiculously early hour, I woke up at 2 a.m., worried that the alarm wouldn’t go off for some reason, and continued to doze only lightly while keeping one eye on the clock.

The bright side is: the traffic in Dallas at 4:45 a.m. on a Thursday morning is nonexistent. We got to the airport with no problems. Parked with no problems. Got checked in with no problems. Got to the security desk…that’s when the problem arose.

It seems my driver’s license expired this year on my birthday, unbeknownst to me. I am now finally in the habit of leaving the house for domestic flights without even thinking about digging out my passport, which was a necessity anytime I flew anywhere while we lived in Amsterdam. So, armed only with an apparently expired driver’s license to identify myself, the security guard informed me he was going to have to write in huge black letters across my boarding pass “No ID.” Then I had to wait five minutes for a “female assist” to come pat me down, search through my belongings, and exclaim that I certainly don’t look my age and at first she wondered why they would be so up in arms about a high-schooler not having an ID. (For those of you reading who are unaware: it’s been over a decade since I was in high school.)

For about five minutes I worried myself with thinking about having to now go to the dreaded driver’s license office after our vacation to get a renewal. Because I worry. But, I’m getting better at telling myself it doesn’t do any good, so five minutes of worry is a great improvement over four hours, or four days.

P.S. Thank you to the state of Texas for sending me a reminder in the mail that my driver’s license was about to expire. That would have been helpful.

I guess tip number one would be: Make sure your form of ID for airport security is not expired, just to make things a little easier.

By the way, on the trip home, the Seattle airport security didn’t even notice my driver’s license was expired. Also, I forgot to remove the Ziploc bag of liquids and gels from my carry-on bag and no one noticed. John (accidentally) showed the security people his rental car receipt instead of his boarding pass after walking through the metal detector and security let him by without a comment. The man chosen by airport security to be searched was a 90-year-old man who was having trouble standing up without assistance; I doubt he could wield much of a dangerous weapon.

I’ll let you make up your own mind about the effectiveness of the TSA.

Seattle is a great place to go to see both city and nature in one trip, especially if, say, you have free hotel stays at a major hotel chain that only exists in cities and is no where near, say, Yellowstone National Park.

We spent our first two days touring the city while the second two days were reserved for some hiking in the mountains. Thankfully our 7 a.m. flight was on time and not nearly full. Also, thankfully, the flight was almost four hours long, so I was able to stretch out and take a good nap to recover a bit from the lack of sleep and early morning start before we landed and hit Seattle running.

We discovered that if you drive around a bit parking can be had for less than $16/day still fairly close to the city center. A rental car was a necessity in our case as we were staying in a Seattle suburb about 15 miles north of the city and were planning to drive out to the mountains.

Speaking of hotels, we can definitely recommend the one we stayed in: SpringHill Suites in Bothell, WA. According to Trip Advisor, it seems this is quite the international hotel, with reviewers from as far away as Germany. (I have no idea what that review in German was all about, but he or she gave it 5 stars, so it must be good. I’m sure it is something along the lines of, “Wow! What a nice hotel with air conditioning and a shower curtain in the shower, and with the dollar so weak this place was dirt cheap for us...somewhere around €10 a night!”)

After the torture of trying to figure out in Dallas where the new HOV lanes have entrance and exit areas, it was really fun, and a super time-saver, to use the HOV lanes in the Seattle area. In case you’re concerned, as we were for the first day, you can indeed get in and out of the HOV lane whenever you want to with no legal repercussions.

My final tip of the day is about coffee. First, you must buy some Douwe Egberts coffee because it is really the best in the world. Second, put your coffee scoop and some coffee in a Ziploc. Pack some coffee filters in your baggage as well. Voila! You can now savor great coffee in your hotel room and leave the sad little generic coffee packets supplied by the hotel cleaning service for the next unsuspecting guests. This greatly improves the start of the day. Who wants bad coffee when vacationing?

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