Sunday, May 27, 2007

To the Border, Part 1 of 2

Last summer I took a spur-of-the-moment trip weekend trip to Seattle. In addition to wandering around and doing everything on the fly, I took some "Mascot" pictures of the trip. You can see them here from a previous post.

I arrived on Saturday and wandered around downtown. I saw Pike's Place Market (wonderful!), the Seattle Aquarium and took a locks cruise. I had a great time on the cruise. They talked about everything: the boating communities, the locks, neighborhoods we were floating past, the bridges we went under, the salmon running, the seals we saw, traffic laws on all the bodies of water we were on, the fishing industry, Puget Sound, the weather in Seattle, tugboats, the traffic in Seattle, the grain silos and the shipping industry.

Sunday, I drove out of Seattle for a look at Snoqualmie Falls and wound up on an impromptu Twin Peaks tour. The Falls are featured in the opening credits of Twin Peaks and I ate lunch at the diner featured in the TV show. I didn't realize it was the same diner until I went to the restroom in the back and saw all the newspaper articles and photos.

Here's a picture of the Falls. Aren't they amazing?

On the way back to Seattle, I missed a turn and ended up going in the wrong direction. I was going to find a place to turn around, but the traffic was so awful going in the other direction that I decided to keep driving for a while. It was Sunday afternoon around 5:00pm. I wasn't due to fly back home until early Monday morning. I kept driving, thinking I would find a mall or a place to hang out.

Then I saw a sign, a sign that beckoned me, a sign that shone with the lights of opportunity and curiosity. The sign said:


The sign didn't say how far it was to Vancouver, a place I had never been to, but the seed was planted and I kept wondering about it. Then another sign said it was only 140 miles to Vancouver. It was around 5:25 pm. I figured I'd get there by 8:15 pm. I could either go to the world famous jazz club that night in Seattle and see Manhattan Transfer or I could run to the border.

I ran to the border.

As I drove north in my rent-a-car, I experienced that giddy feeling of pushing the limits, of doing something so completely unplanned in a weekend full of spontaneity. I bought a guidebook just to get a layout of Seattle then I left it in my hotel room. I wandered and did everything completely on a whim including booking this trip only a day and a half before the weekend.

It was a good drive.

One of many pictures of the road signs I took. This is one of the few that you can actually read.

As I kept on driving, I became excited about crossing the border. I have never crossed the border in a car (not counting the time I was a toddler and my family drove to Mexico) so this was going to be a new experience for me.

I was counting down the miles as I went along and listening to the car radio. Seattle radio is much better than Bay Area radio, by the way. For all the diversity in this area, especially in San Francisco, the radio is so lousy that it's embarassing.

Here's a road sign showing "Customs and Immigration 1/2 Mile"

I got to the border in Blaine, WA right around sunset. As I waited in line with the other cars, I took in the site. The Freedom Bridge is located there which allows visitors to stroll back and forth between the two countries. It's a pretty little park.

When I finally got my turn, I handed the lady in the booth my driver's license. She stared at it, then looked at me.

"Is this all you have?" she asked.

"Uh, yeah. Is that a problem?"

"Well, we prefer you have a U.S. Passport with you," she said.

"Really?" I seemed to recall something along those lines, but didn't say anything about it. She asked me where I was going and what I was going to do. Then she said I could go.

"Do you think this will be problem when I come back," I asked, getting nervous for the first time.

"I don't know," she shrugged. Deciding not to let this put a damper on my enthusiasm I pressed on. Only 30 something miles to go!

As soon as I got on the freeway there was an immediate problem. Everything is in kilometers, not miles. I have no idea how to convert miles to kilometers and as long time readers of this blog know, I'm lousy at math. No problem. I checked the car's speedometer was only in miles. This is very odd because even my little Hyundai Accent has kilometers. Then I remembered I was driving a CHEVY and I guess American Car Makers are so egocentric that they can't be bothered with putting kilometers on their cars!

As I wondered how much 100 kilometers an hour translates into miles (60 miles an hour, by the way), I set my car to go with the flow of traffic.

The sun had set and the road was flat. I worried briefly about whether I would have a problem getting back into the U.S., but decided to cross that bridge when I find it. As I drove along, I realized Canadian radio is GREAT! It's even better than Seattle area radio.

Then as I got closer to Vancouver, there was another problem. A serious problem. I had no map of the city, I had no idea how large it is, I had no guidebook. I don't even know what the city looks like. I only knew that it's a waterfront city and very beautiful.

Hm. How to solve this problem? I'll let you know in Part 2.


anne said...

MT, your posts are just getting better and better!

We spent a couple of days in Vancouver on our honeymoon 15 years ago (our anniversary is tomorrow) and I just loved the city. It reminded me of NYC - it had a very international feel to it - but Vancouver was much cleaner!

We rode bikes around the city, and then walked into the large park in the middle (reminicient of Central Park)to get to the aquarium. None of the footpaths were marked, so we ended up wandering around for a couple of hours, wondering how we would ever find our way out and back to our hotel. We saw just one other group of people during our foray, and they were just as lost as we were!

Finally, I oriented myself with the position of the sun, remembered from which direction we entered the park, visualized the map at the entrance, and got us going in the correct direction to the aquarium. Within 20 minutes or so, we arrived back at civilization. My new husband was SO impressed that my sense of direction was THAT good, even in a city I had never visited before!

Can't wait for part 2 of your story!

Mock Turtle said...

anne -
Thanks so much for this comment. Sometime soon I'll make a proper visit to Vancouver. Your sense of direction must be eerie.

I read your most recent post, but have not had a chance to comment.

Thanks for reading,