Posted by: coastcontact | July 23, 2015

A Fun Trip with Challenges

After cancelling our trip to NYC due to repeating bad weather we decided to visit Seattle and Vancouver. Our last trip there in 1999 had its very wet periods. Drought in Northwest made this visit an easy decision.

With a departure on Jet Blue at 1:55 pm at Long Beach airport leaving the house at 10:30 am seemed a good idea. We would casually have lunch in Long Beach and drive over to the airport.

The first issue was the 101 and 405 freeways. The driving time turned out to be 1 1/2 hours. Then came the very small signs indicating a turn off of a wide Blvd. Not seeing that sign took us through the nearby oil refineries district. So instead of a casual lunch it was a mad dash to the air plane.

The long term parking is not $6.00 as I had planned. It’s $17.60 a day.

The not so fast TSA Pre check line got us to gate 7 with 10 minutes to spare. We were required to be there 15 minutes prior to take off. The plane was still disembarking passengers from the landed plane 10 minutes before our departure time. We actually started boarding 10 minutes after the scheduled depart time.

Our lunch was a muffin and bottle of water eaten after take-off. The take-off was 2:33 PM. That time the result of 5 minute delay by the Seattle control tower due to congestion at SEATAC and other unknown factors.

Happily I had made arrangements with the Hampton Inn for a car to pick us up at SEATAC and the driver called just as the plane came to a stop. No problem reaching the hotel (Hampton Inn). The hotel room is oversized but that’s OK since the nightly rate with tax exceeds $300. Dinner at the Crow a block from the hotel was a C-. It was both noisy and unappetizing.

Our one day in Seattle consisted of two round trips on the Emerald City hop on hop off bus. We did not get off once during those rides. The trips started at the Space Needle center city park. We ate lunch at the park and went through a well done fantasy museum that featured movies primarily from Star Wars and Star Trek but also included a fantasy section with costumes from Wizard of Oz and Princess Bride. The museum was well done.

Friday was our trip to Vancouver BC.
At about 8:30 am Friday morning I called Hertz to confirm the car pick up time. “We don’t have the car you reserved. We do have a Yaris.” I responded saying, “What’s the point of making a reservation over a month ago that was reconfirmed just two days ago?” The agent did not respond. I explained I need a car that will hold two regular size large suitcases. He responds that he expect a car return at 1pm.

A half hour later the Hertz agent calls to say he has a Ford Focus available now. I know this is larger than a Yaris. I ask the desk clerk to call a cab. Twenty minutes later I enter the cab for a 5 block ride. With tip that will be $10. Returning to the hotel I take a shower and shave. Wife is ready to leave.

The drive from Seattle to Vancouver went as planned until we were about 30 miles from the city. At that point we were approaching the George Massey tunnel. A sign informed us the highway would narrow to one lane through the tunnel. We sat in a 3 mile long traffic jam for 1 1/2 hours. Then the highway opened to 2 lanes. We arrived in the city in another 30 minutes.

The hotel (Holiday Inn on Broadway) is attractive and clean. Dinner was at the hotel restaurant. One prime rib 8 ounce split as we are small eaters. Breakfast at hotel is a mediocre buffet. We won’t do that again.

The hop on hop off tour of the city started from Canada Place at the harbor. Parking is $10.50 for 11 am to 6 pm seems reasonable. The two-hour ride was well worth the price. We only got off once at Prospect Point in Stanley Park. Ice cream there. The park is a beauty and a place you can spend all day visiting. We did that in 1999 on our last trip to Vancouver.

Dinner at Peaceful restaurant. It’s Chinese. It had been featured on the food channel and so was packed. It was a restaurant I had picked at random that was just a block from our hotel. When I offered my credit card they said they do not accept any credit cards. Fortunately I brought along $300 Canadian cash.

Sunday we drove to Chinatown and visited the cultural center. Lunch at Gastown across the street from the steam clock. Dinner at Cactus Club near our hotel was good.

Monday we went to Capilano Suspension Bridge. Wife did not walk across. The program there included other possible walks and climbs. Entering the facility felt like Disneyland. $35 per person but worth the price. Dinner at Earl’s on Broadway was very good and not overpriced.

Tuesday we left late from the hotel. Visited Roedde House in downtown area. It’s a house built around 1870. Lunch at Tim Hortons. Drove around center city. Back to hotel at 4:30. Wife took a nap. Dinner at Old Spaghetti Factory was good and the décor was outstanding.

Wife’s walking problems are quite bad. Future trips must take this issue into account.

Up at 7 am we are up for an early get away to SEATAC airport. My plan is to depart by 10 am for a 3 hour drive plus one hour to cross the border. We leave at 9 30 am, stop for gas and we are on the way. I miss a fork on the highway and we end up entering Vancouver airport. That cost 5 minutes. The border crossing takes only 30 minutes. We stop for lunch at the Wonderful Buffet. It’s Chinese food. As we are leaving we engage conversation with a man who says go to airport as quickly as possible because Seattle traffic can make the drive a nightmare.

He was correct. Traffic through central Seattle crawls. I see a sign saying exit 154 for airport. At exit 160 I see a sign for gasoline. Pull off find the station fill up go south to Rainier turn right take 5 south. But the traffic is slow and the signs are not clear. Finally on 5 south we see a sign saying 5 south to airport. The traffic is unbelievably slow. Cars are moving at a crawl. There are no more SEATAC signs. I get nervous and exit, find a place to park and check phone map. We have passed the airport according to my smartphone map. We head over to US 99 north rather than struggle with the slow moving freeway. 

The clock is ticking. It’s now 3:45. The plane takes off at 5:08. Driving north on 99 looking for airport entrance. It’s a small sign partially blocked by tree branches and leaves. There is no large sign. We turn in and follow signs to car return. I takes a group of 5 turns to reach the return facility. The car return is about a mile from the terminal. We park. The agent gives me a receipt. Car is quickly unloaded. A porter brings a cart for the luggage. He escorts us to a bus that takes us to the terminal.

Fortunately there is an abandoned luggage cart nearby as we exit the bus. We rush into the airport to find that we are on the lower level for arriving passengers. Wife asks someone where is the boarding area is and she is told to go to the glass elevator and take to top floor. The time is now 4:25.

We take the elevator to the upper deck. Where is the Jet Blue check in? All I see is Alaska Airlines. It must be farther down the terminal, I am rushing ahead of wife. I see the Jet Blue sign and push the cart to the ticket counter. The line is unoccupied. The lady there asks my name and finds the booking. She wants to see both of our IDs. She issues us boarding passes and incorrectly says go to the right to go through security. It’s now 4:30.

We must go thru TSA security and get to gate D5 15 minutes before departure according to Jet Blue rules. Wife is a slow walker. I urge her on. Through TSA and it’s now 4:45. We are finally on corridor D. The time is 5 P.M. We hear “last call for flight to Long Beach” on the PA. Time is 5:03.

As we approach to gate we see people waiting to board the plane. There are four or five people ahead of us. The sweat is dripping of my face and into my eyes. We have made the flight. Surprisingly another four or five other people are behind us.

We did not depart on time.

Despite the challenges we had a good time.



  1. I enjoyed your sharing – I love the northwest- you did help me make my up as I am going to Kentucky for my 1 year old birthday and am going to go by train – it goes from portland to Chicago and it’s a part of the country I have never seen.

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