Day 11 - Seattle
|Saturday, August 11, 2012: Maersk! It pays to be the first one out on the balcony in the morning.
|At 6:20 AM, we still had some distance to cover before arriving in Vancouver.
|We went under the Lions Gate Bridge for the last time.
|The sun was up by the time we arrived in the harbor.
|We needed to be off the ship early to catch our shuttle, so we were some of the first people off the ship.
|We were booked on the Quick Shuttle to downtown Seattle. After some delays caused by the marathon in progress downtown, we were on our way.
|We passed scenic Granville Island as we headed through Vancouver.
|We had to get out once to pass through U.S. Immigration and Customs at the Washington state border, then had a restroom break not long after that.
|We passed lots of train tracks in Edmonds, where we'd be many hours later.
|Seattle: so green they have bike racks on the fronts of buses.
|Speaking of Seattle, here it is!
|We were dropped off downtown, a couple of blocks away from the Space Needle. Debbie used her Taxi Magic phone app to hail a cab, ...
|... and in ten minutes, we had loaded up four suitcases and three people into a cab headed to ...
|... the King Street Station, departure point for the Empire Builder. The station is undergoing major renovation, so the station currently isn't much to look at.
|We had a sunny day and several hours to enjoy it, so off we went. Right next door to King Street Station is CenturyLink Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks.
|We walked a couple of blocks to Main Street Gyros.
|We were starving, and giant plates of gyros and french fries were just what we were craving.
|There was plenty of interesting drama to watch as we ate.
|There was a huge mural on the building across the street from us.
|Next, we worked our way to the waterfront, passing Waterfall Garden Park ...
|... and Occidental Park, which was filled with homeless people, ...
|... and Pioneer Square.
|On the waterfront, we arrived at the one true Ivar's, but oh, we were so full, so we vowed to come back later.
|The Pier 57 Ferris Wheel had just opened a month earlier, so we thought we'd give it a try. Wrong. The line of people waiting was extremely long, and the wheel wasn't moving for long periods of time, so it would have been hours wasted.
|Instead, we enjoyed the sights of the waterfront, including this metal sculpture featuring underwater creatures.
|We have a photo of Claire reaching out her hands to this fountain 12 years earlier, so we had to photograph it.
|Here's a pretty typical water view in Seattle: sailboats, motorboats, and ferries, with mountains in the distance. Beautiful.
|Here's the water up close, with a combination of seaweed and jellyfish.
|The Pier 57 Ferris Wheel does look good. It's a nice addition to the waterfront.
|Ye Olde Curiosity Shop is a mandatory stop on any waterfront tour.
|The smell hasn't improved any over the decades and the creepy stuff hanging from the ceiling is just as creepy.
|But hey! They have all 50 states in magnet form, just as Doug said!
|We wandered through a couple more stores, including the Boeing Store (where a 747 model somehow ended up in a shopping bag with us), then had no choice but to stop at Ivar's.
|We were all still full, but Debbie figured she could fit in one last crab cocktail.
|The outdoor seating area at Ivar's is highly entertaining. Seagulls beg for food scraps in the water, ...
|... while the more aggressive ones patrol the fence. Final Ivar's score: five meals over ten days. Yessssss.
|It was time to head back to the train station, so we made our way through colorful downtown Seattle.
|We're not kidding about colorful. This salmon mural was so colorful we had to stop for a while and take it all in, ...
|... and in one case, get photographed with it.
|What's this? A National Park right in downtown Seattle? Yes, its the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. We had 15 minutes to spare so we took a quick look around.
|It's a fairly small museum, but there are lots of interesting displays, ...
|... and some cool stories to tell.
|At 4:20, it was time to board the Empire Builder.
|We had a bedroom suite: two bedrooms connected together. Here's the first bedroom, with the sink/vanity barely visible on the right.
|The door between the two bedrooms was still locked, so the three of us piled into one room, but with a couch and chair, there was plenty of room.
|Here's the view looking into the hallway, ...
|... and here's the tiny toilet/shower.
|Down the hallway, juice ...
|... and coffee were available at all times.
|Here's the hallway along the five bedrooms in this part of the car.
|At 4:40 PM sharp, the train pulled out of the station, right on time.
|We helped ourselves to a tiny bottle of champagne each and toasted to the two-day journey ahead of us.
|The route heads north through Seattle, ...
|... passing Ballard Locks on the right side of the train, ...
|... and Puget Sound and the Olympics on the left side.
|Our rooms were on the right side, but we could easily look out the windows in the hallway on the left side to take pictures.
|We were right on the water's edge. Oh, that water looked inviting!
|We passed beaches full of happy people enjoying a warm, sunny day.
|After 40 minutes of sharing one room, we tracked down Robin, our service car attendant, to remind her that our rooms still weren't configured the way we had ordered them. She used her magic key to unlock the door, and from then on, we were able to open and close the door as needed.
|This was our last view of the beautiful Olympics. That's Whidbey Island on the right.
|The route turns sharply east at Mukilteo, where we spotted our last Ivar's of the trip.
|The tracks follow the edge of Possession Sound to Everett and then inward. Hey, that snow-capped peak looks familiar.
|It's Mount Baker looking perfect again.
|The view changed immediately from seawater coast to farmland, ...
|... and just as quickly to streams and mountains as we entered the foothills of the Cascades.
|A Trails and Rails volunteer was narrating the trip, explaining what we were seeing, such as Mount Index ...
|... and Sunset Falls. Index Mountain is visible from a different angle in the distance.
|We followed the clear Skykomish River for much of the way.
|Tom set up his GPS to record our travels and would occasionally check to see how close we were to certain points of interest.
|At dinner, we were seated with the Trails and Rails volunteer we had heard earlier. We don't remember his name because we were relying on this photo of his badge to help us. He gave us all kinds of interesting information on the area we were seeing. For dinner, Jill and Tom had steak, and Debbie had the special: spare ribs. Dinner was served with salad and a roll.
|Maersk! We were passed by a freight train during a dinner and got a shot of our favorite shipping container.
|Toward the end of dinner, we entered the Cascade Tunnel, which is nearly 8 miles long. It goes under Stephens Pass.
|On the other side, it was still light out and we were starting to descend.
|We were now following the Wenatchee River.
|This farm looked normal enough, until we spotted the Stonehenge replica toward the back right in this photo.
|This is a land of logging ...
|... and farming, with apple orchards everywhere. We passed stacks of fruit crates and storage buildings, standing ready to process delicious Washington apples for our enjoyment.
At Wenatchee, we had Robin, our service car attendant, set up our beds for us, then we closed the door between our bedrooms and called it a night. Jill ended up staying awake and spotted numerous shooting stars through her window, not realizing that this evening was the peak of the Perseid meteor shower.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy