17 July 2009

Seattle Extravaganza!: A Crossroads...

Wow! What an... amazing, wait no... FILLED up trip that was! Twenty-nine hours on a train there and back, plus the nine-hour road trip between home and train station to encompass a full seven days in the Seattle city area... whoa. I'll never do it again.

Not like that anyway.

The girls left here, with me, the last Thursday of June to meet their grandma at the halfway point between here and there to spend a week kickin' their feet up, shedding the school year off their shoulders, and stepping into summer while visiting with Grandma and Grandpa down south. (I always had a Mama Yoya and a Grandma, so I had an automatic differentiation between the two grandmas. I don't know what that has to do with anything right now, other than it's a part of my childhood that I miss and has somehow been missed in my girls, though I take and make every opportunity I can to share this with them; AND somehow it has to do with which grandma they were visiting. Anyhoo....)....

After which we were supposed to 'swing down' that way, pick them up, and make our way past the border and subsequently board the train. Which we did, except it dawns on me far too late that my girls aren't going to see their own beds for close to a month.

But they are excited, and they will get to see both grandmas in less than a month of each other, and what do they care? They're on an adventure. So. We forge ahead the morning after meeting up with the girls, touch base at the hotel the evening before departure, grab some Taco John's (an old standby that stands firmly rooted in the history of our relationship in addition to being just an all-out awesome fast food joint), get the girls settled, and sneak out to the lounge after giddily realizing it was next door to our hotel room. A good, stiff Black Russian for me and a BudLime for my better half were exactly what the doctor ordered after a long day on the road. We contemplate our travel plans, enjoy each other's company, and relax.

The next morning, there is a chilly buzz about the air as we gather our things and leave the hotel. By the time we get to the train station, it is pouring rain outside and when it is time to board, a mousey, gray-haired, disgruntled little car attendant is standing between us in the rain and the shelter of the platform inside the car. We, being experienced travelers and all, feel confident that this is our car. It was a coach car and we bought tickets in coach and from having gone that way the year before, we knew with 91% accuracy that this was our car (or at least the next one down.)

But no, the mousey, gray-haired, disgruntled attendant gives his head a shake, grumbles something, and points to the front of the train. Having little choice but to follow, we take our packs like mules in the rain and trop towards the front of the train. We go almost the length of the train before another car attendant stops us, looks at our tickets and redirects us, quoting something like "past" or "after the dining car."

That seems strange. The berth cars are behind the dining car. We've no business going that far, but there's little choice left. We do an about-face and head directly back towards the dining car, past the willowy, gruff, old car attendant, the dining car, and people who are boarding long after we should have been in our seats. We look up. We're at the berths. There's no more train after that. Now we are soaked. Bags, pillows, coats, pant hems, shoes all soaked; and the rain will not let up. Kyle and I stop and look at each other. We confer quickly through clipped speech and hand gestures, a language that can only be acquired as a seasoned marriage does, ultimately nodding towards the mousey, gray-haired, disgruntled car attendant, knowing full-well we could have got on where we started. We could have got on where the poopoohead attendant was originally standing, in front of the yellow step stool, in front of our car. We could have only gotten mildly dampened. But we are not. We are wet and dripping and drenched to our ankles. We beeline for the original car instead of debating in the rain and, without a word from him, we get on the train, out of the rain.

But now there are no seats left, and my temper is rising behind me like the sun on a hot day while my brain grapples about to prioritize the situation. I'm quite sure the word "F***tard" was used out loud.

And we're soaked, still packed like mules, in a narrow aisle. I start throwing our bags up in various open spaces in the overhead luggage racks, mostly to get us out of the aisle, but very largely to unload my poor girls, who've made the same trek we have to and fro the entire length of the train.

We eyeball two open seats, separate from each other. I anchor down in one, poised upon quick agreement with Kyle to attack and save any further available seats; he takes the girls to the observatory/lounge car. Almost two hours go by before enough detraining passengers leave open seats. Two of them are together. I save those for the girls, excuse myself from the older gentleman I had struck a conversation with, and wobbily careen towards the lounge car to announce my find to my family, who've only had standing room.

Finally, we are in the same car.

The rest of the trip is smooth sailing. Er, training. We ride the rail all the way to and through East and West Glacier, making stops, feeling closer to Seattle, soaking up the landscape changes and scenes from the breath-taking national park. Rolling hills give way to magestic mountains, the view from the train window looking straight down into valleys below, forestry thick and lush. Finally, we roll into Puget Sound, right through downtown Seattle, the magic that only an old city with history conjures, and eventually come to a stop alongide the platform where we detrain and make a giddy, weary way to my stepdad, who is waiting with as much anticipation.

Our vacation is a blur. Nieces and nephews and siblings and cousins and Mom and stepdad all together, all taking turns making entrances back at Mom's place, hugging and laughing and cooing and awww-ing and oh dear god, the baby is so cute. Places to go, things to see, plans to see the zoo, the aquarium (which I've coincidentally seen a commercial for even as far here), a BBQ and friends of the siblings, the Space Needle, and tenderly raucous dinner at The Old Spaghetti Factory (complete with all three brothers' families and the family of one of my youngest brother's friends.) There is time with my brothers and dinners at home and places to shop and salons to tan in and sites to see (Kyle went to see Jimi Hendrix' grave while we girls all splurged on a pedicure, dinner, and a movie.) And of course, Puget Sound, a sweeping backdrop to all life and things Seattle, where Grandpa Mike took the girls to see the docks and shore line, and Mount Rainier, a volcanic mountain visible only through clearing mist but always statedly regal.

(...to be continued...)

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