Tuesday, January 13, 2009

2008 holiday bus adventures, part 2

On December 30th, the day before New Years Eve, I did another bike/bus commute. Meantime, my wife worked out a date downtown with some college friends and their kids, and she made a day of it there, first with just our kids and then with them as well. She took a #358 bus from our neighborhood to Pine, then walked to an elevator to Alaskan Way and the Seattle Aquarium. After a couple hours she took the elevator back up to the Pike Place Market to meet her friends there. They visited the gingerbread houses at the Sheraton and the Carousel at Westlake Center, they checked out the toy trains in the Macy's window and walked around Pacific Place where they'd heard there would be "indoor snow", which turned out to be bubbles that my wife described as "really kinda weird, it wasn't like snow at all." Ah well, it served its purpose in getting them to visit.

Finally, they took the monorail from Westlake to Seattle Center and stopped in at Zeeks Pizza, where I'd arranged to meet them.

After de-boarding my bus from Tukwila, I biked from the University Street tunnel station to Seattle Center. I had a little trouble finding Zeeks, but a little backtracking with open eyes cleared that up. Zeeks was yummy as usual (we visit their Phinney and Green Lake restaurants on a regular basis) and it was nice to see our friends again. Afterwards, we headed to Seattle Center House to see the model trains there, which, while closed for the night, shared the building that evening with an acrobat troupe and an accompanying band. The kids wanted desserts, caramel apples and the like, which we did our best to accommodate. They ate it up.

Our friends drove home from there while we all crowded onto a northbound 358 bus, my bike on the front. We had to run to catch that bus at its Dexter and Denny stop, but the driver saw us coming and waited half a minute for us to get there.

Have I said lately how much I like bus drivers in Seattle?

Our day downtown, or at least my portion of it, felt a little weird in that we didn't really have a "home" to go back to while we were there. On other trips, such as the one we made a couple weeks earlier, we had a parked car to get back to and to leave purchases in, and even a deadline in getting back to it before the garage was locked up for the night, but this day we had several bus stops to choose from, and while service at that hour was not frequent (one reason we were so thankful to the bus driver for waiting for us), it was at least fairly predictable. Yes, I've done this sort of outing before, and it was as fun as always, but I don't recall feeling this dependent on timely bus service to get home before. Maybe it was that this time I was traveling with young children on a bus route that, late in the evening, often has a higher proportion than usual of drunks, though tonight we found seats towards the front of the bus and everything was fine.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Part 2 will have to wait a bit

I just learned that one of my best friends died unexpectedly, earlier today.

Mike, we love you.

Holiday bus adventures, 2008 edition (part 1)

Last month my wife made an appointment for us to go downtown for a studio family portrait. This was two days after the big snowstorm hit, with most people staying home and off the icy streets. As I've spent many years driving back East in worse conditions than this, I felt competent to drive us all downtown for the portrait, and once we'd taken a few dozen pictures we were asked to chill for half an hour while they were processed. We decided to take a little bus adventure for an early dinner instead, and walked from the studio to the Convention Place bus tunnel station, for a quick ride to the International District.

Unfortunately, it was Saturday, and the bus tunnel is closed on the weekends, which I hadn't known before -- I use it often on my weekday commute and know it closes at 7:00 PM on those days, but aside from a few trips to the airport, which I guess have all been on weekdays, or else before the tunnel reopened from its most recent refit for light rail, all my tunnel trips have been weekday commutes. I'd hoped to show the kids and my wife the bus tunnel, as I don't think any of them had even seen it before, and take a holiday ride to see, walk, eat, and enjoy our beautiful snowbound city.

With the tunnel closed, I figured we could still catch a rerouted surface bus, and in fact there was one waiting right on the corner. As soon as we boarded, the driver started up. The windows were thickly coated in dirt to the point that we couldn't really see out, which gave us an unusual closed-in feeling. The kids headed straight to the back, which on a ride-free-zone bus can lead to certain issues when others who're more accustomed to sitting there board, but this day everything was well with the world. The bus filled up quickly and churned its way through the downtown snow. We got off near the ID Station and walked
East past it.

We popped into a pet store that had a lot of fish -- our kids have a fish tank and we needed some snails
, which I hoped we could pick up on our way back. It turns out that they didn't have any of the sort we wanted, but they did have a recommendation for a nice family restaurant nearby, the Jade Garden. Our day was going along swimmingly.

It was only about three blocks away and a table was ready within a couple minutes. The food was dim sum, served family-style from carts, which my kids thought was really cool. "Faster than fast food" they called it, and they were right. Better, too. We tanked up on a bunch of stuff, and a few minutes later on a second cart with more. The kids got to eat all kinds of things they'd never seen before, and were mostly game, though my 6-year-old daughter took a little convincing, but once she tried it, she dove in, too. I think their favorite was a shrimp wrapped in a thin, transparent crepe-like rice wrapper, which their Dad called a jellyfish, so "shrimp wrapped in jellyfish" it became.

The place was nearly full, with lots of families enjoying an early holiday dinner together, lots of laughter and happy chatter, it was infectious. Afterwards we walked down to the west side of Union Station to catch a bus back through town, and this one took about 10 minutes to arrive, which was more of a bummer for our thoroughly-chilled kids, but we still made it back to the studio in time to get back in the car before the garage was totally locked down, if not to check out the photos first. My wife was able to do that another day, actually cross-country skiing there to do it after a couple more days of snow, but our family trip to the International District was a great trade for not doing it then.