Friday, January 9, 2009

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.

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