Monday, November 2, 2009

A bus to Boston

OK, not ALL the way to Boston

Last weekend I flew to Boston with my kids. My cousin was getting married there and I wanted to bring as much of my family as I could. Unfortunately my wife had other long-simmering out-of-town plans, so she couldn't join us, but at least my daughter and two sons were able to come.

We had an 8:50 AM flight. If we wanted to arrive at least an hour early, we had to be at the airport by 7:45 AM. Driving to Sea-Tac would take about half an hour, plus at least a few extra minutes to park. Taking a bus to downtown and then a transfer onto the King County Metro #194 would take about twice that long, but would save us at least $70 in parking costs for our four-day weekend, and as much as $140 if we parked at the airport garage. Taking the bus would mean we would have to get out of the house before 6:45 AM, no small feat with three easily distracted children and only one parent (me) to ride herd.

It was doable if the kids had everything packed and ready beforehand. Not that this would have been remotely possible under normal circumstances, so I fudged our usual rules and threw in some incentives. A buck for everyone who had their bag packed and ready and who was in bed by 8:00 PM, not a minute later. Another buck for everyone who was at the front door by 6:35 AM, bags in hand, and breakfast already eaten. And a third dollar if everyone could do it.

My second son, the one who rode home from SAFECO Field with me this summer when a lot of yelling and shoving broke out on the bus next to us, took a little convincing, but on assurances that this experience wold be nothing like that one, he went along in the end.

Well, only my daughter was able to get to bed by 8:00 PM. One son almost made it but couldn't tear himself away from his computer game in time. My oldest son -- the preteen -- announced that he didn't care one way or the other, and so got chased into bed by 8:30. But next morning, with the example of my daughter's successful evening in front of them, everyone was ready to go on time and with a minimum of fuss.

We walked two blocks to the nearest King County Metro #355 bus stop, arriving with five minutes to spare. The bus flew south on I-5, made its three stops in the U-District, and rode the express lanes the rest of the way downtown. We got off at Jackson Street, walked two blocks downhill to the Pioneer Square station of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, and a #194 bus came by five minutes later. Then it flew the rest of the way down the busway and I-5 to the airport, dropping us off a short walk from the terminal. I showed the light rail line to the kids as we passed under it and then rode alongside, explaining that in a couple more months, not long after the light rail station at the airport was opened, the #194 bus we were riding would be discontinued even though it's quite a bit quicker from downtown to the airport than light rail will be. So this would very likely be our last trip on the #194 even though it has been a tremendously useful and (relatively) cost-effective service for us and for many others in the past.

Our trip went off without a hitch, including the long flight to Boston. On our return to Boston's Logan International Airport, because a couple of my sisters wanted to bring my daughter to a doll store in suburban Natick, and my sons had exactly zero interest in that. I'd hoped to take a train ride from there to the airport, but plans changed when we had a horrific traffic jam waiting to cross the Sagamore bridge from Cape Cod, so time ran out for the luxury of a train ride on Boston's fabled "T", which I've ridden on several occasions before but my kids had never heard of. My sons and I went to the Apple Store instead while my daughter visited the doll store with her aunts. Now my oldest son wants a new iPod shuffle. Great.

My wife, who drove to Sea-Tac airport and parked at a remote lot the day after our trip to Boston, returned there an hour and a half before we did, so we had an easy ride home without having to wait for a late-night Sunday bus, which would have been a much dicier trip than our Thursday-morning departure.

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