Friday, October 21, 2011

Training to Seattle: The Road Home

Our sojourn back to Tacoma for our final night before returning the rented car and picking up the Coast Starlight took us across Puget Sound on a ferry to Bainbridge Island. Back in the old days, the '70s, when I was in that lounge band I mentioned previously, our Seattle-based agent's parents lived on Bainbridge. I've never been to the island and wanted to check it out.

Make him stop!
There was this guy playing Celtic harp on the ferry. He had his CDs on display for sale. I like Celtic music and their harp, but when he announced that the next tune he was going to play was one he wrote called "The Festival of the Orcas," I was, like, gag me. Seriously. I swear, only truly wimpy white guys would write songs with titles like "The Festival of the Orcas."

We knocked about Winslow, Bainbridge's main village. Not much there, there. Mainly a series of shops and restaurants bound together by a mutual disregard for any unifying architectural theme or style; a bunch of random but not particularly attractive buildings.

Though the shops obviously target tourists (the population of the island cannot support Winslow's candle and kitsch emporia alone), Bainbridge seems less a tourist attraction than a place where people live, which is fine. I've lived in a few tourist towns, like Santa Barbara, San Diego, and now Bend. Touristy towns put on an effort to appear charming or quirky, Winslow makes only little visible effort in that regard. It looks like the shops scrape enough dollars off the hides of passing tourists to satisfy the local economy without having to resort to tarting the place up.

Might be a pleasant-enough place to live. There are certainly many large, handsome houses along the waterfront, but Jack has a suspicion that the best he could afford on that island would be some little uninspired house well back from the water's edge, buried in the dark, dark forest.

We drove north, up the 305 (I'm from SoCal, we say "the 305"), crossed over the sound on Agate Pass Bridge, then south on highway 3, to the 16, across the Tacoma Narrow Bridge, and into Tacoma.

Before picking a hotel for our final night, we made a stop at the Harmon Pub to fetch a scarf that Mrs Elliott had left there three days before (I have written previously about her unique way of making room in her luggage for acquisitions: "She tends to lighten her suitcase as she travels. Not intentionally, but dependably. Hats, scarves, cell phone chargers are often left behind.")

On this trip she played it safe, bringing two jackets (one, a downhill ski jacket well-suited to take on Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, the second a warm wool cape), and purchased a third jacket, also of sturdy and sensible wool, while in Seattle.

We settled at the Hotel Murano, in Tacoma's downtown. The hotel is quite nice and has an extensive collection of glass art. Since the dining room was too dark for reading; and Tacoma's downtown apparently shuts down at night (the streets are oddly quiet even in the day), we ended up back at the Harmon Pub, which is well-lit, not noisy, and has perfectly adequate food.

Returning the rental car and boarding the southbound Starlight Express was a stress-free experience (C.f. The Horrors Of Flying in a Post-9/11 World); and the trip back to Chemult was uneventful and perfectly comfortable.

I avoided the dining car's disconcerting texture-free chicken this time.

I brought along my Kindle with a few books on it. For those keeping track at home, the titles included Life, by Keith Richards; Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep (Zones of Thought)Into the Silence, by Wade Davis; and Role Models by John Waters. I didn't read them all, I'm not some kind of speed-reading fool, but did finish two.

Thank you for listening. There will be a pop quiz.


  1. "The Festival of the Orcas" -- LMAO! Are you sure you didn't wander onto the set of "Portlandia"?

  2. It was discouraging, to say the least. That wussy guy is why liberals don't get to have nice things.


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