Thursday and Friday
Right about the time it was time get my plane tickets, ticket prices ended up going crazy, and it was going to be prohibitively expensive to fly out of Greensboro. So, I ended up flying in and out of Charlotte, about 90 minutes away. This is not normally a big deal; this time around, it turned out to be something of a pain in the ass.
The day before I was due to leave, Jeff's mom got a call from the folks that she used to live with in Washington, letting her know that one of their sons had died (this is not the pain in the ass part; that comes when I'm coming home). She, naturally, wanted to go out for the funeral. So, we got her on a flight Thursday morning, the 16th, out of Charlotte, since I was flying out of there that evening. I held a board meeting the night before, then fell over into a pile of sleep.
We got up early-ish that morning and got her down to Charlotte, and then had a few hours to spend before my flight. We wandered downtown, found street parking, and grabbed some lunch (the soup, salad, and side plate was really good). We checked out an indie bookstore that I'd found online, but it turned out to be okay but not great. We walked around downtown a bit, and checked out the public library branch downtown, which was very cool, with signs with literary quotes out front. We checked out the history maps helpfully displayed all over downtown and wandered a historic park and cemetery. We had just decided that we needed something cold to drink when a Harris Teeter miraculously appeared (and even cooler, it was built into a multiuse building). Finally, it was just about time, and Jeff dropped me back off at the airport. I got through security easily, and wandered down to my gate to avail myself of the free wireless and eat a snack.
Originally, I was supposed to get in to Seattle at almost midnight Thursday night. The plan was that I'd bus in with Ginger to work, and spend Friday morning in downtown Seattle on my own. Then, when lycantras got off of work around 11, we'd do lunch and hang out. Sometimes, however, plans go awry.
So we're all at the gate, and about the time that we're supposed to start boarding... there's no gate crew. That's never a good sign. We sat for awhile, and long story short, due to in flight weather between Charlotte and Boston (where I was connecting), we were going to be delayed and I was going to miss my connection. The first option they offered was to put me on a 6:30 flight out of Charlotte the next morning, which would connect through JFK and get me into Seattle at 3:30, mostly killed my afternoon with Heather. Also, this would either mean 1) spending the night in the Charlotte airport (not a terribly alluring prospect, free wi-fi or no) or 2) trying to find a cheap hotel room somewhere in Charlotte, getting there, and then getting back to the airport in time for a 6:30 flight.
So, I asked what the first thing they had out of Boston in the morning was. 8:30, getting into Seattle around noon. As it happened, we'd been in Boston last summer, and I knew how to use the T system and knew the central parts of it reasonably well, so I elected to fly into Boston, spend the night in a hostel (same cost as a cheap hotel room in Charlotte, if not cheaper) and get into Seattle in time to spend the afternoon with Heather as planned. It all worked out fine in the end - Ginger didn't have to make a midnight airport run and all we really missed was the drive home, socializing time wise, as we would have had to crash right after we got back to her house - and it was an adventure, but really, I could have done without the adventure. :)
Small confession: I've never traveled alone. I've been in transit alone, but always been visiting someone on the other end. I've never gotten a hotel room alone, never spent the night traveling alone, etc you get the point. So, I was a little freaked out, but people do this ALL THE TIME, so I told myself to get over it.
The flight itself was uneventful. JetBlue always has great in-flight staff. I read and watched stuff on Phlox-the-iPod (I've gotten hooked on Torchwood and Burn Notice). We got into Boston about 15 minutes after my connection had taken off (go figure). I got myself onto the shuttle to the T, got on to the T, and eventually ended up here (points to them for having perfect T directions on their website). I got checked in, wandered up to the room, met my roommates, got my stuff locked up, got a shower (oh, heavenly shower), wandered downstairs to use the wi-fi for a few, and then tried to sleep. The room was perfectly comfy (though I was on the top bunk with a very narrow ladder, which made getting down to pee in the middle of the night an adventure), but I had an early flight to catch and my brain would just not shut up. I did get some good dozing in, though - probably better than I would have at the airport - and did I mention that I got to take a shower?
I was up early the next morning - too early for the free breakfast - and got checked out and reversed the T trip from the night before. I got through security pretty quickly, got a sloppy breakfast sandwich from Dunkin Doughnuts, and got parked at my gate. It left right on time, and I did some reading and some more iPod watching and a little dozing, and we got into SeaTac right on time, too. lycantras picked me up, and we zoomed off to lunch (we hit up a pho place, since I don't get much of that, though there's one down the street here that I need to try, and I got an amazing pork roll/pork/vegetable/vermicelli bowl) and then zoomed up to her place so she could change clothes and we could grab the dogs. We wandered around the off-leash dog park at Marymoor for the afternoon, hoping into the creek with the puppies when we got too warm and chit-chatting and catching up.
Eventually, it was time to take me to faecat's house, by way of Starbucks and cold drinks.
Friday evening, ironman4do made his famous sweet and sour chicken, at my request. I opened presents, we ate dinner, and we watched Death Race (there was a lot of movie watching while I was there.) It was grimmer and more dystopian and much better than I had been expecting. Eventually, there was falling over.
Saturday had been specifically planned to be laid back. We had toast for breakfast, and ran off on Ginger's normal weekend errands - Target and grocery shopping. We grabbed Taco Time for lunch, and then wandered out to Bell Square to use a couple of the gift cards that had been in my present bag. (We got asked at Bell Square in the Lush store if we were sisters, we had us boggling a bit. In a good way, but.) We did some knitting. Ginger had a craving, so we made lasagna and Caesar salad and cheese bread for dinner, and watched Stardust, which was also way way better than I expected.
Sunday morning we hung out and yarned and lazed. We headed out to a Masonic picnic for lunch, where I met lots of very nice people, and a really cool chick who's a friend of Ginger's who I immediately clicked with, and spent most of the rest of the picnic talking to. Dinner at home was mac and cheese and little smokies and broccoli. ironman4do was raiding, so we did a double feature of movies he's not crazy about: Blazing Saddles, and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, which is always way cuter than it has any right to be.
Monday is when the running around craziness started. :) Thanks to the magic of coupons (a whole pile of buy-one-get-ones from Ginger's Entertainment book, and some random ones I found online for smaller discounts) and my zoo membership, we did a whole unholy amount of touristy stuff for about $80 each total for the week.
Monday started out with a Duck Tour, which we'd talked about doing the whole time I lived in Seattle and never did. It wasn't quite as good as the one in Boston - in Boston, they have a hell of a lot more history to work with - but it was good and the guide was entertaining (a good tour guide can make a glue factory interesting.) One of the highlights was an awesome view of Lake Union. The tour guide also told us something we didn't know: that a small percentage of the building costs for any building that receives public funds must be used for public art, making more sense of the artwork that is all over Seattle, like this bamboo forest.
Afterward, we took the monorail into town and headed down to the Pike Place Chowder shop for lunch. We quickly decided that we could maximize our chowder and our coupon with their chowder sampler: chicken and corn, clam, salmon, and market. Omnomnoms.
Next up was a harbor tour, which was nifty, except that level 2 was the bar level, with people being loud and obnoxious (man to his kids: "You can run around as much as you want to once we get on the boat!"), and level 3 had too much engine noise. We ended up up top, where we could actually hear. Decent, not great, tour guide, and a pretty ride.
Last up was the Seattle aquarium, where the sea otters put on an excellent show, and the river otters were piles of sleeping cute. (This would prove to be a theme for river otters and us for the week.) Highlights here included a presentation on the otters, and a talk about one incredibly shy Pacific octopus.
Finally, we were picked up by pyran and trekked over to Delfino's for the ritual Delfino's pizza. Ginger and Ari had both been telling me that service at Delfino's had improved greatly (the service there normally being epically bad, when I lived in Seattle; you braved it for the food), and it had - for example, there were actual drink refills. However, waiter dude forgot to put in our order, resulting in an epic delay (it's Chicago style deep dish stuffed pizza, which takes 35 to 40 minutes to bake). Luckily, we had ordered cheese bread, so none of us were at murder death kill levels of hunger, and he knocked 50 percent off of our order, so it was all good.
Ari dropped us back off at the park and ride, we got in the tiny car, went home, and fell over.
Tuesday was Tacoma day. (Ari, at dinner Monday night: "There's things to do in Tacoma?" Yes, yes there are.) Specifically, the Washington State History Museum, and the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. (There's also a lot of other stuff in Point Defiance park, including a living history thing that looked right up our alleys, but we only had one day, so... next time!)
Tuesday morning, we also had coupons for a free pastry at Starbucks with a drink purchase (and Starbucks gift cards), so we headed out for caffeine. I got just a regular old drip coffee. Ginger doesn't actually do coffee or much in the way of hot drinks, but she does do chocolate milk. However, she's had difficulties in the past getting chocolate milk from baristas, so she ordered an iced hot chocolate.
What was filled in for the drink type? Chocolate milk. *facepalm*
We zipped down the 5 and found the history museum with no trouble. It's a small but excellent facility, and was dead quiet - we saw about 3 other patrons the whole time we were in there. There's more to Washington history than I realized. By far, though, the star of the museum was an amazing special exhibit on women's suffrage. It would have been worth the $8 admission ($6 with coupon) all by itself.
After that, we got back in the car, and eventually the GPS pointed us towards Point Defiance.
So, I'm a member of the NC Zoo. For $45, I got an individual plus membership last fall, which gets me and a guest in free to the NC Zoo whenever I want. I have taken myself twice, my mother once, and gone with Tonya and her little one once. I've made back my money just visiting here (and intend to go a couple more times before it expires, and I'm probably renewing.) However, my membership also works on a whole pile of zoos and aquariums in other places, getting me in for free. However, it says all over the membership stuff that you need at least a family level to get anyone else in free anywhere else. Which I'm totally okay with, since I hadn't been expecting to use it anywhere else when I got it.
So we walk up to the membership desk to get my ticket before going to the cashier to get Ginger's. The guy looks at my card, consults his list, and says "Great! How many guests are you bringing in?"
"Um... er... her, if it'll work?"
"Sure! Here's your tickets! Have fun!"
We boggled. And then gleed. Especially since the PDZA tickets had buy-one-get-one coupons printed on them for Northwest Trek, where we were headed on Saturday. We said thank you very much, and proceeded into the zoo. First up was a picnic lunch: chicken salad, pickles, peaches we'd gotten at Pike Place Monday (so good), rolls, cheese sticks, Dr. Pepper. Very very tasty, and much better than overpriced zoo food.
PDZA is small but nice. The highlight of the afternoon was an animal show that was mildly cheesy - definitely pitched at kids - but cute, and featured things like giant parrots swooping two feet overhead. We also went to a Marine Mammal talk that was very nicely presented. It was a lot of fun, even if the river otters were asleep. The polar bears were wicked cute.
We looked our fill and zipped back up the 5 to home, on the way picking up pizza for movie night (and where Ginger was gently scolded by the couldn't-have-been-older-than-19 manager that next time, he wasn't going to stack her coupon and out of area discount.) When we got home, there was a major inability to decide what we wanted to watch. ironman4do finally suggested Nobel Son, which sounded interesting, but which was so bad that we all agree it had to be turned off inside of 15 minutes. Next up was Bank Job, which was good and interesting from the "This is how real life robberies can go sideways fast, and real crooks can be real dumb" side of things, but which was also crazy slow.