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Highlights from Christmas (part two) in Washington

Started: 2012-01-02 19:09:23

Submitted: 2012-01-02 22:32:14

Visibility: World-readable

In the spirit of the bullet points I listed in my record of Christmas with my family, I hereby continue the list-as-narrative trope:

  • Kiesa, Calvin, and I flew from Denver to Portland on Boxing Day. I still can't tell whether declining the full-body scanners is a denial-of-service attack I'm perpetrating on the TSA, or whether they're just messing with me and don't care. I keep on thinking I ought to write an irate letter to my congressmen but I somehow doubt it'd make much difference.
  • While shopping for Christmas I discovered I could order online from Powell's Book's website and have my order delivered to the bookstore in the airport for easy pickup on arrival. This ended up working perfectly, but it wasn't entirely clear when my order was going to be fulfilled; I placed my order late in the week before Christmas and the order didn't actually arrive (at the airport) until we were waiting for our plane in Denver.
  • Kiesa's mother picked us up at the airport in Portland. We drove across the river into Vancouver to eat at The Olive Garden with Kiesa's extended Stone family. I learned that one of her aunts does contract transcriptions for my employer.
  • Kiesa's mother had made candy for Christmas. I ate only the almond toffee, which was absent from Kiesa's Christmas preparations.
  • Kiesa's mother pulled out Tristan's old toys for Calvin to play with, including a large (two feet long) tin fire engine, and a large Tonka crane that I remember having (in somewhat worse condition) in my childhood. When it came time to put Calvin to bed, he exclaimed "I want the earth to go around!" so the sun will rise and he could keep playing with the exciting toys at Grandma's. (We've explained that he has to go to bed because the sun has gone down because the earth has turned away from the sun.)
  • I did something unfortunate to my lower back between the flight to Portland, lugging my luggage around, and sleeping on the dreadful pillow-top guest mattress. My back got worse until I started getting serious with ibuprofen on Thursday night.
  • I ran a lap and a half around Lake Sacajawea in Longview on Tuesday morning, then stopped by Starbucks for coffee on my way back home.
  • Calvin got a bunch of Duplos from his grandparents for Christmas, including a Toy Story set with a Buzz Lightyear minifig, and a large fire station with matching fire engines.
  • We visited the Kelso public library inside the local indoor shopping mall on Tuesday afternoon. I took a few quick notes from Washington Off the Beaten Path.
  • On Wednesday, we drove down to Vancouver to visit the small Pearson Air Museum at Fort Vancouver. Calvin seemed amused by the small collection of planes on display, and was especially fascinated by the cut-away Pratt & Whitney R-4360 radial piston engine.
  • I picked up a signed copy of Live Bait in the museum gift shop. Willy and I drove into Tillamook this summer to see the author, a Second World War fighter pilot, speak at the library.
  • After the museum we headed back to Longview and failed to do anything interesting for most of the rest of the day.
  • We finally mustered a short trip to the Longview library a few minutes before closing (at 17:00).
  • Calvin started insisting that he wanted to go home ("to Colorado"). It wasn't entirely clear what exactly he wanted to do at home but I could sympathize.
  • On Thursday morning, Kiesa and I left Calvin with Grandma and drove up to Seattle for a few days by ourselves. (We had originally intended to visit Seattle in the summer but never quite got around to it.)
  • I spotted an exit labeled Sleater-Kinney in Olympia and wondered about its connection to the band. I later learned the band was named after the exit.
  • We drove through Seattle and headed for lunch in Everett. Kiesa wanted to visit the Mermaid Market Cafe, but they were closed for the Christmas-New Year's interregnum, so I consulted the Yelp app on my phone and found The Sisters a few blocks away. It turned out to be a bohemian sandwich shop adjacent to the local food coop, and was exactly what we were looking for in lunch.
  • We made it to the Boeing Factory Tour just in time for our scheduled 14:00 tour of Boeing's widebody jet factory. We watched a short video (which included a half-second clip of a Sonic Cruiser flying by at the end without any further explanation) and boarded a bus to ride around the north end of the main runway at Paine Field past a bunch of widebody jets waiting to be picked up by their new owners. We walked into the pedestrian tunnel between two bays used to build 747s, took a cargo elevator to the observation deck, and looked out to trace the path taken by the wings (built up from the spars in that very room) and the front section (including the cockpit) through assembly. (Most of the company had the Christmas-New Year's interregnum off, so not much was happening in the factory, but we did see a bunch of planes in various stages of assembly.) Most of the 777 and 787 are built elsewhere and merely assembled in Everett, but the 747 is still substantially built from its constituent components in Everett (reflecting the state of manufacturing circa 1969 before the 747 itself helped create globalized manufacturing with just-in-time delivery used by the 777 and 787 lines).
  • We returned to the bus to visit another part of the massive construction hangar, this one overlooking the 777 and 787 production lines. Substantial sections of the 777 are produced elsewhere and assembled in Everett, and virtually all of the 787 is. I saw a 787 destined for launch customer ANA and a 787 destined for United on the production line, and a number of 777s not specifically identified by customer.
  • Like many tours, it helped to know a great deal about what I was seeing to get the greater context and why certain things were important. I did not know, though, that the trim and balance on the rudder are so important that they are installed, pre-balanced, with the tail portion of the airline's livery already painted, which makes the unpainted plane look as if an older rudder had been reused for a new plane (and provides some identification for the unpainted plane, if one can read airline liveries by the rudder section alone).
  • I presume I visited the building used for the 777 static wing test. I try not to think of that video when I happen to glance out the window during flight and see the plane's wing bobbing up and down.
  • The unpainted 787s looked substantially different from the unpainted 747s and 777s. The earlier, aluminum-bodied planes were coated in a pale green protective plastic, power-washed away before painting, but the 787 simply displayed the outer white layer of the composite hull sections.
  • We returned to the visitor's center and were deposited in the gift shop. We purchased a plush 787 for Calvin as compensation for ditching him with Grandma.
  • We drove south into Seattle and got stuck in rush-hour traffic in a light rain, which may have been exacerbated by the advent of tolling on the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge that very day, which freaked out cost-adverse Seattle drivers and cut traffic on the bridge by half. The satellite navigation on the Prius we borrowed from Kiesa's mother steadfastly refused to update its estimated trip time based on actual conditions on the ground, apparently assuming we'd magically pick up speed just around the next corner.
  • We stayed in a small Best Western in Denny Triangle.
  • We walked to the nearby Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria, which proudly imported all of its ingredients from Naples and was certified by some organization that certifies Neapolitan pizza. It was located immediately above a Whole Foods where we picked up dessert.
  • I sat in the hotel's hot tub to try to soothe my back. The ibuprofen was probably more effective.
  • On Friday morning, we ate at the hotel's free breakfast, which was roughly all I could ask for in a free breakfast. (This counts as "damning with faint praise", in case you're keeping score at home.)
  • I could actually see some blue sky, so we walked to the Space Needle and visited the observation deck. I visited the Space Needle in 2007, but Kiesa hadn't actually visited it, despite living in Washington most of her life. (Her parents are not especially interested in tourist things.) I could see some of the snow-covered Olympic mountains across the sound, though I didn't know enough to identify specific mountains.
  • Back on the ground, we visited the adjacent Experience Music Project, seeking out the science fictiony pieces of the museum, which were interesting but small. (Kiesa skipped the Nirvana exhibit, which included a handful of smashed guitars, the victims of Kurt Cobain's stage shows.) We saw artifacts from both versions of Battlestar Galactica, some stuff from Avatar (including a display that looked a lot like Microsoft's Surface), and I breezed through the horror movie exhibit, which included a facehugger and full-sized xenomorph from Alien.
  • We played tourists and took the monorail to Westlake Center as if it were a legitimate form of mass transit.
  • We ate lunch in the food court at Westlake Center. I spotted a bowl of udon noodle soup as we entered and decided to hunt that down before I spotted an Indian restaurant (in the food court) serving dosas. Kiesa decided to get a dosa and I got udon noodle soup.
  • We hunted down Seattle's legitimate mass transit in the bus tunnel under downtown and purchased stored-value ORCA cards.
  • We took the light rail one stop south and visited the Seattle Central Library. (On the sidewalk in front of the library a young woman asked if we knew where "the courthouse" was. Kiesa was about to say we were tourists when I said I knew there was a [Federal] courthouse in the block immediately on the other side of the library. This seemed to satisfy our interlocutor, who thanked us and headed off in that direction.)
  • We walked the spiral stacks from 0 to 999, stopping in a few key sections for further examination. The Chinese history section seemed especially old, but the Indian history section seemed more up-to-date.
  • We took the bus up to Capitol Hill and visited the Elliott Bay Book Company, newly moved from it downtown location. We were underwhelmed; we'd been led to expect a northern (grunge-infused?) version of Powell's Books but the reality on the ground was somewhat different.
  • We had time to kill before eating supper, so we got tea at the bookstore cafe and played a game of Carcassone.
  • We walked a few blocks to Annapurna Cafe. When we climbed down the stairs into the basement restaurant and I smelled the Himalayan flavors wafting up the stairs I felt like I was back in India, and immediately began scanning the patrons for white faces, as if to reject any establishment with too many tourists. Our meal was excellent; I had a Nepali curry with more naan than I could eat.
  • We took the #8 bus back to our hotel. I sat in the hot tub.
  • On Saturday morning, neither of us were especially interested in eating the free breakfast again, so Kiesa found the Macrina Bakery & Cafe. I discovered it'd be faster to walk there than take the bus, and neither of us wanted to try parking in Seattle, so we walked. (The Google Maps app on our phones provided excellent walking and transit directions, but I typically find Yelp's reviews far more enlightening.) The place was packed, the wait short, and the food excellent.
  • We walked a few blocks to the Seattle Art Museum's Olympic Sculpture Park, which featured a handful of inscrutable pieces of sculpture.
  • Kiesa headed downtown to look at art galleries (in a desperate attempt at finding something worth hanging on our walls), and I walked back to the hotel, picked up our car, and drove to the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park, located in the original 1930s art deco Seattle Art Museum building. I liked the Buddhist and Hindu sculptures in the atrium, and the woodblock prints by Yoshida Hiroshi.
  • Kiesa met me in front of the museum and we drove to an all-vegetarian Thai place she found, In The Bowl Vegetarian Noodle Bistro, which featured more Hindu idols than I'd seen at the museum jumbled together with a few pictures of the Buddha on the wall, a picture of Jesus, and some Native American art. My peanut sauce udon noodle bowl was fantastic.
  • On our way out of Seattle, we took a drive through West Seattle (one of the city's major residential neighborhoods), which Kiesa had never visited. The clouds parted as we drove, and by the time we reached an overlook with a great view of downtown across Elliott Bay, Mount Rainier was visible to the south-east in all of its snow-covered glory.
  • We headed back to Longview, arriving around 18:00. Calvin was very glad to see us, and was also happy to see the plush 787 we got him.
  • We flew back to Denver on Sunday (New Year's Day). Driving down to the airport I got a good look at Mount St. Helens, and in Portland we saw Mount Hood, completing our tour of active stratovolcanos overlooking major Pacific Northwest metropolitan areas.
You've reached a new low when you start naming your condiments.
- Bitscape, 13 December 2001