Already, it was another travel day. (For years, our pattern has been to keep moving around the countryside even after we've arrived in the state we're visiting.) We headed out to catch the BC Ferry line from Vancouver Island, outside the town of Victoria, to the city of Vancouver on the mainland.
Customs to Seattle
On the way into Canada, the customs officer was a polite, middle-aged woman. "Wow, Maryland!" she exclaimed after we told her where we were from. She told us to have a good time on our vacation. As we headed back through U.S. customs, we weren't sure what to expect. U.S. customs officers can be a bit brusque sometimes.
What we got was a traffic jam. Driving south on Canadian route five, we hit a line of cars that clogged as we approached the border. Customs agents let swaths of vehicles proceed, stopped us, let more go, stopped us, and waved us on through with another big batch of travelers.
The lines to the customs stations were long. At least they moved at a reasonable clip - not fast, exactly, but fast enough. The agents proceeded with their questions and inspections at a steady pace. We didn't seem to trigger any suspicions or a second inspection so the process was straightforward. The agent did a visual check. He validated our passport cards. We drove through.
Heading south to Seattle took so long that Diane and I talked about books, friends, relatives, and the trip so far. Finally in the afternoon, we passed into the city and navigated through the friendly streets of the northeast section of Seattle near 'the university,' meaning University of Washington, I think. When we reached our AirBNB, we bumped into our host in her backyard. She seemed excited to see us. We had a long chat with her and her partner. The two of them gave us a lot of advice about the area. The woman also showed off her backyard garden, which was fantastic, kept in five raised beds with chickenwire fences and a shed.
"Take all the lettuce you want to eat," she offered, although we didn't.
The gardening prowess of our host was not unique in the neighborhood, either. Many of her neighbors had gardens. Those who didn't grew luxurious plants on all sides of their yards. Almost immediately, Diane remarked on the size of the rosemary bushes, the dill, and mint.
"It's weird that they're using herbs for landscaping," she said.
We walked to dinner at the Kona Kafe, a Hawaiian style restaurant - not very good, really, but convenient to our rooms.
A Stroll Through Downtown Seattle
On Sunday, I thought we would have our best chance to visit downtown Seattle. We woke up early, still partly on east coast time, and got drinks at Cloud Coffee, a few blocks' leisurely walk away in our neighborhood. After we hopped into our rental car, we hardly saw traffic as we navigated the city streets. Coming from the northeast of the city to the center is a downhill trip because the center is nearer to the water.
Although the traffic was fine, the parking was not. Seattle's low buildings and winding streets felt similar to Washington, DC. All the cars from Saturday night had been left in place as of nine the next morning, also like DC. We wanted to browse through the bookstores but we had to park a few blocks away and take a little hike to the closest of them. Still, we found our spot. Someone had departed from a row of parallel parking on a residential street. Our walk to the brownstone shops was pleasant, especially since we started from the top of a hill where we could overlook the skyline.
Downtown is reasonably busy, even on a Sunday. We visited a few bookstores and decided to drive on to another, the Hernandez Brothers comic book store (and publication label), Fantagraphics Books. As we never left the city, I had to think about how GPS makes hitting these unique places and shops much easier than it used to be.
Inside Fantagraphics, I reminded myself that my suitcase has limited room. I can carry a hundred electronic books around or even more but only a handful of graphic novels. Although I love the convenience of reading say, a Bill Bryson collection on a Kindle, I despise reading comic books the same way. The library in my house has shed a lot of standard books over the years but I still have Constitution Illustrated, Girl Genius, Logicomix, Japan Inc., and other graphic tomes in paper form.
After buying only a handful of books, maybe a handful and a half, we decided to walk to lunch. We found a biker bar nearby called Smarty Pants. Luckily, we arrived just before the lunch rush hit. The place served good food. The bikers seemed odd to us, a lot of crotch-rocket riders. There was even a leader board posted on one wall that tracked local dirt bike circuit riders and their standings in a league. Everyone seemed friendly.
There, we plotted our next moves.