City Fix: Victoria - Scottsdale - Seattle
On our way to Victoria, BC we told the girls we would try to find a hotel for two nights, just to do something different. Little did they know, that while we were in Tofino I had booked two nights at the historic Empress Hotel. The Empress Hotel is located in downtown Victoria overlooking the inner harbor. Like the Banff Springs Hotel in Canada, which we did not stay at, it is rich in history and was built for the wealthy who came off the Canadian Pacific Railway. Today it is still rooted in that same history, but it may be most well known for serving “afternoon tea”. Pulling up to the portico of the hotel, where the valets were waiting in their well dressed uniforms, I couldn’t help but chuckle. Here we were, rolling up to this “posh” hotel in our camper, creaking and squeaking, dirty and smelly, and sticking out like a sore thumb. Even the girls were feeling a little unsure about pulling up to the hotel to “check it out”. It was like Sanford and Son meets Downtown Abbey. Nevertheless, we were treated with kindness and respect and it wasn't long before we were greeted with, “welcome Mr. and Mrs. Shaw”! It was at this point, since the girls were looking puzzled, that we told them that we were staying at “this” hotel. Squeals of joy and excitement shot out from the girls. No one was going to be sad to leave the damp, dirty camper in the parking lot for a couple nights!
Once we were checked-in, we took full advantage of the hotel. We swam in the heated pool, sat in the hot tub, took long, hot showers and got clean. We wrapped ourselves in plush bathrobes (the hotel had put two kid-sized robes in the room for the girls), we lounged on the couch in our room and jumped on soft beds covered with fluffy down duvets The room felt huge and that made us giggle and laugh. We felt like royals and LOVED it! Dressed in our our “city” outfits, we went downstairs to the concierge where we enjoyed a complimentary cocktail hour fit for a king. Afterwards we went to dinner and walked home. We fell asleep in clean, dry sheets with full bellies. It felt great and we slept like babies!
The next morning, we turned ourselves loose in the city. The girls chose to visit “Miniature World”, an exhibit with over 80 miniature dioramas and displays, that were surprisingly informative and educational. We then walked to the Royal BC Museum where we walked quietly through exhibits and, frankly, got bored! Next we toured the Parliament Building and then walked to Fisherman’s Wharf. From there we took an unbelievably cute water taxi back to the hotel and changed for “afternoon tea”.
Afternoon tea, also known as “High Tea”, at the Empress is an impressive experience. For over one hundred years, the Empress has lured tourists, locals, royals, and celebrities through its doors for High Tea. During High Tea, one doesn’t just sit down for a cup of tea, but rather one experiences the decadence of how tea was served (and experienced) by the upper class in the Victorian era. Each guest selects a loose leaf tea for their very own personal pot of tea. The table is set with delicate cups and saucers and beautiful cloth napkins. Then each guest is served their own selection of sweet and savory delicacies (like scones with clotted cream and cucumber sandwiches) made fresh from the Empress bakery and kitchen (yes, John was out of his element!). It is a unique experience, for sure, and one that the girls thoroughly enjoyed and we were happy to share with them.
At breakfast the next morning we shared one more surprise with the girls. We told them that the following morning we would be flying to Scottsdale, AZ to celebrate my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. They were totally surprised and super excited! Not only would they get to see their grandparents, but they would get to hang out with their cousins (my sister’s kids) whom they hadn’t seen in seven months! After telling the girls, and answering a myriad of questions in regard to our short-notice trip to Arizona, we started the journey back the the states.
From Victoria we took a ferry to the Olympic Peninsula where the odometer in the truck reached 7,000 miles! We ate lunch in Port Townsend and then drove a little further south to catch our final ferry to Seattle, WA. The view of the Seattle skyline from the ferry was absolutely amazing and something I won’t forget. I had never been to Seattle before, and hadn’t realized we would get such a great view of the city from our ferry. Although we were only staying one night, before flying to my parent’s house, it got me excited to come back and explore the city.
When we drove off the ferry and into the city at the beginning of rush hour, we immediately felt like a fish out of water. Navigating narrow city streets, traffic, and intersections in our BIG rig just felt wrong! Luckily, we had a plan to beeline to an Italian restaurant on the outskirts of the city (a restaurant a co-worker of John’s had recently been to) so we didn’t have to drive much in downtown Seattle. However, we did take a wrong turn getting off the ferry, which made things interesting and tense, for just a moment, and solidified our thoughts that Rigdiculous is a “country” rig!
After dinner we drove to a “Park & Fly” parking lot by the airport where we “camped” for the night in the rig. It was a far cry from the luxuries of the Empress, but it was simple, inexpensive, and made it easy to catch an early morning flight. Touching down in Phoenix, and stepping outside for the first time, was like night and day from where we had been for the last six weeks. The air was DRY and the air was WARM and it soothed my soul! I needed this change in climate! In fact, we all needed it and wished we could have teleported the rig, and all its contents, to Arizona to dry out as well! We arrived at my parent’s house on the day of their 50th wedding anniversary and spent the next four days relaxing, celebrating, laughing, playing in the pool, soaking in the hot tub, reminiscing and toasting, and catching up. We got to go on a great hike with my mom and John and I even got out for a run together, just the two of us! It felt like a vacation from our vacation and I savored it! Hanging out with my family is always fun, but this was a very special weekend indeed. My parent’s friends, Dean and Laura, who share the same anniversary date as my parents, flew out to celebrate with them continuing a 28 year tradition of celebrating their anniversaries together. My sister and her family flew down, and other friends, new and old, gathered to celebrate this momentous occasion throughout the weekend. Being married for 50 years is no easy task and John and I both marveled at what an accomplishment it was. In any relationship, there are ups and downs and twists and turns, and I’m proud to say that my parents have been married for 50 years. Congratulations once again, Mummy and Daddy, I’m so happy we could be a part of your celebration!!
Feeling refreshed and completely dried out (in a good way) we landed in Seattle, WA excited to get back into the swing of our BT journey and to be reunited with Rigdiculous. Before we had left Vancouver Island, John had reached out to some friends of ours from Durango, who now live part-time in Seattle, about the possibility of meeting up with them and staying on their houseboat. With plans already in place when we touched down, all we had to do was grab some groceries and set a time to meet Jeremy at the houseboat.
In our rush to get to the houseboat before dark, we threw all of the groceries in the sink of the rig. This isn’t something we usually do, but we had stored all of our bikes in the rig while we were in Scottsdale, so we couldn’t open the fridge. While we were driving, something in one of the grocery bags pushed the handle of the sink faucet on (we had left the water pump on). Unbeknownst to us, gallons of water was pouring out of the faucet while we were driving. With the grocery bags covering the drains of the sink, the water had no where to go! The water filled the grocery bags and then started overflowing and sloshing around on the counter tops and onto the floor. We’re not sure how long the faucet was on, but it was long enough to create a serious mess!
As you can imagine, opening the door to this disaster in the camper was a total bummer! We had just experienced such a high from being with my family and being DRY! It was sort of ironic that we were dealing with a “wet” mess. Everything inside the camper was still so damp and soggy, the last thing we wanted to do was deal with more water in the camper! We shut the water off immediately and turned on the light, but the light was really dim (the water pump had drained the battery - ugh!). With the bikes still inside the rig, and very little light, it was hard to see what we were dealing with. The girls took the grocery bags and started drying off the groceries while John and I mopped up water from the counter and the floor. With the most pressing puddles dried up, we started unloading the bikes from inside the camper so we could clean up the rest of the mess. With our focus fully on the task at hand, groceries strewn on the ground, and piles of wet rags next to the camper, Jeremy and his wife Crissy arrived, just as planned, to show us the houseboat! This was not exactly how we wanted to greet Jeremy and Crissy, but it was a glimpse into the not-so-great-things that happen on the road (luckily we hadn’t had too many)!
Jeremy and Crissy’s arrival was a great distraction from the water debacle. After talking with them for a while by the camper and cleaning up some of our mess on the ground, they showed us to the houseboat. The houseboat, known as “The Gander”, is super cute and we all fell in love with it right away! Crissy, of course, had gone above and beyond and prepared a gift basket full of goodies for us and even stocked the fridge with some staples. Thanks Crissy! The girls’ eyes widened with delight when they saw all the thoughtful sweets and treats Crissy had bought for them! After some more conversation and catching up, Jeremey and Crissy left us to settle-in. We grabbed a few more things from the camper and decided to just shut the door on the disaster! It was dark, it was late, and most of the water was dried up (or seeped into the seems of the rig), so we decided to just deal with whatever was waiting for us in the morning!
Sleeping on a houseboat was on my BT wish list and visiting Seattle was high up on Ellie’s BT wish list, so there was some serious excitement about being in Settle for the Shaw family. Jeremey and Crissy were great and gave us a long list of things “to do” while we were in the city, but we couldn’t help but lounge around that first morning! We didn’t want to leave the houseboat! John checked on the rig, and it seemed to be fine, so we had even more of an excuse to just chill. After several cups of coffee, John connected with work and made some arrangements for when we left the houseboat in a couple days time. While he was doing that, the girls and I did some schoolwork. Feeling good about getting some “work” done, we rolled out of the houseboat (at the crack of 1pm) into the collapsible dinghy and went over to visit Jeremy at the boatyard where he was building another houseboat. It was really fun to get a glimpse of the Seattle houseboat scene. Puttering around the canal with the big ships, barges, and other houseboats was a unique experience. It was fun to use another mode of transportation for exploring on the BT and both the girls got a chance to steer the boat.
After visiting with Jeremy and exploring on the dinghy, we got on our bikes and rode to the Ballard Locks. The Ballard locks are one of the busiest lock systems in the nation and it was fun to watch several boats pass through. Adjacent to the locks is a fish ladder system which allows four species of salmon to migrate around the locks. We spent some time at the viewing windows and enjoyed watching the salmon swimming past. From there we biked to Golden Gardens Park where the girls played at the playground and John and I talked and watched the beginning of the sunset. With plans to meet Jeremy and Crissy for dinner, we biked back to the Ballard neighborhood where we met them for a great Mexican meal and then went out for dessert.
The next morning we woke up and and took an Uber into downtown Seattle where we were dropped off at Pike Place Market. We loved meandering through the market, seeing the fish packed in ice, the rows of fresh flowers, the boxes of fruits and vegetables artistically displayed, and everything else that makes the market feel so alive. We grabbed breakfast and watched the hustle and bustle of the city while we ate. When we were finished, the clouds had mostly burned off, so we walked to the Space Needle. I hadn't really given the Space Needle much thought prior to arriving in Seattle. I mean, I knew were going to go see it, but the last week had been such a whirlwind, with our trip to Scottsdale and leaving Vancouver Island, that I hadn’t spent much time researching ANYTHING in Seattle. Maybe going into it in this way is what made it seem so great, I don’t know, but I truly loved it! I loved reading the history. I loved the elevator “ride”. I loved the revolving glass floor, and of course, I loved the view! For the girls, the Space Needle had been a destination they had been waiting for for over four months and they were so excited to finally be at the Space Needle. Once we were there, we didn’t want to leave! We probably spent forty-five minutes to an hour just sitting on the glass floor talking and taking in the 360° view, as it slowly rotated around.
With the day coming to an end, we left the heart of the city and went back to The Gander. Jeremey and Crissy had offered to have the girls for a sleepover so we packed the girl’s bags and took an Uber to their house. We stayed for a glass of wine and then we were literally shooed out the door by the girls (they wanted their own time with Jeremy and Crissy). John and I went out for our second date night of the trip, and, of course, totally enjoyed it! It’s always so great to get that kind of one on one time with my husband. I truly cherish it, especially on this trip where for the most part, we do things as a foursome! I loved the uninterrupted time and the uninterrupted conversations. I loved our great meal and our time together. I loved be just being “us”.
The next morning, after Jeremy dropped off the girls, we finished packing and put everything back into the rig. At this point, we had slept the last 8 out of 9 nights out of the camper, making it the longest stretch of “not sleeping in the rig” on the BT! The break from the camper was feeling good and we used the time, and great weather in Seattle, to try and dry out the camper as much as possible. We left the windows open and the fans running all day and all night and after three days we were starting to get ahead of the dampness.
After a bike ride around Lake Union, we drove to Wallingford, another great Seattle neighborhood, where we met up with a family friend of John’s from Berkeley, CA. When we arrived, Peter met us with open arms. After quick introductions (the girls and I had never met Peter before) and a little time to chat and get acquainted, we got in Peter’s car and drove to Boeing Field (King County International Airport). With excitement and anticipation, and maybe a few nerves for me, we loaded into Peter’s Beechcraft Bonanza A36 airplane. We took off into clear skies with John in the front and the girls and I in the back. We flew past Starbucks Corporate Headquarters, over the stadiums for the Mariners (baseball) and the Seahawks (football), past the Space Needle and over Lake Union. Once we were past the city, we flew over lush green forests on our way to Mt. Rainier. In the far distance we could see Mt. Saint Helens and Mt. Hood. Flying around Mt. Rainer in such an intimate way was extraordinary. The mountain is stunning! The glaciated peak is rugged and beautiful and we flew so close it felt like you could touch it.
That evening we met up with Peter’s wife Lauren at the Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) to watch “Borealis: A Festival of Light”. The event was free and featured “projection mapping” shows, as well as a self-guided walking tour of over twenty light art installations, food trucks, and live music. It felt like a true “city” event. The video projection, displayed on the outside of the MOHAI building, essentially transformed the building into a virtual reality experience using 2D and 3D images that were choreographed to music. It was quite spectacular and a completely new experience for all the Shaws.
The next day we enjoyed a leisurely morning at the house drinking coffee and enjoying great conversation. The girls played and did some schoolwork. John and Peter ended up fixing the tree house in the yard, which was a great experience for John. Not only did he really enjoy working with Peter and connecting with him, but he also enjoyed having a construction project to work on! Once the project was complete, we (including Peter) went for a run (the girls biked) around Green Lake. It was another beautiful Fall day and the path around the lake was packed with people (in a good way). It was fun to be away from the tourist attractions and feel like a local, just out for a run and enjoying a beautiful day! After our run we drove to Fremont, another hip Seattle neighborhood, where we had lunch at “Uneeda Burger”. I don’t usually mention restaurant names, but this little burger joint needs a mention because I had the MOST AMAZING burger EVER! For those of you who don’t know, I LOVE a good burger, and I’ve been wondering where I was going to eat “the best burger on the BT”. I may have found it! The #8 Crimini Mushroom Burger at Uneeda Burger may not be beat!
Waking up at Peter and Lauren’s on our last morning, I rolled over and told John I wasn’t looking forward to getting back in the camper. The last ten days had been really fun! They felt like vacation and I didn’t want that feeling to end! Getting back into the rig just seemed like “work” to me, and I didn’t want to work. John, on the other hand, said he was ready to get back into the camper and was excited to start camping again. I knew it probably wasn’t going to be as “bad” as I thought, but I still wasn’t super psyched. We enjoyed another great morning with Peter and Lauren, and got packed up and ready to go. Our time with Lauren and Peter was short, but very sweet. John has known Peter and Lauren for over forty years, and while he hasn’t really kept in touch with them, we all felt an immediate connection to them right away. It was a warm and nostalgic family experience.
Heading out of Seattle towards the Oregon coast our hearts were feeling full. As always, it’s the experiences and connections we make with people that create such a rich experience on the BT. A big thank you, from all of us, to all our hosts. You are what make the BT so amazing!