Thursday, August 27, 2009

Road Trip: Washington and Vancouver: Leaving America

No night of restless sleep could keep us from our adventures, and so we headed back into Seattle for more time of exploration before heading to Canada. Our first stop was a little open air nautical museum  displaying a collection of wooden ships, from old tug boats to steamers. The ships were cool, free to look at, and even the parking was free (which seems to be a rarity in cities). Adjacent to the museum was a cruise yacht offering tours of the harbor and we decided to find out how much tickets would be. The captain informed us that, normally, it would be two hours for $22, but then gave us coupons to get on for $11. Not a bad deal, so we bit. Ultimately, it turned out that we were the only ones on the tour, so we got a private two hour tour of the bay for $11 – even better.

Our captain was a slightly creepy, but amiable older man who was happy to inform us where the Vancouver nude beach was when we told him we were going up there to see a seminary. Something tells me he probably didn’t know what a seminary is, or at least he didn’t hear us right. The tour was great fun, Nate and I both bought lunches on the boat, and we got to get little bits of history and information about the city. Some of my favorite sights were the floating homes within the bay. They’re a group of old, grandfathered in settlements built back in the 20s to avoid property taxes. Some of them are fancy little mansions, while others are little more than shacks, but they all look like they’d be cool places to live. Some of the neatest ones had porches crammed full of all kinds of potted plants. This city has in modern times severely limited the expansion of these communities, and almost the only way to get such a house is to buy one from a previous owner and either use it or demolish it and build your own.

In addition to the floating homes, we saw a whole series of crazy-huge waterfront mansions owned by some of the world’s richest people, including the house of Bill Gates himself (interestingly, I’d say the house was moderate in terms of Gates’ income, but that’s not saying much).These houses were mostly built right down on the beach, which was backed by a short cliff. Each of the homes had a garage on the top of the cliff with an incline elevator/gondola to get down the cliff. I think that in some ways this part of the tour was designed to arouse envy in us, and while a beach front house would be nice, the things many of these people did with their money were just absurd to the point of making them almost clownish. For example, one of the other founders of Microsoft bought a huge yacht with a helicopter pad, then he got bored with it and bought an even bigger one, and finally got a massive one with two helicopter pads.

So, we viewed the homes of the rich, as well as various bridges, famous boats and public buildings and we then returned to shore. After this, we drove back to downtown Seattle and spent about an hour meandering through the Pike Place Marketplace. The Marketplace is a cool covered market with produce, craft and food places packed tightly inside. In addition to the shops, there were several street performers playing, which if you ask me are the best part of any marketplace.

Finally, we got back on the road and headed for the Canadian border, another rather uneventful drive. We arrived at the border, which among other things meant we had to navigate the old fashioned way, because Maggie doesn’t have any Canada maps. The length of the line at the border was nothing compared to the monstrosity that is the Mexican border, but there was a bit of a line, and we ended up behind an SUV from California.

“Hello Fellow Californian.”

But alas, the Canadian border police kept up the car for a long time, probably suspicious of them because they had giant USC stickers on the back. Apparently the Canadians have good sense. (I now wink at my friends from USC). We, however, got through without any trouble. One really clever thing we discovered shortly after crossing the border was that the lanes on the freeway are reversible  for purposes of traffic control.  Before entering Canada, we had written down directions to the place where Tyler and I were staying, but we missed our turn and had a massive amount of difficulty finding our way back onto our route, but we eventually did and soon afterward found our way to our hosts’ townhouse. Our hosts were a nice Australian couple (named Nathan and Mareesa) with a single one-year-old boy (Daniel), and they were wonderfully hospitable, helping us with directions and feeding us well for both breakfast and lunch. That night, they fed us a hearty meal of spaghetti and answering my bombardment of questions about Regent College.
I really enjoyed looking at Nathan’s collection of books, which demonstrated a broad and intelligent theological base (and of course reflected the theological bent of Regent). Best of all I think, was a book on quantum mechanics and theology written by a man who is both an Anglican priest and a theoretical physicist. Though I haven’t read the book, I would imagine this background makes him suited to writing an actually quality analysis of the subject, as opposed to the steaming piles of crap found in such works as What the *Bleep* Do We Know?

Daniel was also a lot of fun, though rather quite at first. After dinner, we drove Nate to his hosts’ house further into the city, and then returned to our hosts’ for a dessert of Strawberries and Cream. After dessert, we bid our hosts goodbye and settled in for a night of good sleep on actual beds (well… a bed and a mattress, but infinitely better than sleeping in the car).