Monthly Archives: July 2018

Casino Fun

Blackjack-Games2I may have mentioned before, but I do like to play blackjack occasionally. I don’t like to gamble, I just like to play the game! So when we saw there was a casino only 15 minutes from our current location, I just had to check it out.

The Silver Reef Casino is owned by the Lummi People, one of the First Nation Peoples in this region. It’s a medium size facility with a hotel, spa, several restaurants, and a bright, modern casino. Upon investigation, we found a blackjack table with low stakes ($3 minimum) and good rules. I was in business!

Since we are here for a few weeks, it made sense to join their players club. Mondays are Golden Groovy Days with special promotions for us gray-hairs over 50. Here’s how our Monday goes: We check in at the members kiosk and receive our $5 food voucher and $5 free slot play. Then it’s off to the tables for an hour or two of game play. This casino provides free soft drinks / coffee only (no free alcohol), which is perfectly fine with me. (I think it makes for a nicer environment and who wants to drink at 10 am anyway?!) I cash out a few dollars up and we head for the lunch buffet. With our vouchers, we enjoy a nice buffet lunch for less than $10 (total!). Then back to the tables to play for an hour or three. I quit when I’m up a few bucks. Somewhere in there we use our promotional slot dollars – often I just lose it, but sometimes I get lucky and cash out a few dollars. At the end of the afternoon, we stroll away comfortably full, entertained for the day, with $10 – $30 more in our pocket than we started with.

That all sounds good, but how is it that I can consistently win? It IS called gambling after all, and the house always wins, right? OK, I don’t ALWAYS win, but I do seem to end up winning more often than not. So, I’m going to give you my winning secrets!

One reason I can win more than lose is that I like to play blackjack, not slots or the other casino games. Blackjack has the lowest house edge of all games – only 0.5% IF you play properly and IF  you find a table with favorable rules.  Those are big “ifs”.

I have observed many really bad blackjack players lose a ton of money fast. If you’re going to play, please learn basic blackjack strategy. Casinos sometimes give classes, websites like Wizard of Odds explains strategy, and there are even apps you can download that will drill you on correct play.  Once you’ve mastered the basics, then you can learn advanced strategies such as when to double down on soft hands, when to surrender, and how the strategies differ if you are playing with 2 decks versus 6. I did OK when I followed basic strategy, but I did better as I learned the advanced strategy nuances. If you’re a newbie and not sure what to do – ask the dealer! They know the game and can advise you what the “book” says to do in different situations. One thing I don’t do is try to count cards – I’m not that fast at calculating. I just try to play really good strategy based on the odds charts.

The second key is to find a blackjack table with the rules that favor the player as much as possible. The table’s rules impact the house edge, sometimes substantially. Table rules define the bet minimum and maximum, whether the dealer stands or hits a soft 17, and the blackjack payout (usually 3 to 2). There are also such nuances as whether you can double down on any two cards (or just 9,10 or 11), whether you can re-split aces (or not), how many times you can re-split pairs, and whether you can surrender. Some of these are advanced topics, so I’ll just give you one piece of good advice — ONLY play tables with blackjack payout of 3:2. Many of the low stakes Vegas Strip blackjack tables have a 6:5 payout which doesn’t sound that much different, but it is. That one rule difference improves the house edge by 1.39%, bringing it up to at least 1.9% or more, depending on the other rules. Just. Walk. Away. Maybe if enough people refuse to play, they’ll eliminate that despicable practice. Nah, unfortunately there’s always people who don’t know better and the casinos are happy to take their money.

Normally, if I find a “good rules” table and play as correctly as possible, I’ll win and lose in a cyclical fashion. Sometimes I’ll have an exceptional run of bad luck with the cards that no amount of correct play can overcome. I had a losing streak like that a few months ago in Vegas. In that situation I may lose my budgeted daily gambling allowance and that’s it for the night. But usually, I’ll go just up and down. My trick is to play a while and then quit when I’m ahead, even by just a few dollars. I’m not trying to make a killing, I just don’t want to lose money. More often than not – it works!

And that’s my secret to winning at blackjack. Hey, it’s Monday – off to the casino for cheap food and fun!

Olympic National Park

From our campsite, the route to Olympic National Park took us over land and sea, from ocean to mountain.  Olympic National Park in extreme northwest Washington encompasses over a million acres and includes snow capped mountains, alpine meadows, old growth forest, and lush rainforest – much of it pristine, untouched wilderness.

Our long day trip started around 6 am as we mounted the motorcycle and headed out through the chilly dawn to the port town of Coupeville, Washington, about 1.5 hours away. The drive itself was beautiful as we wound through farmland, forests and along serene tidal flats and bay. Upon arrival at the small Port, we paid our $10 transit fee and lined up with other motorcyclists to wait for the ferry. Around us were lines of cars and other vehicles also waiting to board. There were very few passengers without vehicles for this route.

Washington State operates an active network of ferries, transporting people, vehicles and goods across to the various islands and peninsulas. The boats can accommodate a surprising number and variety of vehicles, including tractor trailers and RVs.  We watched as the large ferry docked, and then we were given the signal to load up. After driving aboard, we parked the bike in the indicated spot, and headed upstairs to the passenger lounge.  We just had time during our 30 minute ferry ride to grab a (long delayed) cup of caffeine and a breakfast sandwich from the café before being called back to our vehicle for offloading. Note to other riders — don’t lift up from the kickstand until the boat is completely docked. Not knowing that, we had a bit of a rocky-rolly balancing challenge for a few minutes! Once docked, the motorcycles disembarked first, and we were off! The whole ferry process easy-peasy.

From our disembarkation point – Port Townsend – we had another 42 miles drive along the coast just to reach the Port Angeles Olympic Park Visitor’s Center. There we scoped out our sightseeing options we could manage within our limited time frame. First, we drove up to view the high mountains at Hurricane Ridge. We walked along alpine meadows with spectacular views of the snowy Olympic mountains. It reminded me a bit of Switzerland and that “I’m on the top of the world” feeling.

Then we headed to 12 mile long, glacially-carved Lake Crescent. The water was incredibly clear, and incredibly blue. From there, a short hike lead to a scenic waterfall. The old-growth forest was silent and lushly green. It also showed signs of dryness. For all of its rainfall in fall and winter, summer is a time of drought in that area. Indeed, it hasn’t rained on us for our entire stay here (weeks), and vegetation shows the signs. The true rainforest area of the Park wasn’t within reach during our brief day trip, so we had to save that for another time.

It was a long trek back, as we reverse-navigated for home. First was the hour drive back to the port, where we arrived just in time to catch the 6 pm ferry that was in the process of boarding. One advantage of driving a motorcycle is that they easily accommodated on the ferry and rarely have to make reservations, unlike cars. Motorcycles are also MUCH cheaper to take across. Again, we had just enough time to grab a sandwich at the ferry café before returning to the bike to disembark. Then we faced the 1.5 hour ride back to the bus, arriving home around 8 pm. What a great day!

Olympic National Park is stunning, and we just barely scratched the surface during our day trip. It is a backpacker’s paradise, with many wilderness areas only reachable by foot. Port Angeles is a decent size town, with amenities and activities there, plus ferry options to other points in Washington and Canada. It would make an awesome home base for a month to further explore the area.

We’ve definitely noted that for future reference!

Lovin’ the Cedars

I thought I’d give a little description of our home for the month. I’ll do a formal campground review later on, but frankly, you people don’t read my campground reviews! I admit, they’re pretty dry, and not as interesting as our travelogue posts. I do them mostly for future reference by us or others.

We are sitting here at the Cedars RV resort, just outside Ferndale, WA. This is one of the largest and overall nicest sites we’ve had. The campground recently renovated our area in order to better accommodate big rigs by combining two narrower sites into one really wide one. (Big buses like ours really do need the space to maneuver.) As a result, we have tons of space all around to spread out into. The sites are separated by tall cedar hedges, making them uncommonly private.  Coming from the campground near Seattle which was as tight as tight could be, this seems incredibly spacious.

Here’s the view out our front window –  we are on the edge of the campground, overlooking a quiet pasture that can be used for tent camping.


This is very much a family campground. School is out and there are plenty of families with young children enjoying the beautiful pool, playground and other amenities. There are kids riding around on their bikes, playing, and leaving chalk masterpieces on the driveways. It’s really nice to hear the laughter of kids just being kids.

The weather has been delightful with cool nights and warm days. It’s been a bit too warm in the evenings for a fire, but it is forecast to cool down next week and we have wood staged next to our fire pit, waiting for the cooler weather. It’s been quite some time since we enjoyed a campfire as many of the campgrounds we’ve been to haven’t allowed them due to fire hazard or other restrictions. We’re overdue for s’mores.

There’s no hot tub, but the heated pool is awesome. The bathrooms are clean and nice. The people are friendly. In the mornings, I often see little bunnies hopping around to munch on the grass, much to Pumpkin’s delight. The nights are quiet and peaceful. And the best part — it’s inexpensive! We paid $800 for the month, which works out to less than $30/night, in high season! It’s a bargain.

This place is great.


Chill time

It’s quite nice to be in real-life mode, rather than vacation mode. Vacation mode, for us, means an almost non-stop schedule of activities, driven by a short-term visit to an area and a desire to see and do everything possible in the time we have. That’s exciting, but also a bit tiring. Settling here for a month is allowing us to relax into more of what I call “real life” mode. We are still exploring, but at a slower pace. It allows for just chill time – time to read, watch movies, and just enjoy our camping spot. It’s nice, like a vacation from vacation mode!

This area of far northwest Washington state offers quite a lot to do. I already posted about our whale watching tour, which was one of my favorite activities so far on this full time RV journey.  I’d do that again!

One of Jeff’s goals on our journey has been to visit Whistler ski resort north of Vancouver, which is touted as one of the best downhill mountain bike parks in the world. It was too far for a day trip, so he scheduled a quick overnight journey. Because of Pumpkin kitty, I am loath to leave overnight, plus I needed to work, so I stayed behind. It allowed me to catch up on some household chores, plus do my consulting work.  He’ll have to post about his adventure sometime, but he is much better at adventuring than posting! Here’s a couple photos though.

We hopped the motorcycle one day and made the 2.5 hour trek eastward to the North Cascades National Park. It is beautiful, but largely inaccessible except by foot. One major road takes you east-west through the park, along rivers and overlooks to glaciated peaks and turquoise lakes. The glacier river is dammed in three places, forming the beautiful lakes, controlling flooding, and generating clean power for the Seattle area. The lowest power plant offered a self-guided tour* and garden-like paths along the river.  The park was lovely, but unless you’re up for a major backpack trip or want to play on the lakes, there’s not so much to do.

Another day we journeyed up to the (closer) Mount Baker, whose snow-frosted peak is visible from our campground. A ski resort in winter, the mountain gets an immense amount of snow, which was still quite evident during our visit. In fact, several of the hikes we wanted to do in the higher elevations were still completely snow covered. I guess you need to visit in late August in order to really do much hiking – that, or wear snow gear! The huge mounds of melting snow formed interesting snow caves and shapes.

More on our explorations to come …

* Side note:  On the self-guide power plant tour, the exhibit included quite a funny statement about engineers. We took a photo, but here’s the text if you can’t read it:

“An ENGINEER is one who passes as an expert on the strength of being able to turn out with prolific fortitude, strings of incomprehensible formulae calculated with micromatic precision from extremely vague assumptions which are based on debatable figures acquired from inconclusive tests and quite incomplete experiments carried out with instruments of problematic accuracy by persons of doubtful reliability and of rather dubious mentality with the particular anticipation of disconcerting and annoying everyone outside of their own fraternity.”



One of the activities I had most been looking forward to during our time in the Pacific Northwest was going on a whale watching cruise. Our San Juan Cruises whale watching tour did not disappoint!

Our deluxe whale watching tour left from the sleepy port of Bellingham, about 20 minutes drive from our RV park. We could watch a playful seal cavorting during our wait to board. Our boat was maybe half booked, leaving plenty of room to sit and move around on board as we set out through the San Juan Islands.

As a boater, one thing that was interesting were the strong and squirrely currents running in and around all of the islands. We saw a channel buoy listing at 45 degrees from the strong current as well as areas where the currents intersect and swirl around like a whirlpool. You would certainly need to understand the tidal flows and local current patterns to go boating here!

Our first stop was Port Friday, on San Juan Island. We disembarked for an hour or so to wander the scenic port town, full of shops and restaurants. I had been looking for a lined windbreaker type jacket, and found one at a great sale price. A small farmer’s market was being held that day, displaying island wares and local seafood and produce. We had time for a quick beer at the local pub, then it was back on board the boat for the whale watching part of our tour.

The cruise company advertises that you are guaranteed to see whales or get half off your next cruse. They are in touch with local spotters, so can get a bead on where the resident orcas are hanging out that day. While heading out in the direction of the ocean, we were served a delicious buffet of local salmon, BBQ chicken, cole slaw, biscuits with honey butter, grapes and chocolate brownies. Yum! Just about the time we finished up, the first whale was sighted!

Orca whales swim in a pattern of three or four surface appearances, then a deeper dive of several minutes. Once you spot them, you’ve got a few chances to get your photos before they disappear again!  Regulations require the boat to stay back at certain distance, so we couldn’t get TOO close up, but we were close enough to have a great view. We spotted and idled along several different groupings (pods) of whales. One pod was quite active, doing a lot of tail slapping and even breaching a couple of times. Such a cool sight – but I couldn’t get my camera in position quick enough to catch that!

We hung around the whales for a little over an hour, then it was time for the long trek back to the dock. The weather was perfect, the whales were incredible – what a great day!

Campground Review: Trailer Inns RV Park, Bellevue, WA

010Campground Review Summary

  • Name: Trailer Inns RV Park
  • Dates of stay: July 5-11, 2018
  • Location: 15531 Se 37th St, Bellevue, WA 98006
  • Type of campground: Private / Independent Chain
  • Cost: $59.61 / night (weekly rate)
  • Additional fees: none
  • Stay limit: none
  • Accepts mail / packages: yes
  • Cell reception: good
  • Website:
  • Pros: Close to Seattle, decent amenities
  • Cons: tight site and road, pricey

Full Review

I was sort of nervous coming to this park because a number of the reviews were quite negative. It turned out to be not so bad, and it was ideally located for our purposes.

This RV park is right off of I-90, and you have to follow directions carefully as the streets leading to the park are a bit confusing. Stay to the right as you approach the park, the left lane leads to a tunnel! The campground itself is, basically, a parking lot with hookups. The internal roads and sites are the narrowest we’ve experienced so far. Victoria, the manager, directed us into and out of our site. We barely squeezed by the other rigs, missing them by inches. We definitely don’t like to be this tight!

The site is all concrete with full hookups. There’s no picnic table or other amenities, and leveling was bit of a challenge. We angled the truck in behind us (there’s no extra parking) and we wouldn’t be able to put our awnings out if we wanted to. But the power, water and sewer all worked fine. There is cable TV available, but since we were in town, we pulled in ample over the air channels in addition to our satellite channels. Our ATT signal was the best we’d seen in quite a while, not surprising since we weren’t out in the boonies. The park has a basic wifi, but we didn’t need or use it.

The amenities are pretty good, actually. There’s one office building that contains restrooms and showers that are modern and clean. There’s also a wet area with indoor pool, spa and sauna, a TV lounge, and coin laundry. The bathroom and laundry are accessible 24 hours with a code, everything else is locked outside of office hours.

A lot of the negative reviews revolved around two issues – tight sites and bossy management. The tight sites are legit, but the campground won’t book you into a site you can’t manage to squeeze into. We didn’t have any issues with management, but they DO have a ton of rules posted everywhere. Most are common sense, so I didn’t have a problem with them, although I felt like my Mom was telling me to behave. Also, having to sign in to use the wet area seemed a bit high-schoolish, plus not being able to access that area off hours meant we didn’t use it much. However, the park is located about a mile from the Eastgate Park and Ride transit facility, making it an ideal home base location for Seattle exploration.

The big negative is the price – $60/night makes it one of the pricier parks we’ve stayed at. Especially since our site was so basic. But this is the closest RV park to downtown Seattle, so I guess you’re paying for convenience. Still –  next trip I think we may try someplace else.

Bottom Line: Convenient to Seattle but pricey for what you get. Be prepared to follow rules.

Seattle wrap-up

On our last day near Seattle, we mounted the motorcycle and headed east, toward the Cascade mountains. Several folks had recommended visiting the Bavarian village of Leavenworth, so we undertook the scenic 2 hour (each way) journey to check it out.

IMG_3711On the way, we stopped by the lovely Snoqualmie Falls, one of the most popular and tallest in Washington State. A view above the falls is accessed by a short walk from the parking area. A steep half mile trail takes you to a viewpoint of the bottom of the falls. One tip if you go – park across the road from the visitor center. Visitor center parking is $7 for 0-2 hours, while the parking lot across the road is free! A pedestrian bridge connects the two lots.

The town of Leavenworth is charming. It reminds me somewhat of Gatlinburg, but smaller and classier. Instead of moonshine and air gun shops, Leavenworth has a plethora of wine tasting rooms, German-themed restaurants and shops. It even has a Nutcracker museum. We enjoyed a delicious lunch, tasted cheese (and bought some), then tasted wine (and bought some), before heading back. The weather was absolutely beautiful, as was the scenery. A lovely day trip!

Seattle has been one of our favorite cities so far. Getting downtown via express bus was stress-free, and there was just so much to see there. The vibe was laid back, family-friendly, and fun. That’s not to say the city is perfect – it was moderately expensive, as larger cities seem to be.  Rush hour traffic getting in and out of the city can get really stacked up. There is also a significant, and visible,  homeless population. As housing prices have risen, more have been forced to the streets. It’s an ongoing and complex problem in most larger cities that is most difficult to solve. But Seattle seems to take a kinder, gentler approach than San Francisco — whereas San Fran routinely tears down tent cities and forces the homeless to move around, Seattle seems to permit encampments as long as they aren’t in the way. We even observed a downtown Starbucks giving free coffee to homeless people and allowing them to clean up in their restroom. The Starbucks wasn’t overrun by homeless, we just observed a couple of people entering, one at time, unobtrusively and respectfully.  The Starbucks personnel greeted them by name, so this was obviously a standing practice. That’s compassion in action.

We will definitely return and stay longer in the future, but it was time for us to move on. Now we are officially as far away from our starting point as we can be in the lower 48. From our campground in Ferndale, WA a few miles south of the Canadian border, Pembroke Pines Florida lies 3400 miles away. We will stay here four weeks, allowing ample time to explore the area. We have whale watching, the San Juan islands, Vancouver, two national parks – so much to explore!

This will also be the longest stay at any one place since we launched last November.  The last few weeks have been more like “vacation mode”, as we’ve been constantly on the go to maximize our experiences during our short one-week stays. Finally we can settle in for a while, and take things a bit slower. Will we get bored after 2 weeks? Or will we like the slower pace? We’ll let you know!

Footloose in Seattle, Part 3

No visit to Seattle is complete without seeing the iconic Space Needle, so of course we had to take a ride up to the observation deck. The Needle is currently under renovation, so the restaurant was closed, but the views were still spectacular. The guardrails on the outdoor deck have been replaced with enormous glass panels that lean out, giving you that “oh my gosh I’m teetering on the edge” feeling. Back on earth, a free “virtual reality” experience of bungee jumping from the Needle was offered. It was cool, and the only way I’m bungee jumping off that thing!

The Space Needle is located in Seattle Center, an extensive complex of park, museums, restaurants and entertainment centers. Our CityPass led us next to the Chihuly museum, a fantastic display of the brilliant glass artist’s work. The museum included film clips that gave insight into his creative process and how he assembles his masterpieces. The inside gallery was gorgeous but the outside garden was truly special – an inspired marriage of glass art and nature. Photos can’t really do it justice.

Nearby is the Museum of Pop Culture. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was an engaging, intelligent exploration of entertainment culture. There were entire sections on Fantasy, Scifi, and Horror, for example. The Fantasy section didn’t just have displays of costumes and props from movies, print and games, it explored the universal archetypes of the genre. The Horror section had interview clips of film directors discussing why certain movies were so horrific and how they impacted the Horror genre. Adding to the fun, the museum was offering a special Marvel Universe exhibition which explored the origins of the comic characters and the later movies. I’m already a fan, so this was absolutely fascinating. The museum had a section on the indie game revolution, complete with game consoles to play, and a sound lab with sound booths for your own jam sections. The enormous “sky church” screen smack in the middle of the museum played nonstop music videos. That’s a museum I could definitely go back and see again.

I haven’t discussed dining, but one place was a highlight that deserves a shout out. We stopped one morning at the Biscuit Bitch, to indulge in a Bitchwich and Straight Up Bitch. They were delicious – fresh, fast, friendly and home made. Only in Seattle!!


Footloose in Seattle, continued

One of the most uniquely-Seattle attractions we visited was the Underground Tour. Here’s the backstory:  As early Seattle grew, sewage management became an increasing problem. Crude piping, inadequate sloping, and twice-daily tidal backups created unpleasant consequences (such as, poo fountains). Then came the Great Seattle Fire of 1889 which burned 25 city blocks, giving City officials an opportunity to rebuild — stronger, better, faster! <cue Six Million Dollar Man theme>

Among improvements, such as requiring brick structures and firewalls, the decision was made to raise the street level by one story to allow for improved utility piping and better drainage. Retaining walls were constructed on either side of the street, and pipes and dirt were laid within. This placed the first story of rebuilt structures below the surface of the road by 8-20 feet, accessed by descending a ladder into the trench that was created between the building façade and street retaining wall. Eventually, sidewalks were laid over those trenches and the former second floor became the “ground” floor. Those covered trenches still exist and comprise the underground tour. The drawing below illustrates what I’m talking about, except the poor slobs only had ladders, not a nice staircase to ascend.


The uncovered trenches were used for shop access for several years before sidewalks were completed. Can you imagine, to get from one side of the street to another, you had to scale a ladder (in a dress, with packages), cross the road, and descend another 20 foot ladder? Sort of inconvenient, wouldn’t you say?

The tour itself was led by a wholly entertaining guide as we wound down stairs and through tunnels that still show evidence of its history as first floor entry points. After being covered by sidewalk, they were still used for years for business both legal and not-so-legal. Skylights were placed in the sidewalk for natural lighting. You can see these photos of still-existing skylights from below and above as well as some shots from inside the tunnel tour.

Eventually, the tunnels were banned for use due to plague concerns (rats). Ewwwww. Then they were essentially used as garbage dumps until historic preservation became a thing in the 1950’s and the concept of the underground tour was born. Today, some of the businesses (such as a nearby toy store) have renovated and incorporated the tunnel section into their business. This tour is barrels of fun and definitely worth doing!

Wandering around the Pioneer Square historic district, we stumbled across the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park (Seattle branch).  Seattle was a major supply and launch point for those seeking their fortune during the gold rush period. It’s a free museum that describes the logistical issues and extreme hardship faced by folks on their trek to the gold fields. Fascinating, and sad.

Another day we loaded up the bicycles and headed for one of the many Seattle bicycle trails – the Burke-Gilman Trail. This heavily-used paved “rails to trails” path winds by parks, bay, and businesses. Part is wooded, part is urban, but always wide and protected. One of the parks we explored is Gas Works Park, which left remnants of a coal gasification plant and declared it to be art. That’s one way to do it! We cycled 22 miles (round trip) which was maybe half of this trail. Seattle is awesome!

And we’re not done yet ….

Footloose in Seattle

This portion of our adventure is all about exploring Seattle! We have really enjoyed the Pacific Northwest region so far with its cool weather, lush forested mountains and friendly folk. The quirky, unique city of Seattle is no exception.

We are currently shoe-horned into an urban RV park (more like, parking lot) that is ideally positioned for Seattle exploration. A transit park and ride station is only a mile away, where an inexpensive express bus can be caught to whisk us directly to the center of Seattle. At $2.75 per ride, the bus is considerably cheaper than downtown parking garages and is nearly as convenient. The city center is relatively compact, with many of the tourist attractions within walking distance, if you don’t mind schlepping a mile or two uphill or down.


Dedicated bicycle lanes

While on the subject of mass transit, I have to give kudos to Seattle for its transportation options. An extremely bike-friendly city, there are bicycle rental companies (Lime Bike is one) that allow you to rent a bike for as little as $1 an hour to get from one place to another. You download their app, use GPS to find the nearest bike, scan the tag to start your rental, ride to wherever, lock the bike to stop your rental time and just walk away. It will sit there until another rider needs it. We saw these bikes literally everywhere, and plenty of people using them too. Riders have access to dedicated bike lanes in many of the city streets. Just fantastic! (Why can’t other cities figure out how to do this??) You also have the option of numerous city buses, an underground line, and two trolley lines, depending on where you’re going. As a result, the downtown traffic was actually not all that bad. It works!


Our first stop was the Pikes Place Market. Originally a farmer market (est. 1907), it has expanded into a multi-block, multi-level shopping district for just about everything you can imagine. It’s great fun to explore with savory odors wafting from restaurants, buskers adding lively music, and colorful goods all around. It even boasts the original Starbucks coffee shop location, which had a line out the door and around the block during our visit! In one alley, the brick walls have been wallpapered with gum. Literally every surface is dripping with masticated gum. Why? I have no idea. All I can say is …. ewwwwww.

036We elected to purchase the Seattle City Pass, which packages 5 attractions at a discounted price. We headed to the Seattle Aquarium, a medium-size aquarium with lots of hands-on activities for the littles. There were also large exhibits with harbor seals, and sea otters. Otters are my favorite. They are just like ocean kitty-cats, with whiskered faces, playful demeanor and grooming habits. I could watch them all day.

But no, it was time to catch our boat! We upgraded  our City Pass harbor cruise to the Locks Cruise. At the appointed time, we boarded a bus which took us to our boat dock on the other side of the city. This cruise took us from fresh-water Lake Union, through the lock system, into salt-water Elliot Bay. That was my first ever cruise through a lock, and it was fascinating to see just how fast water was pumped out to lower us the 15 feet necessary to match sea level. At that location, due to tidal variation, the lowering distance needed ranges from 8 feet to 30 feet. We also got great views of the Seattle skyline, and even saw the houseboat featured in the film “Sleepless in Seattle”. Fun!

But wait, there’s more Seattle fun to come!