Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Coming Home to Lake Tahoe...from Pacific Northwest

By Cal Orey
Last night in Seattle, WA

Taking a train is romantic
Taking the super early morning Amtrak train from Vancouver back to Seattle symbolized it was my ride back home--but not quite. It's different than the train from SF to San Carlos and Montreal to Quebec City--all unique. Coming back wasn't as fun as going to, perhaps due to lack of my train companions or that I had done it before. I did connect with homes on the Washington/Canada border and fantasized about living right there.

My mind was also on the last hotel for the night. This pre-booked room was supposed to be special. Since I was treated to high floors in Bellevue and Vancouver, my vision was to see the Space Needle. Once I arrived at the hotel I sensed trouble awaited. The vibe was off.  I was told to go up to the 7th floor...and call quickly after if I wasn't satisfied. The young reservations clerk could tell I wasn't happy; especially after I shared my past hotel days in contrast. But she assured me the view looked like what she sees out of her apartment. For some reason, this fact spooked me.

Once in the strange, cold room I was overwhelmed. It was an odd narrow L-shaped place.  I felt like I was on a different planet. Worse, the view of downtown Seattle was nondescript. I was looking out at a parking lot. It could have been in any state. Not my fantasy. I grabbed the phone and made my move. "Hello,  uh, um...I'm not happy. I was promised a room with a view. We're talking 2000 miles I will have traveled (shuttle buses, trains, cabs, planes), and this is my last night in Washington. I'm looking at clunky cars, cars, cars." A pregnant pause. No words were exchanged. I continued on my mission to change this mix-up. I couldn't stop like a runaway train. 
"I have a digital camera in my hands," I darted. "I wonder if I snap a photo and post it on the Internet if it would go viral?" Silence is golden. 
Tripping around the city was fun but so was chilling
After all, this hotel claims it has four stars, I was told I would have a superb room on a superb high floor with a view. And the Pike Place within minutes away? Not true. We're talking blocks and blocks away. Plus, it was raining. Nothing news breaking in Seattle but really who would want to take a trek in the harsh elements?  After dishing sarcasm with sweetness, and promised that something would be done to make it better, I heard a knock on my hotel room door. I was escorted across the street by the bell dude--we were en route to the bigger, better sister hotel. And up we went: 7, 10, 15, 24, 28th floor.  He promised me I would be happy and I was clueless to great expectations.

ENTER UTOPIA:... When I walked into the suite I was totally amazed and at a loss for words. I don't think the parking lot pic would have gone viral. But it was a thought that came to mind and maybe that is why I was treated like a princess with a super picture perfect room. Can we spell spaciousness and panoramic views? An entry way bigger than big, a living room, a study, two TVS, a gigantic bathroom with a soaking tub/shower, and the bedroom? It was a place to live for complete with a posh Coffee maker. I could live and die there if my fur kids were part of the suite deal. 

I plopped down on the bed and enjoyed the view(s). My eyes were treated to views of downtown Seattle, Elliott Bay, and surrounding mountains.  Two TVs, electronic blackout drapes (I didn't bother), doorbell, thick comforter--I had gone up to the 28th floor: Heaven. The pool was elsewhere back at the other hotel.  I didn't care.
After an hour, I did grab a cab to Pike Place overlooking Elliott Bay waterfront. Back in 2006, after a downtown Barnes and Noble book signing with geologist Jim Berkland, I escaped and went there. I found a Brittany key chain (I missed my dog); and bought a navy blue hooded sweatshirt which I later lost. It was fun, though, somewhat like Fisherman's Wharf. This time around something was missing.

I found a small tea shop and spoke to a few folks. Moved on to a chocolate place and ended up with peanut brittle. Sadly, when I opened up the small package it all fell onto the ground, much like a kid ready to lick a brand new ice cream but it falls and the cone is left. Yes, it was raining. I didn't see the fancy fish and their men tossing 'em in air. I looked out at the ferry and actually walked towards the water. Thought it would be unforgettable to take a ride but it looked choppy and there would be no sunset. I left with no regrets.

Back to the paradise room:... Knowing I had to be up at 3:00 AM for an early morning flight back to Lake Tahoe didn't leave much time to do the town. This trip showed me that I am no longer 20-something.  Back in the day, time was not an issue and I would have explored the city till leaving.  Instead, I took a bath in the sunken tub for royalty. Back to the living room/bedroom and views. Eventually, I fell asleep only to be awakened by two phone calls and a loud knock on the door. I was up, packing my bags, and preparing to depart my short affair with the Pacific Northwest.

A cab to Sea-Tac... and in desperate need of a cup of joe. Flying on a jet plane back home felt right. First to Salt Lake City, the charming airport I've grown to like (they have salt water taffy). Back to Reno-Tahoe International Airport, and on to my cabin in the mountains. The shuttle bus was crowded; young men talking about the two inches of snow the night before. I rolled my eyes realizing I was back to the megadrought reality. I missed my fur kids. My PNW had come to an end. 
Tea played a big role in my trip and
fond memories will be shared in my
forthcoming book
Pine trees always greet me on the road back home

Overall, the journey I took to Washington and British Columbia was exciting...but I wish I had stayed a bit longer. Long Beach, CA is next in line but I have not forgotten Canada. For some reason, Ontario or Victoria, B.C. may be in the cards this fall. But for now I am home.

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