As I mentioned in a recent post, our family made a short trip to Seattle to visit family. We went prepared for cloudy skies and rain. We saw the beautiful portrait that nature had prepared for us – under blue, sunny skies. We were conquered by the vitality of the land.
After all our efforts to add our known traveler numbers to our accounts, we did not get Precheck access at DFW. After several years of using the priority lines through Precheck, it felt rather odd to stand in the regular lines. DFW airport without Precheck on a Friday evening is a nightmare. For some reason, there was only one open security line. It took about 35 minutes and travelers complaining about missing flights before the supervisor came on the scene and opened up a few more lines. It went from a blue TSA uniform here and there to a beehive of activity in blue in a matter of minutes. Why that hadn’t been the case all along was beyond my comprehension. But all’s well that ends well and we were on our way.
I enjoyed my maiden flight on Alaska Airlines. The overhead bins had more depth and we were able to stow luggage on its side. Seemed to be better use of space. There was plenty of leg room and Mr. JJ was definitely happy about that. Service was courteous and efficient. I liked that the flight attendants came asking for trash often and were separating trash from recycling. Alaska Airlines is heavily invested in several technologies to remain fuel-efficient while also focusing heavily on recycling. Did you know that Alaska Airlines was named the most fuel-efficient domestic carrier for the seventh year in a row in 2017?
Seattle was cold when we touched down but meeting up with family helped warm us up! We went to bed a little concerned about how to manage our plans for the following day. The forecast predicted rain and our plans involved outdoor activities. Oh well, que sera, sera!
Saturday morning found us staring at towering conifers and cloudy skies but at least it wasn’t raining. Girding our loins, we decided to proceed with our plans.
First up, touring the tulip festival in Skagit (pronounced Ska-jit) valley, located about 60 miles north of Seattle. The tulips were in full bloom and if the weather held, it would be a great time to visit. Per the website, we had to get there early since weekends attracted heavy crowds. There are two main areas where the tulips can be viewed in all their magnificence, Tulip Town and Roozengaarde. Each grower has about a million tulip bulbs or more. Each one charges admission fee of $7 per person, children 5 and under are free. Admission includes free parking in their individual facilities. Portable toilet facilities are available on site. Food and coffee were also available but we didn’t stop to taste. Cash and credit cards are both accepted.
We reached town and stopped at the Tulip office to gather more information. There was an ATM near the office as well as a farmer’s market that day with food and flowers. We followed the map the office gave us and it took us about 15 mins to get to the tulip area (we got lost a bit). The two gardens are spread far apart from each other, so it is necessary to travel by vehicle. On single lane roads which means slow-moving traffic. We planned to visit only the first of the two gardens. Roozengaarde was the first on our route. So we pulled in to their parking lot and made our way to the garden.
I have visited bluebonnets in Texas and been to many botanical gardens. But somehow, this unique field of tulips, in a valley surrounded by distant mountains, a bright blue sky, wide open spaces all around us, a sharp whipping wind and a sea of colorful blooms just took my breath away. For the next hour, we went from field to field, ensorcelled by tulips of all varieties and colors, brilliant red, yellow, white, orange, purple, pink, magenta, rows and rows of the them, standing proudly under the noon sun.
All around the garden, adults, kids and everyone in between stood posing for picture after picture. There must have been a million or more photos clicked in that garden, just in that one hour!
An hour later, somewhat reluctantly we left the colorful garden and the fresh air. The aroma of food tempted us some but we had an appointment to keep. VJJ, our nephew, had booked us a tour at the Boeing plant in Everett. And we had to be there 30 mins prior to the tour session. We had just over an hour as we left the Skagit Valley area. With no time to spare, we munched on fruits from the hotel breakfast and some snacks that we had, serendipitously, carried.
The Future of flight Aviation Center and Boeing tour can be booked online on their website. Tours are run every half hour from 8 am to 5 pm, are 90 minutes long and led by a guide. A bus takes the group to the factory where visitors can see the various Boeing planes (747, 777, 787) being assembled. Wheelchair assistance is available to those who need it. Food, drinks, camera, phones and backpacks are not allowed. Lockers are available to keep these items safe. A restaurant is available on site.
We reached the facility just past 1:30 pm and signed in for the tour. After grabbing coffee and snacks, we were ready to go on the tour. We were first led to a small auditorium where the guide introduced herself, laid out all the housekeeping rules, provided assistance for wheelchairs, etc. Visitors were encouraged to use the restrooms before the tour as none are available on the tour. A short film on Boeing later we were ready to pile into the tour bus.
The next 80 mins were a whirlwind of activity and a treasure trove of information. The Everett facility is the largest building by volume in the world. It can house the entire Disney world with 12 acres left to spare. As we left the visitor center, we vied to catch a glimpse of the Dreamlifter, the vehicle that carries parts of the Dreamliner to different facilities for assembly.
The guide gave us good information on the origin of Boeing as an aircraft manufacturer. The Boeing family is no longer involved in the ownership/operations of this company but the name stands. She talked about the land where the current facility stands in Everett and how it developed from swampy, marshy land to one of the most advanced technological plant over the years. About 30,000 employees work at this plant in three different shifts.
We took the freight elevators to the first assembly line where the 747s were being assembled. It’s quite impressive to view the assembly of an aeroplane. There are so many millions of parts, many miles of wires, of engines and wings that have to come together to create one plane.
While we enjoyed seeing the 747, the 787 Dreamliner plane stole the show, at least in my mind. I counted over 40 airlines that have sought a Dreamliner. And then we moved on to see the 777 X planes which will be one of the most efficient planes ever to fly.
This tour was well attended, the guide kept us focused and involved. Boeing ran their tour like clockwork. We saw one tour depart as we proceeded to ours and another walking to take our place as we left. There’s a bit of walking on this tour and was a good way to walk off some calories.
While not an aviation geek, I enjoyed this tour for the knowledge it provided about the birth of planes, in general. And for allowing a look into the massive amount of technology and elbow grease that goes into creating a plane.
Once back at the main visitor center, we spent the next hour enjoying the Aerospace Gallery which is included in the admission fee. The Gallery is home to wonderful aviation paintings, the photo booth, various exhibits, a space station replica, a flight simulator amongst other things.
Leaving the facility, we made a quick stop at Whidbey Coffee in Mukilteo for some recharging brew and some evening snacks. And then it was onto our final stop for the evening. Snoqualmie Falls.
Located about an hour’s drive away from Mukilteo, Snoqualmie Falls drop dangerously fast and powerfully over 270 feet. A huge part of the life of the tribes that once called this land their home, these falls have become a huge attraction locally and with good reason.
When we reached the parking lot, there were few cars and it was drizzling lightly. Despite this, we had a wonderful visit to the falls. We took the overhead pass to reach the observation decks. Both the upper and lower decks were open and accessible. There is an underground power plant, still working with original generators from 1890s. In good weather, there is a hike from the observation deck to the power plant and beyond. But with rain threatening, we did not do the hike.
The sound of the rushing water, the sheer power of the falling waters, the enigma of the rising mist, the sting of the drizzle on our faces, the natural enchantment of the environs, all came together to create a soothing, mystical quality to our visit. I thought about how small and insignificant these falls would have made the original settlers feel, standing near its base and completely awed by its majesty and strength.
As we drove away for the evening, I ruminated on the first day spent in Seattle. The weather had cooperated. We had experienced a bit of everything: lovely tulips on land, marvelous airplanes that will soon soar and the sheer magnetism of water.
Couldn’t have asked for a better start to the trip! I kept my fingers crossed that the weather would the following day as well.