No pain, no gain – Olympia WA USA

No pain, no gain
Olympia, WA

Olympia, WA


One of my readers cruelly suggested that my last story may not have been 100% truthful. I’m aghast! Ok, so a couple of details could have been slightly stretched, for example, I did nearly end up at the US border crossing, but I didn’t actually get coffee for the guards. I guess I need to add a disclaimer to the label that says something along the lines of “Contains greater than 90% truth – may contain traces of other ingredients.” Anyway, on with the saga.

I was trekking through the wild Canadian jungle the other day – er, sorry – ok, I was walking back from the hardware shop when I came across some blackberry bushes. These grow wild in vacant lots and any roadside spots missed by the city maintenance crews. The little black berries dotted amongst the foliage brought back memories of my childhood. With only a few minor scratches from the abundant thorns I secured a couple of juicy treats. Hmm – not quite how I imagined them – a sort of mix of bitter and sweet, but still worth the effort.

That’s sort of how today has gone. Nanette and I are starting our driving tour down through Washington State and Oregon. Step One – collect the hire car. I give Kirsty the address – she gives me The Look. “You do realise there’s hire car place right beside the skytrain station where we drop David. So, why did you pick one on the other side of town?” Bad start. Then, of course, there is the inevitable little glitch. This time it’s “I’m sorry Sir, we don’t have any vehicles with navigation systems.” I say it’s no problem – how hard can it be to find the US anyway? The guy looks at his boss. Both shake their heads. “Ah, we just remembered, we have a Jeep Wrangler over the road that you can have for the same price. It’s really for a ‘younger guy’, but it has a GPS.”

In half an hour we’re on the Step Two and rolling up to the border crossing. Guard guy looks at the car. He looks at me. He chuckles, and sends us inside to complete the usual paperwork. To our surprise, we get through the border in about half an hour, which I think is a personal best for us. Now, on to Bellingham for lunch and then we’ll be off to our first B&B.

Step Three. When we leave Bellingham our new GPS friend tells us that we’ll arrive at our destination at 4:43. We’re amazed at how this little machine can be so accurate. We trundle down the I5 enjoying a peaceful Friday afternoon. The traffic is a bit heavy, and our urban assault vehicle does have a little more wind noise than we’re used to when we reach highway speed, but that’s all fine. Then – we hit the Seattle Factor.

Apparently, everyone in North America knows that you don’t take the I5 through Seattle on a Friday afternoon. They all know it because they’re all on the road with us today. We already knew that everything is big in the US, so we shouldn’t have been surprised to find that they don’t do ‘small traffic jams’. It takes us three hours to grind our way along the ‘freeway’ in from the north, and back out to the south. To keep ourselves sane, we play that little game where you pick a distinctive looking car or truck in the next lane and see if you can inch ahead of them. Sadly, I realise that other people are using the ‘grey Jeep with the old guy at the wheel’ for the same purpose.

When we finally reach Olympia, we’re two hours behind schedule. The GPS directs us through suburbia and off down smaller and smaller lanes. At last, we arrive at our home for the night. The place is set on the side of a hill looking out over a beautiful inlet. As we walk onto the back deck, a bald eagle flies past as if on queue, followed by a small flock of honking geese. Like the blackberries, you really appreciate something if you’ve had to work for it.

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