Stephen

Seattle…On the Road Again

Ian and I had a great flight back from Tokyo.  My first thought in answering questions from all of my family here was that there was lots of entertainment on the flight…  The fun began with this safety video that everybody should watch, regardless of whether or not you ever plan to fly on an airplane.  Be safe.
Seattle, U.S.A.
My sense of wonderment and hilarity had risen to a fever pitch by the end of the safety video, and I was happy that Ian was there to share the excitement of the experience, because I did not see any other passengers on the airplane who seemed to appreciate it.  After the video, Ian and I played a multiplayer game that was kind of like checkers.  We played for an hour or so before we settled into a rhythm of watching movies.  This lasted for about six hours until we were descending into Seattle.  It was wall to wall entertainment on NWA flight 296.  When we arrived in Seattle just before 7a.m. we had beautiful dark orange views of Mt. Rainier and other less-important mountains as we landed.  It was 23 degrees and clear.
Once on the ground, we went through various corrals as we were herded through customs by a woman speaking to us with a microphone and a P.A. system: “U.S. citizens, please enter through the gate marked, U.S. CITIZENS.  THANK YOU.  FOREIGNERS GO THAT WAY.  U.S. Citizens, please enter through the gate marked…”  I was comparing the U.S. Customs procedures to those that I had gone through in the past year…smoky rooms and petty bribes in Syria…young Israeli guards demanding to see cash from all Muslims before allowing them to enter Israel, nice video equipment and fast entry into Thailand, electronic fingerprinting in Japan.  I decided based on my own subjective set of loose criteria that the U.S. Customs Bureau ranks near the top 1/3 of those that I have experienced in terms of speed, ease of passage and general feeling of security.  The best so far was Thailand or Japan.  The most memorable was Syria or Israel.  Though if you really want to know who the best is...check this out.
I enjoyed the videos that were playing showing fields of corn, and people saying, “Welcome..Welcome…WELCOME!…welcome…Welcome…”Welcome to the United States of America.””  Spoken first by a farmer, then a businessman, then a woman on the corner, etc. – Americans from all walks of life, welcoming people from all parts of the world to America.
Right after that, I was asked if I was carrying food.  “No sir.  Well…Just a box of chocolates.”  “Okay.”  “Have a good morning.”  “Bye.”  Home at last.  Ian and I found ourselves once again in one more of a long series of bizarre, surreal situations that had occurred during our tour.  We were really tired, waiting for our bicycles to appear from out of a wall in an underground baggage claim room lit by fluorescent lights at 7a.m.  For us it felt like negative 7a.m. or something even weirder after not sleeping on the airplane and after watching some really strange movies while in flight.  We had also watched the Delta Safety Video as well as the orange views of Mt. Rainier while arriving.  All was followed up by the “Welcome to the United States” video courtesy of the Customs Bureau.  The result of all of this was a sort of euphoric daze in which I found myself not really caring if my bike ever showed up at all.  Really I was just hoping for some sort of closure one way or another so that I could go rest soon.  I was in America.
Once almost everyone else was gone, and Ian and I were practically alone with a couple of guards and a Delta employee, the bikes made their appearance from the wall.  Ian and I hugged each other and said a quick goodbye.  I gave him a postcard and a can of Final Fantasy XIII Elixir drink that I had picked up in Japan.  He continued on toward his home in Denver.
I surrendered my bicycle box again.  I did not quite understand why this had to happen, but the lone Delta employee told me that I would have to pick it up at baggage claim upstairs, like she had told me just a minute ago.  “Okay.”  “Bye Ian!”
After 30 minutes of sitting on a chair in the sun upstairs at a different Delta baggage carousel, at a different wall, catching a sort of a half nap, with my head between my knees, sitting on a chair with sun coming through the glass of the airport, I was the only one left from from NWA296.  My bike appeared once again after I had been there for 40 minutes.  I took a shuttle to meet my aunt Betsy in downtown.  It was 10:30a.m. or so.  I was in Seattle again.
***
The arrival in Seattle has been good.
Seattle has sort of a subrail/bus system!  Trains and busses share these underground tubes in an interesting kind of underground warren of public transportation whose likes I have not seen anywhere else in the world.  Strange and cool.
The highlight of this trip has been, without a doubt, family.  My trip began with seeing my aunt Betsy, and then later the same day, her husband David.  Soon thereafter, I reunited with my long-lost cousin Noel.  Noel would not tell you that she is long-lost, though I had not seen her for several years, and it was great to reconnect!  She and her boyfriend Maged joined Betsy, David and me for dinner in Belltown (one of Seattle’s districts (sectors?) and then the following day she showed me around Fremont, where she lives.  She took me to a statue of Lenin (Vladimir Lenin that is…not to be confused with John Lennon, of whom I do not believe statues are made).  They really have a statue of Lenin there.  We also saw a missile statue in Fremont and then we saw a troll statue underneath the George Washington Memorial Bridge (or the Aurora Bridge) in Seattle.  I believe that we must have seen the highlights of Seattle that day.  If not, then Seattle really has some mind-blowing things that I have not-yet seen!  It was great to see Noel once again.
 Noel Allen and the Aurora Bridge in Seattle
Betsy and David have lived in Seattle for a long time.  Betsy is the sister of my mother Susan, and works as an aide for a city councilman here.  David works for Boeing.
I have been continually impressed by their lifestyle during my stay at their apartment.  Both of them awake at a horrendously early hour each morning in order to catch busses to go to work, where they usually put in ten hour days before catching busses to get back home.  On the rare occasions when they do need a car, they drive things called Zip Cars.  I don’t even know what Zip Cars are, but they are definitely amazing.  Zip Cars are controlled by iPhones.
During the past month before arriving in Seattle, a big cause for excitement has been a party that Betsy and David organized for Seize The World.  The party was a celebration for the bicycle tour which was organized to bring together people who might have an interest in epilepsy or cycling.  The party happened on Monday night and it was a wild success.
My family in Seattle, post-party: Rob, Marcia, Betsy, Me, David, Graef, Susan, George
There were lots of people at the Spitfire Grill, where Betsy had set things up, and we showed video and slides.  It was the biggest presentation that has happened, to date, for Seize The World, and though it was not organized as a fund raiser, it succeeded nonetheless in producing a great deal of funding to help us to continue to promote the idea that people with epilepsy can lead active lifestyles and to help us to raise awareness about what it is like to live with seizure disorder.  It also helps us to fight epilepsy directly by funding research to cure epilepsy.  In short, the Seize The World Celebration was a wild success!  Major thanks to Betsy and David for putting it together and also to everybody who attended and gave support!
Here's a bizarre story - James Lobb is a cyclist who I met in New Mexico more than a year ago while heading out to SC.  He is now in Seattle and heard about the party by chance, and turned out with his girlfriend Brooke to celebrate!  Thanks for coming to say hi - check out http://lobbadventures.blogspot.com/ for James' story of his own cross country bicycle touring adventure!!
[side story: James Lobb is a bicycle tourist who I met in New Mexico more than a year ago.  I was east-bound, James was west-bound…he found out about the Seattle party by chance, and came to check it out.  He and his girlfriend Brooke are also considering a bicycle tour of the California coast in the near future.  They also took the party balloons from the STW party with them at the end of the night! go to lobbadventures.blogspot.com/ to read about James’ bicycle touring adventures.  [end of side story.]]
As I make my way home across the United States, there will be more appearances/slide shows/video presentations.  I am working with an epilepsy foundation in Boise, ID to arrange something right now, and there is potential to make things happen in other cities along the way as well.  Stay tuned here for updates.  I am really happy that Monday night was a great success – great to experience something like that after a long time of touring in what is, largely, a solitary experience.
This is the view from Betsy and David's apartment in Seattle...pretty cool.
***
Looking toward the road ahead, my route takes me south from Seattle to Portland, then east to Boise, and from there on a diagonal SE line toward my home in Telluride.  I will pass through the cities of Salt Lake City and Moab en route to Telluride.  The trip will be roughly 1,400 miles long, and I will be getting home in early February assuming that all goes according to plan and assuming that the weather, road conditions, etc. cooperate.  Keep checking back here for more information!
Thanks for your interest and support with the project.
Stephen
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