Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy 2013 Everyone!

Happy New Year! 

More Rider Chronicle posts to come in 2013.  Be safe and enjoy!

Your friends from the Rider Chronicles,  

Liz and Jamie

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

7 Days until Christmas

by Liz

Whoa, only one week until Christmas!  That is crazy cool!  I’m more excited than Frosty after a blizzard.  Sharing the joys of Christmas Spirit all around is just one of the many things I love about this Magical time of year.  Others include, caroling, presents (giving and receiving, yo!), Christmas music, gatherings with loved ones (even if by Skype), and the movies… I love Christmas movies.  The classics and the made for T.V. guilty pleasures that invade the small screen each year.

So, before I list out my top ten Christmas movies, I’ll tie in a little ‘Rider’ Christmas tale.  In 1985 Chris Van Allsburg wrote a Christmas story for young children that was made into a movie in 2004, The Polar Express.  I feel the main reason that I’m drawn to this book/movie is that the Author sets the beginning of the book in his home town of Grand Rapids, MI.  That just happens to be my home town too! Like most grand adventures that happen in books, the character makes a questionable call.  In the Polar Express, a young boy decides to board a strange train that happens to stop outside his house on Christmas Eve.  Northward bound on the way to the North Pole, where a few other children in their PJ’s get to see Santa and thousand of Elves as they prepare for the busy night ahead.    The journey/ride is a magical one where kids who are in the realm of questioning the belief in Santa get a chance to see and truly believe.  How brilliant would that be to get to go on that adventure?

However, even though The Polar Express is dear to me, it does not make my top ten Christmas movie list.   It’s hard to pick an all time favorite.  Each of these ten mean so much to me in different ways. So, in no particular order here they are with their year of release and a bit of why I love them.

1.     White Christmas,  1954: Bing Crosby singing White Christmas gets me every time.  This classic is a Morris family favorite and one that I’ve seen a million times over and love more and more each time.  Snow, Snow, Snow… Sisters… great songs as well.  Who does not love Danny Kaye’s comedic overtone, Rosemary Clooney’s lovely voice and Vera-Ellen’s dance moves.  Magical.
2.     It’s A Wonderful Life, 1946: Not only is Frank Capra’s film a classic American Standard, the story is known around the world and still rings true as one of the most watched Christmas movies of all time.  It’s a win win for me, the movie features my all time favorite actor James (Jimmy Stewart) and his character of George Baily shows an amazing depth on the human emotion.  Of course the scene where Jimmy and Donna Reed’s character Mary are dancing over the gym floor that is opening over the pool is classic!
3.    Love Actually, 2003: This modern classic is amazing and I love every bit of it.  The stories that collide in and out for the many characters in London around Christmas.  Not only does this one make my top ten Christmas movies, it makes my top ten all time favorite movies.  Love + Christmas + Colin Firth + Liam Neeson = Perfect!
4.    The Christmas Shoes, 2002: a movie based on a New Song song, that has been made into series of books and movies.  This one gets on the list because it’s a special one for me and my Mom.  We love this movie and series and cry our eyes out every time we see it.
5.    Little Women, 1994: Again, not exactly a Christmas movie, but one I love watching at Christmas time.  The classic story of four sisters during the Civil War era and their journey of family and love is a memorable one for me. 
6.    The Family Stone, 2005: If you’ve ever heard me spout out ‘Hold the phone!’ you can thank this movie for giving me that one.  This family tale is a guilty pleasure that is a must see for me every year!
7.     The Christmas Card, 2006: This made for TV movie made my list because of it’s gentle soul and lovely story.  It’s not a big production and as most of my family and friends know I’m a sucker for the Hallmark movies, so it’s not that big of a surprise. 
8.     Meet Me in St. Louis,  1944: Not an all around Christmas Movie per say, this Judy Garland gem touches on all four seasons for the Smith Family living in St. Louis leading up to the 1904 World’s Fair.  This great movie is where we first get the Christmas classic song Have Yourself a Merry Christmas. 
9.   A Very Brady Christmas, 1988: Words cannot describe how awesome this movie is.  It gains more and more awesomeness with dipping into the Holiday Spirits, if you get my drift.  A family reunion of sorts from the popular sitcom brings the Brady family together for Christmas.  Mr. and Mrs. Brady enjoy a Gift of the Magi moment in the first half and family love that will have you keep on keep on keep on dancing all through the night.
10. Home Alone, 1990:  How could I not love this movie, eight year old Kevin gets left home alone at Christmas whilst his family is in Paris.  Every kid’s dream/nightmare.  Reason enough for me to have a connection with this film is that I too was eight years old when it came out and remember going to Studio 28 to watch this with the family.  Granted I think I was the only one that really loved it. 

That’s it… my top ten Christmas Movie List.   I’d love you to leave some comments below and share your favorites.  That or you can post on Facebook it is easier. 

Merry Christmas to All!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Smashed Finger, Boo!

by Liz

Riding has been more than eventful these past few weeks.  I’ve been having trouble riding the bus to work more than 2-3 days a week these days.  However, that will change soon enough, mostly because the early bird lot that I park in raised their rates yet again.  It’s only a $1 increase, but that is enough.  Last week I had two memorable rides that I will share with you. 

As you may gather from my post last week, I’m a wee bit Jolly about Christmas.  I love this time of year!  Thanks to my roommate Kelli, who scored sneak preview passes to Hyde Park on Hudson meant a change of route.  After work, I headed to the downtown core on one of the many buses outside work that heads that way.  As all buses seem to be these days, over crowded it was a treat to listen to two men loudly discuss their opinions on film.  Specifically how they both love and loathed Film Noir.   It was so exciting I cannot contain my elation!  Getting off at Pine and 3rd, I exited with almost the whole bus, as most were headed to Westlake to get onto another transit to continue their commute.

I however, enjoyed the walk a few blocks towards Pacific Place.  Walking through Downtown this time of year is wonderful.  All the window displays of winter wonderlands, the lights on every street corner, massive decorated Christmas Tree, street performers playing Christmas music, and SANTA!!!!  I love walking by Nordstroms this time of year, where you can watch through the window all the kiddies, excited or a wee bit scared get on Santa’s lap and ask for their Christmas wishes.  Also, I got to experience my first snow fall of the season.  Granted it was a indoor snow show that happens every day at 6pm inside Pacific Place.  Magical!

Snow falling at Pacific Place

The next night’s commute home was way less magical, but just as eventful.  After waiting for the Rapid Ride to arrive for 20 minutes mind you… Those things are supposed to come every 10 minutes.  Which I was waiting for because I missed the on time express bus that leaves right when I get off.  So if I don’t have my ‘stuff’ together then I’m out of luck and have to wait until the next one at 5:18 or try for the Rapid Ride D line.  It was a cold December night standing at the bus stop, consolation was that it was dry.  Anyhoo, the D line was coming and so was the express so I ran over to the other stop to get the express (it really is much faster if leaving at the same time).  

Stepping onto the full bus, I was greeted by a friendly lady driver.  It was nice to meet her smile.   Standing in the front part of the aisle, there was about a dozen people standing, but it was not as crowded as other bus rides have been lately.  The final stop had two more souls embark before the bus made it’s way along the bus lane on Elliot. 

Standing there as I streamed the Christmas channel from Pandora on my phone, I noticed that holding onto the top bar was more difficult with my gloves.  They were a little thick and made it hard to grip as well as my hands sliding around on the chrome bar.  However, with one hand up holding on, I managed to get my other hand up to brace myself as the bus slammed hard on it’s breaks.  I saw the two folks standing in front of me smash into each other and braced myself as the lady behind me crashed into me.  Thank you Mr. Car for pulling out in front of a bus going the speed limit in the bus lane.  I smashed my right pointer finger (boo) and was happy to report that was the only injury.  The bus driver was in good spirits about it and wished us all a safe evening as we disembarked. 

With the cold and dark December weather, I may find it hard to ride in as much as I had been.  Also, the need to run errands and enjoy festive happenings after work makes having a vehicle on hand easier.  However, if I manage to ride in two days a week I know that will save some money and energy.  I just might have to buy new gloves with traction to grip the handrails with more ease.  As a lover of winter scarfs, hats, and gloves that will be such a hard task for me to handle, but I'll manage.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Twelve days of Rider Christmas

By Liz

With only 21 days until Christmas, the most magical time of the year, I thought I would bring you a little song to get you in the spirit.  Okay, maybe it is not the most spirited rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas, but it is very Rider Chronicles-ish.  Try not to singing it as you read it too, I dare you! :O)  Yay Christmas!

On the Twelfth day of Christmas, King County Metro gave to me…
Twelve Riders Reading
Eleven People Standing
Ten Dudes-a-Coughing
Nine Ladies Laughing
Eight Drivers Honking
Seven Folks-a-Swearing
Six Babies Crying
Five Minutes Late
Four iPhones Ringing
Three Transfers Making
Two Toes Stepped On
And a One Bus Away App

Happy Christmas! 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Run Run Rudolph!!!

Holiday travel is amongst us...  Our friend Jeremy, seasoned traveler has some inside tips that might just make your travels a wee less McCallister's running through O'Hara in Home Alone.  Thanks Jeremy for sharing these great tips!

By Jeremy

Seven days—one whole week—spent in the air this year. Breaking it down a bit more; that’s 81,000 miles on forty-two flights in seventeen different airports spread over three continents. Not half bad.
Of course, you don’t fly that much and not learn a few tricks to pass on. With the holiday travel season fast approaching, here are a few tips and tricks:
-Checking in:
                -Almost every airline now offers online check-in.  Use it to print tickets and sometimes even luggage labels at home and save time…but beware to read the fine print: some airlines consider online check-in to be your way of saying you’re at the airport even if you aren’t (which means if you miss your flight and checked in from home they may not owe you anything). So don’t run late.
                -Some airports have multi-airline ticket kiosks in parking garages and transit stations. They save tons of time and are often underused. Some examples are Las Vegas McCarran and Seattle-Tacoma airports.
                  -Make sure you check your carriers policy on checked bags and any fees before coming to the airport. It’s not fun having to leave stuff behind. Also, know your destination airport code and try to check the label before your bag disappears. For example SJU (San Juan PR) and SJO (San Jose CA) are one letter yet thousands of miles apart.
-Those dastardly security lines:
-Place things you’ll have to remove from luggage like laptops, liquids & gels, etc in easy to access locations in your bags: nothing more frustrating than to watch someone tear apart a bag in the middle of the line while holding everyone up.
-If wearing a coat place items like cell phones, keys, and wallets in the pockets. When the coat comes through the scanner, slip it on and walk away instead of fumbling through the bin.
-Wear footwear that slips on and off easily. If that isn’t an option, loosen up (but don’t untie) your shoestrings so they can slip on in a hurry.
-Don’t like the body-scanners? Check out other security lines in the airport and see if one has the scanners turned off…usually there’s at least one. Or see if you qualify for TSA-Pre.
-Check things that you know will bring extra attention and don’t bring things aboard you know you shouldn’t. Most airports have a little exhibit showcasing things that have been confiscated at security…it’s unbelievable.
-Boarding/Overhead bins:
-You’ve probably seen it… the person sitting by themselves in a row, feet stretched out comfortably under their seat, while the luggage bin over the row—your row—is already full with their roll-on, briefcase, coat, wet umbrella, and shoes. Don’t be that guy. The overhead bin is for your largest carry-on; not everything you own. The rest goes under the seat. Doing otherwise isn’t fair to everyone else boarding after you. But, if you’re one of the lucky last ones on the plane and see coats and purses gunking up the bins you can politely ask surrounding passengers whose stuff it is. Usually they’ll fess up and take it back. Not comfortable doing that?...ask a flight attendant. Most will try to take care of it for you.
-If you want to board first, buy a ticket in first class! Now that we’re done laughing…for the majority of us stuck back in steerage there can be a few strategies, but they’re sort of hardcore. First, many airlines have monetized early boarding. For a little bit extra you can get boarding group one, for example, on Delta. Check with your carrier. Second, if you’ve got an airline credit card you might qualify. If you’ve got good credit and are in the market for more (think carefully before opening credit), consider an airline-based card if you travel more than 10k per year. Three, you can check how airlines board their planes. A little searching will usually find a frequent-flyer forum board describing the logic (or lack thereof); sometimes the airline posts it on their website. Book your seat accordingly.
-Alright, so we joked about buying first class…but there is increasingly a middle ground that can be surprisingly affordable: premium economy. This new offering usually offers a little more legroom and early boarding. Some add additional perks such as free booze and food and expedited security lines.  American, Delta, jetBlue, Frontier, United, and Virgin America all have premium economy options. Upgrade costs per flight can range from $20 to well over $200 depending on carrier and distance flown. I’ve flown almost all of them and while Virgin America has the best by far I’ve only purchased an upgrade with my own money on Delta’s Economy Comfort.
-While flying:
-Keep your seat belt on when you’re seated. A) If you fall asleep and the fasten seatbelt light comes on the crew won’t wake you up. B) Dangerous turbulence can happen out of nowhere without warning. You wouldn’t want to end up like Stewie Griffin. C) In the extremely unlikely event of a rapid decompression resulting in the ceiling ripping off, you’ll be a little less likely to go with it.
-Keep hydrated…seriously. Those airplanes get dry fast. If you like a little liquor when you fly, definitely make sure to compliment it with water.
-Having a small stash of clean wipes with a high alcohol percentage are a great idea. Wipe down the tray and in the seatback pocket – and the armrests. Lots of pleasant bacteria and germs live there.
-The bathroom? time to use it is right before the credits roll on a movie.

And of course there are the super fun delay and cancellation questions…so a few quick ones:

Q: We've been sitting around on the runway for hours. Isn't there a rule about having to let us off eventually?
A: Yes there is...and it's three hours by law.

Q: We finally came back to the gate, and then the flight got cancelled. The next available flight isn't until tomorrow. Do I get a free hotel room?
A: Only if it's the airlines fault. And sometimes not even then. If your cancellation was caused by weather, act of God, or an idiot passenger who won't turn off their cell are out of luck. If it was because a crew timed out or the plane was broken then maybe. But even if the airline offers hotel rooms they won't likely give you one unless you ask.

Q: Well what about flying me home on another airline?
A: Airlines used to do this to be nice. Some still do, but others - like Southwest and Spirit - do not. It’s their choice.

Q: I ended up taking the first flight out the next morning, but it was oversold and I got involuntarily bumped. Do I get money?
A: Almost certainly, but only if you're flying a US carrier and only if it was involuntary. Most airlines will preempt this though and offer vouchers first, so if you took an airlines offer to get bumped in exchange for a free bag of pretzels thinking they’ll also cut you the check at the gate you’ll be sadly mistaken.  Otherwise, how much money ($650-$1300) you get depends on how long you wind up stuck at the airport. If you do get hosed, take the cash...many vouchers have travel restrictions: cold hard cash has none.

Q: Finally home, but now my bag is missing…what do I do?
A: First, no matter what, DO NOT leave the airport until you’ve tracked down an employee from your airline and file a missing bag claim (same thing applies if your bag comes back damaged). Demand a copy of it to take home with you and take down the employees name whom you submitted it to. Second, the airline will want an itemized list of everything that was in the bag. Think long and hard about what was in it – and better yet take a picture of it before you leave. Sounds crazy, until you need it. Third, be patient but proactive. Lost bags are not an airlines top priority, so you sometimes have to push them into finding it for you. If the airline ultimately declares it lost for good they owe you some dough…about $3300 per bag regardless of what was inside it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


by Liz

With Thanksgiving this week, I thought it would be a good idea to share what this Rider is thankful for in the context of… well, riding.  I have particularly been down on riding as of late.  Happier with driving in than riding the bus it might be hard to come up with a thankful list, but I’ll just look to the quote that is on my cubical wall this week.  “There is always, always, always something to be thankful for.”  Sure! Yeah! You betcha!  No, really there is always something to be thankful for, even when bleak feels more comfortable.  
As a rider, I am thankful for…
1.     Bus drivers… some are more considerate than others, but most are generous and kind with their customer service  and getting a bus load of people safely from point A to B. 

2.     Bus adventures with friends… it could be a planned one or a ride on the same line with a friend after a Happy Hour tryst.  It is fun to chat and enjoy the adventure with some good company.

3.     Wi-Fi on the D line… the tech geek in me is happy when I can connect with the Wi-Fi’s hot spot to browse on Pinterest during my ride without draining my battery over 3G connections.  I know!  I am such a nerd!

4.    Reading… Like Jamie posted about the opportunity read more while riding the bus or waiting for it to come.  I too have been able to read a few more books in the past 6 months with the extra wait/ride time.  Yay books!

5.    Green… I am happy to do my part to help lessen the carbon footprint.  Riding gives me the opportunity to increase my part. 

6.    Savings… parking adds up, even with the smallish amount that I drive in to work I feel I have to justify paying for parking when riding the bus is a free-ish task. 

7.    Community… riding gives me the experience to meet more people in this rainy city.  It is so wonderful watching people be kind and generous to each other. 

8.    Bus lanes… when traffic is bad and I’m on the bus passing all the folks in their cars, I’m thankful that I should not be too late for work :O)

9.    Walks to and from the bus stop… sometimes up to a mile, the walk helps clear my head and is part of my commute.  I truly enjoy it (when it is not too windy or wet or cold or dark or…) I try to truly enjoy it when I can. 

10.  Blogging… I am thankful for the past 5 months of posting stories with my friend Jamie and sharing them with you.  It is an odd platform, but it works for a couple of odd ladies. 
I hope you all have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving and everyday.  On top of being a thankful Rider, as a thankful lady I would like to add a few personal notes…  I am thankful for my family, friends, friends that have become family, job, home, and life.  Life is pretty darn good and that is fan-freakin’-tastic!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Ecalyptus Fun Fact Adventure

Thanks again to our guest poster Jeremy for his three part series from Africa and around the globe.   We'll always welcome more stories from his exciting adventures in and out of Seattle.  As we wrap up this third installment, Jamie and I will see you next week for some more rider chronicles encounters. 

We did eventually arrive to our planned destination, albeit forty minutes late. A representative from the company and I were supposed to get started and work on some B-roll footage promptly at nine. By the time we took care of paperwork and got the OK from security (I was filming at the airport), it was already well past ten. Things didn’t get much easier from there. A security officer was attached to our group of two. Restrictions on what I could and couldn’t photograph were tight and tightly enforced – despite being told before coming out that I’d have free reign to shoot whatever I wanted. It was certainly strange because otherwise I could pretty much do or go wherever I wanted: Walk on the wing of an airplane?; No problem. Go behind the scenes of the baggage area?; Sure. Climb up a ten story ladder to the top of a hangar?; Done. Take a picture with a person in it?; Don’t even think about it. Putting the final nail into the coffin, no one wanted to talk on the record: story = dead on arrival. Very frustrating, but the experience was still pretty cool.
The tour of the field was followed by a whirlwind tour of the city; up to nearby Mt. Entoto and back. The mountaintop, with its sweeping views of the city, is a twenty-minute drive from downtown, again giving me a good opportunity to see the city and a very brief snippet of more rural life. The driver took us along a more scenic route stopping by the National Museum, University of Addis, and a bunch of the big squares – many of which commemorated significant milestones in the countries history.
The road up to the top of Entoto was an adventure in itself (notice a theme on the roads?). Herds of animals replaced the ubiquitous mini-busses found in the city, and women with bundles of eucalyptus firewood on their backs trekked down the mountain back into town (fun fact, Addis is surrounded by eucalyptus forests). The scent was understandably much more powerful than in the city, aided by a light rain that began to fall pushing the smoke down. The view from the top was spectacular with the entire valley in view; it struck me as a great place to sit and think. 
Sadly the serenity didn’t last long. Small children, usually headed by an elder sibling, began to swarm trying to sell us things. Cute as they were I also knew that while most of these groups are innocent, others take advantage; they’ll distract you with their cuteness while another one behind you swipes your bag or your wallet. Thankfully that didn’t happen, and I picked up a small souvenir. 
The rain picked up to a steady clip as we drove back down the mountain toward the airport for my flight home. The route brought us through the embassy district, which was striking. Nations like Zimbabwe seemed to have little more than a walled shack, while Qatar maintained a beautiful compound full of color and Middle Eastern accents. There was of course no mistaking the US embassy. The huge walled compound looked like it was capable of surviving just about anything. Devoid of trees or any natural aesthetic value it looked large and imposing. It made a lot more sense why we’re often perceived as such aboard. 
Sipping a Coke at an airport Café, rain pelting the glass exterior, I began to try to ingest the overload of new experiences good and bad I’d had in only twenty-four hours. Perhaps most interesting to me was the level of insulation you could have in a country with an average annual income per capita of about $500USD. Here I was sitting in an airport café about to board an airplane whose ticket cost was more than most people I saw will make in a year. I stayed in a hotel that was literally walled off from the rest of the neighborhood, and who’s amenities most folks can only dream about. Most of my time experiencing the city was from the back seat of a private vehicle.
While the short trip was exhilarating, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed that I hadn’t taken the few chances I had to venture out into town and connect more meaningfully. Hindsight is 50/50 though, and considering that I didn’t wind up in an international political thriller, didn’t get lost or mugged, and otherwise got a safe introduction to a whole different world – I’d say it went just fine. A short adventure, but an adventure none the less.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Horn of Africa

Week two of special guest blogger Jeremy... Jamie and I are happy to highlight such an amazing writer and world traveler.  We're also happy to take a little time off too!  Here is part two of three. 

Sleep eventually came as my adrenaline rush converted over into a system crash. Somewhere around six in the morning I awoke to the sounds of Muslim morning prayer wafting loudly across the neighborhood. This struck me as a bit odd as Ethiopia is predominantly a Christian nation – unique these days in the Horn of Africa – but it was cool to hear it live. Half dressed I threw on some clothes and went out to the balcony. 
Throwing open the curtains I got my first good look at the city. Needless to say what I saw reflected what I already knew; Ethiopia wasn’t exactly rolling in it. Larger buildings—many of which appeared to have seen better days—sporadically jutted up above an ocean of scrappy residential shacks. All but the biggest roads were largely unpaved. Rays of sunlight split through low hanging clouds of smoke rising up from homes and alley-ways – breakfast in the making. Things seemed to be moving slowly with the pace of an early Saturday morning.
After a short cat nap, shower, and breakfast I made my way down to the lobby. Getting lucky again, the front desk informed me that the folks I was there to see had scheduled a van to pick me up at 8am. Friends had told me to expect something they referred to as African time, which is to say expect everything to run late and take longer than you’d expect. At first I dismissed it as a tongue-in-cheek jeer, but it turned out to be true. Instead of 8am, the van actually showed up around 8:45am, setting a pattern for the remainder of the day.
The ride to my destination wasn’t quite as death-defying as the one the night before, but it was still harrowing: three traffic lanes turned into four or five and the honking continued unabated. Dozens of blue-striped minibuses (the unofficial mass-transit system) cruised along-side of us, their navigators hawking destinations and scouting for riders. Federal police officers directed traffic in the biggest squares and intersections, but otherwise it was everyone for himself. Despite the seeming chaos it somehow worked (though it is worth noting that World Health ranked the nation twelfth in traffic fatalities in the world).
The ride was a good first glance at life in the city too. First impressions?...busy, crowed but not in a NYC sort of way, and utilitarian. Streets and alley-ways were filled with just about everything you can imagine: heavy-trucks full of watermelons to tiny cabs, goat herds with shepherds to women carrying firewood down from the hills. It may have been easier to think up stuff you didn’t see. Store fronts were littered with Coca-Cola signs and sold goods ranging from live animals to cell phone cases. Squares often featured open-markets selling anything and everything you could imagine. 
Many of the buildings, larger government ones in particular, appeared to have been built in the 1970s and 80s and bore a resemblance to architecture one might find in the old Soviet states. If my guess is right it wouldn’t be coincidence; Ethiopia served as a Soviet ally under a repressive communist regime during that time. Really old buildings bore hallmarks of Italian influence, a product of the late 1930s occupation. Aside from a few scattered new projects in various stages of completion, the rest of the city was comprised of the shack sea. Most were made from what looked to be combinations of sheet metal, wood, and whatever else was locatable; some were larger and made of concrete. In any case, it made the oft-maligned public housing in the US look rosy.
All that to soak in and it was still only 9:30 in the morning. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Around the Globe

This week Jamie and I are happy to welcome guest blogger and co-worker/friend Jeremy.  Very fitting for the Rider Chronicles, Jeremy writes about a recent trip to Ethiopia.  Check out part one of the three part series. 

Part I

For a capitol city at night it was surprisingly dark as the plane greased the runway in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was my first trip alone to any underdeveloped nation, and it had me a bit on edge. For one, I had only the vaguest idea of how to get to my hotel. Much more pressing however, I hadn’t registered as a journalist (I was there on assignment for a news site), and the government isn’t a fan of excessive photographic equipment (I had a lot of it). I was told by the folks who I was there to see that I didn’t need to, so instead I registered on arrival as a tourist and crossed my fingers. Predictably customs wanted to know why a tourist would be carrying $13,000 in declared photo/video equipment. Luckily five minutes of questions and a little negotiation later I got my stamp, sighing a bit in relief.

Doubly lucky, my hotel had a small kiosk at the airport and contracted a shuttle to pick me up: another sigh of relief. Stepping into a dark, diesel spewing hotel mini-bus we began a crazy drive through the darkened streets of Addis. You think taking a cab in NYC is an experience… well, NYC has nothing on Addis. I can’t recall seeing a single street sign, let alone traffic lights. Streets were dimly lit at best, and much of the city was in the throws of a brown-out that night, which left most of the city pitch black save for the occasional cooking fire. Our driver flew down straightaways, made turns on a whim, and rolled through intersections with abandon. All the while pedestrians darted across the roads barely visible. The only rule appeared to be incessant honking of the car horn, which appeared to function as a way to clear the driver of all responsibility from the action he was about to take.

Rolling into my hotel for the evening, the Hilton Addis had enough luxury to be Westernized but enough Ethiopia to not let you forget you were definitively in the third world. The hotel had a 15ft security wall topped with razor wire and electric fencing along with guards with shotguns to underscore their seriousness. Consequently Addis initially felt like being on the set of Syriana, where at any moment something might blow up and land me front and center in the plot of an international political thriller. Admittedly part of me wanted it to happen. It was terriciting, which is my new term to describe the cross between extremely exciting and terrifying.

Despite a nice room and comfortable bed it was hard to sleep. Truth be told it was mostly because I was nervous. I consider myself to be a pretty confident and adaptable person, especially when it comes to travel. I can navigate mass transit, drive in just about anything, and get by with language barriers. But this was different. It was the first time visiting a country whose primary language – Amharic – utilizes an alphabet that in no way resembled anything I could decipher. It was the first time visiting a place that didn’t have an obviously defined transit system. First time to a place where you definitely shouldn’t drink the water, or to a place where it was extremely obvious that I didn’t belong. And I was alone with a lot of very precious camera gear on me. And I had to get back to the airport for the assignment first thing in the morning.

Still, for as much as I was terricited about the coming morning, I enjoyed that first night. The ride to the hotel was wild and, now in hindsight, wildly fun. My first introductions to the country had me wondering what else was in store. I ordered a stiff drink at the bar and brought it up to my room on the fifth floor. Sitting on the balcony the air was mild and filled with the soothing scent of burning eucalyptus. No matter what happened tomorrow, at least I knew it would be interesting.

Friday, October 26, 2012

I QUIT!!!!!!!!!

By Jamie

In reading the title you might assume that I’ve either quit riding the bus or quit my job.  Though on some days I might want to do one or the other it is not what I’ve quit.  I have quit smoking.  I’ve been smoking off and on (mostly on) for 17 years.  God, that number is big, super big, but it makes me feel better that I quit.  But one of my biggest triggers is bus riding.  I’d have one on the walk to my stop or after I got off.  They really went hand in hand.  It was my little reward for doing something that was both environmentally and budget conscience.  My mom once said “If you want a bus to come light a cigarette”, so obviously I smoked when the buses ran late, to speed them up or to give me something to do while I waited. 

I have been driving to work a lot lately.  Maybe because the weather has changed, maybe because my schedule is a little more hectic, maybe because since Metro did it’s shift at the end of September my buses always seem to be packed and running really late.  But when I do ride the bus I find myself getting nervous about 1 hour before departure worrying how I’ll survive the wait with out a smoke.  Thus far I’ve survived and I do believe every day is getting easier. 

I began my reasoning for driving with Liz.  At $8.20 a pack, 3 packs(minimum) a week, that’s about $24.60.  To park daily at $5 per day, that’s $25 a week.  A total wash, right?  Of course then there is gas that I’m now spending (a measly 12 miles round trip), but then think of the time I’m saving (roughly 40 minutes a day at least), so I figure just not to calculate these factors in at all since more or less they cancel each other out. 

The $25 a week doesn’t sound bad, but I did the math and added up what it would total for a year (if I never took vacation, etc, so this is a high number) and it totals $1,279!  That number right there is a game changer!!  I was spending that on smoking a year, so there is no net loss, but seeing that number makes me realize that the bus needs to continue to be an integral part of my commute. 

My lesson is that maybe I won’t ride the bus every day (I  already allow myself to drive in on Thursdays) and I’ll still wake up, hear the rain pounding down and I’ll choose to drive.  I should start a little saving account where I put $5 for every day I ride the bus in and then give myself a fabulous shopping trip or vacation because surely there is something more exciting then leaving my car on a small slice of asphalt every day. 

OH NO!  I just realized how much listening to Waylon Jennings makes me want to sing his song with a smoke hanging out of the corner of my mouth.  Well, hopefully I-502 will pass and I can substitute.  Now you know where I stand on that!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

1892 Miles

by Liz

This past weekend my friend Charis and I were goin' down the only road I've ever known... Oh here I go again... Well, we were not singing Whitesnake's Here I Go Again at Karaoke, we were driving from Seattle down to the Bay Area for a friends wedding.  The logical thing to do was to drive the 800+ miles.  If you know me, you'll understand that it is actually logical.  I grew up going on long road trips and I am not a stranger to the open road.  Even though I was the driver, not the rider it was an adventure and I'd like to share a bit of it with you day by day by day by day.

Top Left Clockwise 1) The beautiful Oregon 2) California Baby!
3) Puny human/massive tree 4) Airing out the feet in the warm California sun.

Day 1

I need coffee now! Please!

Really this would be day 1.5.  Wednesday evening we headed down to Portland, OR to stay with Charis' sister to get a three hour chunk taken off.  The long Thursday drive.  We were off by 5:45am headed down I-5.  Before we left Oregon, a planned detour to cut over to the coast and by taking the 199 to Crescent City,  California.  Why you ask?  That is where the Redwood National Forest is located.  We took the opportunity to see the Redwoods, a first for both of us.  AMAZING!  The trees are huge and beautiful.  The drive down the 101 was not too shabby winding along the Pacific Coast.  Arriving at Charis' gracious family's home around 10pm, the 16 hour day was long, but worth it.

1) Napa Valley 2) I'm ready for wine! 3) Just down the drive... 4) Umm, yeah that is pretty!

Day 2

Napa Valley California

From our lodging in San Pablo, we headed up to Napa Valley around 9:30am to get some sight seeing in before the main event that evening.  A stop for yummy pastries at Bouchon Bakery and then a couple of wineries made for a lovely day.  The sunny beautiful 80 degree Napa Valley weather had a bit to do with that too.  Then we celebrated our friends wedding with a nice intimate wedding that was beyond beautiful.

1) Chinatown 2) Crazy Lombard Street Behind Me (right after driving down it)
3) Hang on!  4) This truly sums up the trip for me (favorite pic)

Day 3

San Francisco in a Day

Charis's Uncle was kind enough to map out a must see and easy directions on how to get around the city without spending most of the day zig zagging to the tourist destinations.  This rider was happy to report that I got to ride a famous Cable Car (not trolley, by the way, the operators will quickly correct you if you make that mistake:O).  However, as we waited in the long line for our turn to board the Cable Car, I could not get the Trolley Song out of my head.  The one that Judy Garland Sings in Meet Me In St. Louis.  Ding ding ding with the trolley, ding ding ding went the bell, zing zing zing went my heartstrings as we started for huntington dell...  Love it!  Other stops included a foggy Twin Peaks, Chinatown, zig zagging down Lombard Street (that was pretty cool), Ghiradelli Square, and the Golden Gate Bridge.  Phew!  Another long but fun and amazing day.  After a lovely dinner with Charis' Family and some friends I headed to bed for that 4:30 Good Morning call.


1) Sunrise 2) Lake Shasta 3) I changed the Pic to Mt. Shasta, originally a unflattering one of Charis Sleeping that I snapped with me smiling.  I'm a nicer friend than that:O)  4) Blue skies all the way, until Oregon and Washington...  Surprise Surprise...

Day 4

810 straight, miles that is...

5:02am the car was packed and we waved goodbye to Uncle as we headed out of San Pablo and to the I-80 then shortly on the 505 before the final road of the day I-5.  All in the wee early darkness of morning I was unable to see the palm trees as we cruised along.  I did however, listen to music to help with my attention as my passenger slept :O)  By 7:30am I as witnessing an amazing sunrise.  The drive was also as striking as the rest of the trip had been.  I've been all over this land of ours, (the United States) and it is truly a stunning place to live.  The terrain changed and Mt. Shasta amazed.  Good time was made with 14 hours after departure the sight of Seattle was getting bigger and bigger in the windshield.   Truly a whirlwind, it was a fantastic adventure.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


by Liz

Yes, FaceTime.  The Apple version of Skype, a way of talking to your loved ones over the Internet while actually seeing their face.  I enjoy using both of these apps with my friends and family that are 2500+ miles away.   For the last two Christmas Eve and Mornings my parents in Michigan, Sister Micki in North Carolina and I Skyped next to our respective Christmas Tree’s and had our family Christmas over the net.  Amazing.  We can’t be together, so the next best thing is to have a three way web chat while laughing, enjoying some spirits and watching each other as we open the gifts that had arrived in the mail. 

With the magical iPhone, I was able to do something that was crazy cool on the new Rapid Ride D line and the free wi-fi service on board.  You guessed it!  I FaceTimed with Mama on a ride into work.  The day before the face to phone/phone to face view of the bus, Mama called and asked if I was on the bus yet so she could see it via FaceTime.  My initial reaction was a hearty single exhale laugh.  I am not a fan of talking on the bus at all.  I don’t even like to talk on my phone at work due to the cubical world that everyone can hear your conversation, professional or personal same issues with me.  I don’t take or make calls in the car if I’m with someone else.  I will walk out of a room that is occupied with someone else if a call comes in.   Even if it’s going to be a short one and I’m done by the time I’ve hit the doorway.  That is just me. 

So why would I FaceTime with anyone in such a public place.  Well, the odds were in my Mom’s favor that Wednesday morning when the back of the bus was empty and I snagged the seat with no one around.  I took the opportunity before more stops had folks fill in the space around me and called Mama to FaceTime with her.  I had my headphones in so I was the only one that could hear her.  I talked a wee bit in a whisper that was probably not that much fun for her, but hey she knows my quirks, she’s my Mama!  I showed her the bus the best I could in all of it’s shinny-ness new glory.  She even made her co-worker Andy see the quick tour as we talked. 

As the bus filled I started talking less and less and realized I was miming into my phone.  Coming to the realization that I must have looked like escapee from the cuckoo nest.  Granted I may actually already look like that to any observer.  Wrapping up my show to Mama, I waved goodbye and signed I Love You and she reciprocated.  What a treat!  Stepping out of my comfy zone I got to have a quick chat and see my mom’s beautiful face.  Not a bad way to start the day. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

She's Come Undone

By Jamie

I realize that most of my last post have been rants about the bus.  That is not why I joined Liz in creating this blog.  And if anything I want to encourage people to try public transportation.  It got me thinking about something that bus has rekindled in me and that is my love (or strong like) of reading.  Since I began riding the bus I have read 7 books (and I’ve been riding for about 6 months).  OK, so to some people that may not seem like a lot, but given that I probably haven’t read 7 books in the past 2 years it’s big.  And though the bus only gives me about 20-30 minutes of reading time I find myself reading more at home too.  I have forgotten how good it feels to be taken away to some place different.  It breaks the monotony of listening to my music and just staring off into space (though sometime I enjoy that too). 

Now I’m not fancy so you won’t find me with a Kindle or other e-Reader, and I try my hardest to read paperbacks only so that I’m not lugging around more than I have too.  I love the way a book feels in my hand and I have always loved the way a books pages smell.  I guess in this one respect I’m old school.  So, below is what I’ve read and a very short oh so unsophisticated review.  And it won’t really tell you what the book is about.

Currently reading: 
She’s Come Undone by W. Lamb.  Good characters keeps me reading.

Catching Fire (2nd in Hunger Games Trilogy) by S. Collins.  Full of anticipation, my favorite of the trilogy.
Mockingjay (3rd in Hunger Games Trilogy) by S. Collins.  Hurry up, get this dang thing over with already.  But good and easy enough to read.
Room, by E. Donoghue.  The author wrote this before Jaycee Duggard was found, but the story is very similar.   Super interesting what humans do to survive.
Nashville Chrome by R. Bass.  Fiction piece about the Brown Trio from the 1950’s.  So, the Brown’s were real, but part of the story wasn’t?  That confused me and all I did was google stuff to try to find out was real and what was fiction.  Slow read, I give it a “meh”.
The Immortal Life or Henrietta Lacks by R. Sloot.  Really enjoyed it, it amazed how science has come so far.  Interesting view of ethics. 
Vinegar Hill, by M Ansay.  I’m not sure I got the point of that book.  Depressing and not fully enjoyable the written well.
Breakfast with Buddha by R. Merullo.  Super fun story, made me think about how I may become more “enlightened” in today’s hustle and bustle.  (NOT a self help book, a novel about a road trip with an average Jo and a Buddhist Monk, funny!).

Oh, and I tried to read some Hemmingway.  Not for me! 

If you have a book I just must read I’m always looking for suggestions. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Adventures of Mr. Squiggles part 1

By Liz

I’ve seen it at least a dozen times on the bus… a person gets on with a four legged friend accompanying them.  These pups are usually super cute and have all been well behaved.  I guess the dog’s person would know if their little friend will obey the rules of the bus or not.  Although I’ve never seen another creature on the bus, I can just imagine what other pets accompany their owners on the rides to the vet or other destinations.  During my ride to work on Friday I was privy to such an occurrence when a cute doggie and his owner sat across the row from me.  I shall call him Mr. Squiggles.  As you can see it totally fits, that or we’ll agree to disagree... 

Mr. Squiggles was one of those well behaved whippersnappers that made you go ‘awwwww’ as he made his way to riding spot.  I started to wonder what Mr. Squiggles might think of these rides.  Is he super excited to get tons of attention from the passengers?  Is he totally bummed that the huge windows do not roll down so he cannot stick his head out while riding?  Does he know when his stop is coming and will remind his person that is reading their Kindle?

It seemed to me that Mr. Squiggles was up for an adventure that particular Friday morning.  I could imagine Mr. Squiggles had a big day in the city planned.  First stop would be Bark in Style to get his hair done and added accessories to top of the cuteness he already encompasses.   Yes, a pair of goggles and scarf around his neck would be the perfect attire for him as he toured the city.  Then walking through the Sculpture Garden and seeing all the shinny objects, hard to contain his excitement as all of them look like giant fire hydrants.  That was a little taste of doggie heaven here on earth.  He is extra excited to spot Dottie his long time crush.  He loves, meeting up with Dottie and playing in the park while thier people chat about stuff he does not understand. 

Finally, they would end the day at Norms, Mr. Squiggles favorite Ale House that allows him and his canine friends to enjoy the company of their persons while they are getting their drink on.  So much more fun then being tied up to a parking meter outside while waiting for their person to finish eating.  Finally, Mr. Squiggles would hop on the bus for the return ride home.   Happy and exhausted when returning home, he would scarf down his dinner and then curl up on his dogie bed to take a well deserved nap.  Thus ending the adventures of Mr. Squiggles for his day in the city.  

Friday, October 5, 2012

Exit from the Rear

By Jamie

Metro just launched new routes/services this week; I probably am not the first to bring this to your attention.  The ride free zone was eliminated and new RapidRide lines were added, one from Ballard/Crown Hill to Downtown and one from West Seattle to Downtown.  RapidRide touts “such frequent service you won’t need a time table”.  More on that after I have more experience riding RapidRide, since thus far I have only ridden the “D” line once, I don’t want to make too hasty of judgment.  With the RapidRide Metro has ended some other neighborhood routes.  The 18Express I usually take was unaffected (Metro kept the 18E during the peak commute hours) at least as far as scheduling and what bus I take. 
What has changed is now the 18E is packed by the time we hit the stop at Leary & 15th.  Before this change everyone got a seat and a few folks who got on at 15th & Leary might have to stand.  It wasn’t bad.  I would take a seat at the front of the bus and easily hopped off.  Metro has also instated the “pay as you enter” system, which I like because I don’t have to worry about fumbling for my wallet as I approach my stop.  Pay as you enter also means Metro wants you to exit from the back.  Makes perfect sense, right?  It keeps a circular flow of off and on, no more waiting for people to disembark. 

So, I’ve changed my routine a bit.  I’m one of the first downtown stops, so it makes sense for me now to sit near the back of the bus.  But still, even at my seat at the back of the bus, I have to squeeze through a row of standing people to get out the door.  It’s not easy.  It brings me closer to my fellow passengers than I care to be.  I sat in the 2nd row from the door and still had a tough time; I can’t imagine how many people I would have had to brush against had I sat any further from the door.

I know, this is the first week of the changes and we’re all trying to figure out our new rhythm.  I don’t like to complain about change because, as my old college friend Ani D said “what doesn’t bend breaks”.  But it doesn’t mean I love the uncomfortable feeling of new routines.  I’ll get my stride again and it will all be a thing of the past.  I guess I just have to trust that Metro will get me there.