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.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

D Line

by Liz

Like a kid on their first day of school, I was super excited when I woke up on Monday morning.  Finally, I’d get my chance to ride the new Rapid Ride.  How thrilling this will be.  The bus will arrive every 10 minutes and take me to work on a new fandangled bus.  I made my way to the stop, checking the One Bus Away App on my phone.  It was cryptic with it’s description of the ‘D Line’ and how it will arrive in 4 minutes and every 10 minutes after that.  Okay that’s fine.  Four minutes until it arrives, that is not bad.  Ummm, no it was more like 14 minutes until the bus slid along the curb and halted for me and the 5 other passengers to get on. 

Oh goodie, the bus is full too, I’ll be standing in the aisle as this bus proceeds to move along and stop at every stop in line letting 1-2 people on each time.  Two stops after mine a gentleman stepped in the side door inset with me and he seemed a little confused.  As the bust took off the similar aged man with a oversized backpack had yet to get his footing and did not grab a railing or hand strap before the bus came to a quick stop.  The full force of a full grown man and his backpack slammed into me.  He apologized, I smiled and exclaimed no worries.  Then he proceeded to talk for a few minutes about how this was a new ride for him and he had not been on this bus before.  Seriously buddy, this was the first time for all of us to be on this ride.  Maybe, he was a new commuter… not sure, but Anyhoo.  My warm fuzzy first day of school feelings had long passed and I was just ready to get to my stop outside work and exit. 

Fast forwarding to the 5 o’clock whistle blowing and time to leave the cubical world, I headed over to the alternate bus stop.  The county is still working on the new stop and were not successful in completion before the go date of September 29th.  It’s okay, that was not the inconvenient part of my commute home at all.  I experienced a Déjà vu wait for the bus to arrive that had mirrored my morning wait.  This time, I was able to snag a seat after three stops.  It was still a pretty full bus ride home.  Is this what it is going to be like? Late busses, super crowded, and vast annoyance?

I was kinda over the bus commute after yesterday’s ride.  Listening to NPR last night they highlighted a few folks around the city that were experiencing some issues as well with the changes.  Some found the new pay when you enter a little confusing.  Others felt things work just fine with the change.  Granted it’s a change and I understand there is a learning curve.  

My third ride on the Rapid Ride was coming into work today, this was a little crazy as well… When I got on there were plenty of seats and I grabbed one near the rear of the bus.  As we chugged along and stopped, the bus quickly became very full and the aisles were littered with people.  I was nearing my spot and slight fretfulness came over me as I wondered how am I going to get to the door to exit.  Enough folks exited the previous stop to help out my situation and I only had to excuse me/pardon me a few times to get to the door.   I am so happy that I can take the express route home.  Well, that is if timing works out for me.  Cross your fingers please.

I will not be a complete negative nelly… I do have a few positives to point out about the new ride.  The busses are so pretty.  They are clean and the seats are nice, the lighting is lovely, and it’s so shinny.  Also, the drivers seem to be in exceptionally high spirits.  Very kind and helpful to those folks that just are not quite getting it.  Lastly, the bus offers free Wi-Fi.  I tapped into that and was able to listen to Pandora on my way to work this morning.  With the raining Seattle fall on the horizon, I hope that the kinks get worked out and the new D line will be a well oiled machine transporting the masses.