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Spokane, Yakima and home

[Picking up from the previous blog.]

The bus took us to SeaTac, and my luggage was there with us. I headed into Delta, awaiting my turn to check in for the short flight to Spokane. I’d gotten my bag down to 52 pounds, so there were no overcharges. I headed in through TSA PreCheck and got to the gate with plenty of time. I read about an hour until boarding. Full flight, and my seat mate was a woman up from LA who was meeting female friends to drive up to Lake Louise for a girl’s week. Once we landed and I collected my bag I called for an Uber and was soon at the Ruby 2 hotel, which had been renamed the Steam Plant Hotel, apparently because it overlooked the twin smokestacks of the plant several blocks away. My room was on the second of three levels overlooking the “upper parking area”, and fortunately had a lift.

Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, Spokane

After arranging to leave my bag at the hotel after checking out Sunday morning, I walked the 5 blocks to the Roman Catholic cathedral. Two high school couples were using the steps as a background for their prom pictures, so I strolled around the building on the corner, finding my angles as I got exterior shots of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes. The Vigil Mass had been at 4 (it was nearing 6), so I knew to return for interior pictures in the morning. The large brick building has two square towers bracketing the rose window over the main entrance, some 20 steps up from the street.

On my walk over, I’d spotted several pub options for dinner. 24 Taps was particularly appealing, as it appeared to offer a larger assortment of draft beer, and I could sample a few local ales. Before entering, I visited the ATM across the street, replenishing my cash; unfortunately, only $20 bills were offered.

My first quaff was described as a Portuguese red amber. As I neared the bottom of my first, I ordered a medium Black & Blue burger, swapping the mushrooms out for onions, with extra crispy fries, and a side Caesar. By the end of my second (each was from a different keg), I’d still hadn’t been fed, but it all appeared together with my third pint. While well-done, there was enough blue cheese and onions, and several crispy slices of bacon. The salad was large, somewhat bland. The third beer was the best of those I tried. While I didn’t note my beer varietals, I did keep the receipt: No-Li Amber, River City Red, and Kettle House Cold Smoke.

Walking back to the hotel, I wasn’t feeling terrific – a bit tired, and ready to crash for the night. Some major event was going on in Spokane, as all the downtown hotels had full parking lots, but I headed back to the room, pulled the blinds closed, set the heat/air to 78°F (25.5°C) and crawled into bed. With three beers that evening in addition to all the whisky I’d consumed on the ship, no surprise I slept well.

Sunday, 15 May

Waking in Spokane, I was feeling poorly. I showered and dressed, repacked my bag, and headed to the office to check out and leave my luggage. Armed with my daypack and camera, I walked over to Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral and found my way in. I walked around, taking my inside shots, and then retreated towards the rear to sit in a pew and await Mass. My observation was that this was a large space, ornamented with a traditional early 20th century look. An older priest, carrying his chasuble, walked past, and nodded to me. I offered a “Good morning, Father” to which I received a slight scowl. I suspect it was the bishop without his amaranth colors, as he was the non-active celebrant. A younger priest, con-celebrant, preached and was most active at the altar.

As Communion got underway, I headed out front and called for an Uber. He arrived and got me up the hill to the Cathedral of St John the Evangelist.

Cathedral of St John the Evangelist, Spokane

With a great view overlooking Spokane, the stone structure is handsome, albeit the interior is much smaller than the RC cathedral downtown. I wandered, taking my pictures inside, before sitting in a pew off to the back. I was feeling miserable, and was unable to stand long. After the service I went to the social hour, sitting by myself nursing a cup of water before calling for an Uber to return me to the hotel. (This didn’t work out too well, as the GPS had an address across the street, and, despite my texts to the effect that I was at the cathedral, my driver was snarly when he finally collected me.)

At the hotel I got my bags (I left the guys at the desk with my breakfast pastries) and sat for a bit, talking with another couple who were short on time for getting to the airport. They had called for car service/taxi, and had a 20-minute wait. I used the app to get an Uber, which arrived ahead of theirs. Back at the airport, I was masked (I’d been so all morning) and checked in. In the gate area for a long wait, I kept to myself, alerting anyone who came to sit alongside that they’d probably best mask-up, as I thought I had a bug. Another full flight, slow delivery of luggage at SeaTac, and then a kerfuffle getting the Uber to collect me for the ride to the hotel.

My hotel was the Super 8 Wyndham near the rental car pickup complex. The room I’d been assigned was huge, with a couch and sitting area, small kitchen area, and a sleeping area. Feeling the need for food (but not being overly hungry) I walked down the hill and cross the thoroughfare to a Thai restaurant, got Tom Yum soup with chicken, and curried fried rice to go, and climbed the hill to the hotel. About all I could stomach was about a cup of the broth of the soup, so I put it all in the mini refrigerator and went to sleep, resolved that if I wasn’t feeling a lot better, I’d stay in and rest the next day.

Monday, 16 May

What a difference a good night’s sleep can make. I woke up and felt much better. I suspected a 24-hour bug, and prepared to go and collect my rental car. After about a half-mile walk (down and up the hill), I was able to get a Chevy Spark, and set off to the southeast. Driving on the north side of Mt Rainier, I’d hoped for a view of its snow-capped crest. From the Interstate, there was no joy. As the foliage changed from tall majestic pines to verdigris bundles of scrub, I quickly (even keeping to the speed limit) was approaching Yakima.

Cathedral of St Paul, Yakima

Pulling off to put the street address in for the cathedral, Google Maps soon had me going down roads needing some TLC. The Cathedral of St Paul is the diocesan seat for the central part of the state of Washington. The building has a single tower, and I’d guess that it could use a fresh coat of white paint. As I parked, another family appeared, and I watched as they attempted several doors to try and enter. I went around front, checked the cathedral office cattycorner across the intersection (closed sign on door), and then stood across from the cathedral in the diocesan office parking lot, contemplating my next step. A gentleman driving out asked if he could assist. Hearing my story, he parked, took me inside to the Monsignor who lent us a key, and walked me into the cathedral.

Conventional looking from the outside, the single aisle nave lent to the Byzantine feel, accentuated by the flat icon-like cross raised over the main altar. Organ pipes backed the sanctuary, and were also visible in the second story choir loft over the main entrance. Upholstered armchairs sat in front of standard wooden pews, near the altar on its raised wooden platform. My guide pointed me to their shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe, as the parish has a significant Mexican population. (Yakima is a wine grape growing region, thus requiring field hands and pickers.) The simple, comfortable-looking cathedra sat on raised wooden steps placed under the organ pipes. Much of the natural light came from the clerestory windows above the support columns, with the beautiful abstract stained-glass windows along the ground level.

Thanking him profusely, he took off to his lunch appointment, and I got a parting shot of the front door and the dogwood trees on the parking lot side. Back in the rental car, I plugged in a general direction for Tacoma, and sent a text off to Karen and Howard, with whom I had dinner plans. As I left Yakima proper, I spotted a gas station with regular at less than $5 (unusual) and went to fill the tank, which was barely half full. No regular, so I put premium in, figuring the richer blend would get me even better mileage.

My route took me west on US12 and WA7, with the Tieton River running alongside through the stunningly beautiful pine forest. When the Rimrock Lake appeared, I became convinced that I’d found the most awesome road I’d travelled. Reminiscent of Yosemite and the Santa Clara/Santa Cruz mountains I’d visited in California, I just gloried in the magnificent view as I rode by. I consciously made the decision not to stop and take pictures, wanting to force myself to retain these images in my brain.

Reaching the outskirts of Tacoma, I pulled over into a strip mall parking lot and checked, finding I’d missed a call from Karen. I called back and got a street address, promising to be there in half an hour. In a lovely residential area overlooking Browns Point Lighthouse Park, I spent a delightful evening with them, reminiscing about our Holland American cruise to Aruba, Curacao and Panama back in late 2018. They were amazed at my adventurous launch in 2022 to three trips (so far), particularly since I had flown for them all. They were making their first venture out that week, a road trip to Denver.

Leaving them, and their daughter who had joined us for dinner of grilled salmon, I got into the car. It was nearing sunset, and twilight is not my favorite time to be out. State Road 509 took me along the water’s edge to I-5 northbound, which delivered me to SeaTac. Pulling into the hotel, I unloaded my gear and waited for the front desk attendant to return from taking a guest to the airport. After booking my own ride for 5am, I returned the rental car and walked unincumbered back. I did most of my packing, and went to sleep.

Tuesday, 17 May

Up at 4:30, I finished dressing and packing. As I got to the outside door, a younger man who had spent the night sheltered on the stairs, asked if I had food. The curried rice from Sunday had been in the frig, so I went and got it for him. Then rolling the two bags down the incline to the front of the hotel by 5, the front desk clerk dropped me at Arrivals. Into American’s section, checking in the big suitcase, armed with my boarding pass, I was surprised to find the TSA line to be so long so early in the day. But in less than half an hour, I was through and strolling across the central core to get to the train line to get out to Terminal S. There I hit Peets for an egg breakfast sandwich, a lunch sandwich, coffee and a bottle of water. I’d upgraded to a longer legroom seat, the window seat in row 12 behind the emergency exit row. Settled, and when nearing the completion of boarding, a female flight attendant flying deadhead announced that I was in her seat. My boarding pass was handy, so I showed her that I believed I was in the correct seat, at which point she shoved her phone in my face. With the other two seats filled, I didn’t move, so she went for the gate attendant. He returned, and determined that I “hadn’t check in”, which was kind of strange, since I not only had a boarding pass for that flight, but had one for my connecting flight. He proposed I move back to a center seat in the regular section, which I declined. As far as I was concerned, she could sit in the middle. As the aisle seat in the exit row was unassigned, she sat there.

Those shortbread cookies that I’d picked up in Pike’s market – well, I passed them on to the crew, and again there was no acknowledgement. I guess I can skip treating the American crews in the future?

Concerned, I used my phone in airplane mode to connect to the inflight WiFi and American’s website. My seating assignment for the leg to Sarasota showed 1F, while my boarding pass was 20F. After the relatively smooth and comfortable full (but slightly warm) flight to Charlotte, once I left the plane, my connecting flight was the next gate with 45 minutes before boarding. I showed my boarding pass to the female gate attendant to determine if I needed a new one printed, and she announced I was “fine”. However, when I boarded, the male gate attendant stopped me to issue a replacement boarding pass, and I was assigned to the bulkhead seat in first class. Go figure. With Mercury in retrograde, maybe I’d just run into two women (both black) staff who were having a bad day.

Down on the ground in Sarasota, I took my time leaving the terminal for baggage claim, as I knew it would take time. Once the big blue roller was delivered, I rolled outside and texted Nancy, who came and I put both bags in back of her SUV. We swapped stories as she headed to Venice, and we were able to piggyback through the HOA gate. The house was a little musty, and I still had enough daylight that I was able to give the outside plants, particularly the potted ones, some water before coming inside. The bags unpacked, a load of laundry run, mail collected from next door (post office mail hold failure,) I was home.

Waking Wednesday with a runny nose and a hacking cough, a neighbor suggested that I do a Covid self-test. I put it off until evening, and had a positive result. I checked again when I woke on Thursday, and still positive. I alerted my primary care, continued masking, and self-quarantined for the recommended 10-days. I have made my daily walks with my mask, avoiding my neighbors and keeping a good downwind distance. I’m feeling fine, and the medical office says I can now go into public spaces, masked, as I’m no longer infectious.

Less than 700 photos, 6 new cathedrals for Volume II, and Alaska off my list of states in the USA still to be visited. While not a great cruise, it was still good and my case of Covid has been mild. Glad I got impulsive and went.

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