March 21, 2009

1172 words 6 mins read

A day in the Seattle area

As noted in a previous blog entry John and I are traveling this weekend. We needed to go up to Seattle to pick up some computer equipment on Saturday and drive back with it over the weekend. We decided to fly up early Friday morning (which required getting up at 0415 — not so fun) so we could spend the day in the Seattle area and see some of the sights. I tweet’d about a number of the things we saw, but I figured that I could give a give a better run down if I had more than 140 characters at my disposal.

Future of Flight. This is a very fancy setup for what really boils down to a tour of Boeing’s heavy (read: 2 aisle) commercial jet production line. The museum here wasn’t exactly spectacular, but there were a few interesting pieces to see, including an engine from the 777 and a body piece from the new 787 Dreamliner. They did have a number of old place settings that were used by Air France for first class. What I got from that was that I need to fly first class on Air France (now if only it flew somewhere I wanted to go, like not France). The tour itself was about an hour and half long. During that we got into their large body production building, which is the largest building by volume in the world (according to Guinness, as well as our tour guide). It is 1km long, 500m wide, and 40m tall. It is MIND BLOWING when you look down their maintenance tunnel and can barely see the other end, or when you are standing on the observation deck looking across 1km of factory floor. I’ve been in the Mall of America and I’ve also been to the VAB at Cape Canaveral (which at one point at time was bigger than Boeing, but then Boeing expanded), neither compare. We got to see the production lines for the 747, the 777, and the 787 Dreamliner. It just so happens that they were building the last two 747-400’s so the line wasn’t particularly busy. Once the design was finalized, they were going to start building the new 747-8’s which will incorporate wing designs from the 787, making the 747’s wings much more flexible and getting rid of the need for winglets (which makes me sad because I liked that on the 747’s). They will also be incorporating newer and more powerful engines (I believe also from the 787). On the 787 line we saw four of the first five Dreamliners, which will all be used for air worthiness testing. Number five was in the paint hanger getting it’s final coating before the first flight test, which will be in a few months. If my lengthy otaku blabbering isn’t enough of a signal, I really enjoyed the tour. The only thing that makes me sad about it is the fact that they don’t allow you to take ANYTHING on the tour with you. No cameras, cell phones, iPods, binoculars or anything that makes a signal or takes pictures or makes any sort of recording. It makes sense since they want to protect their trade secrets, but still kinda sad for an aviation geek like myself.

Science Fiction Museum. Our second stop was the Seattle Sci-Fi museum. Short version: unless you really enjoy retro scifi (IE War of the Worlds, that is, the original), don’t bother going. Long version: Both John and myself were rather disappointed in the museum. We probably had too high of expectations (as neither of us had ever been to a Sci-Fi museum), but even still. The museum is fairly small, and had a small and eclectic collection of memorabilia. Of course they had items from Star Trek, but otherwise I thought it was lacking in diversity. For example there was only a single item from the original Battlestar Galactica, and nothing at all from the new series; nothing from Firefly; nothing from Babylon 5. Most of my favorite series weren’t represented, and most of what was there was for really old Sci-Fi. Off that tangent, the museum was not very well organized. Not that I am a master of Feng Shui, it looked like they were trying to have some sort of timeline of Sci-Fi but failed fairly miserably with that. They didn’t even pick some of the more logical entries. For example, they displayed a copy of Kim Staley Robinson’s Forty Signs of Rain and mentioned the ‘possible’ trilogy (which it is and has been for many years) instead of KSR’s far more popular work Red Mars (and subsequent trilogy). Additionally, they charged $15 to get in, and asked for donations (thanks to a random tourism coupon we each got a $3 discount, but still).

Space Needle. While most of the day was overcast and raining, we lucked out in finding a patch of semi-clear weather when we went to the Space Needle (which was less than 500′ away from the Sci-Fi Museum). There isn’t much to report about it other than it is exactly as you expect. You pay them; wait in line; get in an elevator; go up to the observation deck at 520′. We took many pictures and generally messed around for a while, and then shockingly enough, went back down. The one thing that I did check out was the restaurant in the Space Needle called SkyCity. Holy Damn. It. Is. Freaking. Expensive. A cup of soup started at $8. The most expensive item on the menu was $60, and the entrée’s averaged around $25. Maybe for a romantic night out, but otherwise, nooooo way.

After that it was time to retreat to our hotel and find dinner. After getting up at 0415 in the morning and flying a few states away, we really weren’t in much of a mood to do anything (though John perked up when we found a Half Price Books). All in all, it was an interesting day. I learned a bit about the Seattle area geography and their roads. Mostly, that their traffic SUCKS far more than the SF Bay Area. At least in the Bay the traffic during the day (between morning and afternoon rush hour) fairly light, Seattle, not so much. In fact their HOV (Carpool) lanes are 5am to 7pm. Oh, and the entire state is fucking obsessed with Teriyaki. I don’t know why, but I’ve seen dozens of different restaurants with the word ‘Teriyaki’ in the name. Hell one place chain was called ‘Sushi & Teriyaki’ and that doesn’t make a lick of sense. I don’t think I could live in Seattle, it might be a ‘nice city’ but overall I’m not a fan… and I’m glad I’m out of the state now (not that Oregon is an improvement, but at least we are on our way home — as I write this).

Note: This entry posted at or above the speed limit somewhere in Southern Oregon, near mile marker 140 on I-5.