...... previous day next day ......
Seattle Seattle

19th May 2010

The Purchase, Storm, Breakdown, Taxi Driver and Waitress who Will Pray for my Safety

    Carrying on from yesterday, today is another day! A bright, warm, sunny morning greeted me and Don as he picked me up from the hotel. As we drove he explained to me the registration document that he had given me, and the process to be followed when I subsequently sell the vehicle. Basically I get the money from the new owner, hand write a Bill of Sale and go to a bank to get a notary to witness both my and the new owner's signatures. Then I would hand over the registration document, the title and the keys. The new licence plates, which we attached when we got to the dealers, had new tabs on to indicate they were valid until July 2011 (the tabs on the rear licence plate are equivalent to our tax disc) and this would make it easier to sell. Once Don receives the Title document for the vehicle in 4 - 5 weeks, he'll email me and we'll work out how I will pick it up along my trip. There are ways of doing this such as General Delivery, but for some reason he doesn't trust the system. We don't quite see eye-to-eye on this yet.
    On the way to the dealers we passed by a DIY store where we collected a few sheets of 6' by 2'6" wood sheet, one of which would be the base of my bed. He had other customers lined up for the rest. He also pointed out a Fred Meyers store where I could pick up most of the gear I needed to convert the van into something resembling a mobile home.
Inside the "Living Area" of the Van
Inside the Front
Inside the Rear
    Once at the dealers, I checked the faults had been rectified. I was now expecting Don to take me out for a "kick the tyres" drive. He explained how he had been suffering from a kidney stone complaint recently (he did seem to be in a rough way), and things had slipped and he had a backlog of clients to deal with. He was keen to get on, so I had no alternative but to pay him the money, accept the keys, shake hands and he was gone. That was a sickly moment, I can tell you. Now I was totally on my own and not exactly with 100% confidence in the vehicle. Had the guy just washed his hands and left me with a piece of fermenting pig manure? Anguished moments! I was a bit miffed at the sudden handover, but hey, smell the coffee and get on with it.
    I put the sheet of timber in on top of the folded down seats, put all my worldly possessions in, and climbed aboard. I gingerly made my way onto the highway, trying to get used to an automatic vehicle, lane use and road etiquette all at the same time, as well as navigate without a map. I had plenty of maps for downtown Seattle, but not 20 mile out suburbs. When I got into the centre lane to turn left, I got honked at. Being so high up in this vehicle on the right hand side of the road, I was finding it hard to gauge how far away the lane markers on my left hand side were. Clearly I wasn't near them enough in this instance.
    I soon arrived at Fred Meyers, where I purchased a selection of camping gear and a sheet of foam to put over my wooden sleeping base. At the checkout, the young coloured lad on the till was laughingly telling the woman he was serving that men are a pain in the backside. I jokingly reprimanded him and he chortled that he was referring to his male working colleagues, not men in general. "You're cool" he beamed at me, and we all laughed. The woman was muttering about the approaching storm to him, and as she left he turned to me with a chuckle, "How ya doing uncle?", "Fine son" was my response. It was amusing banter after that. When it came to the bill, he asked me if I had a Fred Meyers card, to which I responded that I hadn't but he could give me discount if he liked. At that he burst into fits of laughter saying that he wished he could. Then something clicked into gear and he said he might be able to help me. I don't know what he looked up on his computer screen but he managed to get me some discount. When did I last get service like that in the U.K.? He bade me farewell with a "Stay cool, uncle".
    Loading up the goods into the van, I could now see what the lady in the store was muttering about. The sky had turned a sinister slate gray colour and a gusty wind had picked up. I thought I'd head downtown to pick up some accommodation nearer the tourist area and perhaps get in some sightseeing. I picked up the 405 ring road and headed south for 18 miles before taking a right to head West over one of the two causeways that cross Lake Washington. As I stated earlier, I had no maps for these suburbs, and my compass was locked away in my suitcase, and no sun to guide me. The heavy rain was now torrential and the wind was more of a gale. Yes, this was a storm.(I found out the following day that there had been a mini-tornado and power had been taken out of some districts for 3 hours). I got hopelessly lost in this maelstrom, and it was then that I noticed a dreaded warning light on my dashboard. The charging circuit wasn't working. I knew this could be either a belt slipping, which I couldn't spot when I looked under the bonnet, lose connections which weren't apparent, a faulty alternator or the voltage regulator unit. I tried calling Don to see if the dealer's mechanic would help me despite my buying the vehicle with no warranty. I couldn't raise him. In desperation I tried to find my own way back to Bothell via the 450 to reach the dealer's place. By now torrents were falling from the heavens and I had to have the windscreen wipers on flat out, plus the headlights on. This worried me since these devices rapidly eat up charge and would soon flatten the battery. The traffic on the 450 was turtle speed, and after 18 miles or so I turned off in the direction of Bothell. I got hopelessly lost in this concrete jungle too. Then the nightmare increased by an order of magnitude. I could feel and hear the engine power faltering, and I instinctively knew it was going to cut out imminently. I took the first available piece of off road concrete I could find and parked up on it. Just in time, the battery was now almost flat, and certainly had nothing left to turn the engine over.
All Hitched up and Ready to Go
    I still couldn't raise Don on his cell phone and was by now wondering if he had wiped his hands of the whole deal. There was no accommodation in the vicinity. To brighten up the day, the locality was plastered with posters stating that unauthorised parked vehicles would be impounded. There was nobody around to discuss the situation with. The only way out was to call AAA and get a tow organised. This wasn't a simple process. For some daft reason the AAA helpline automatically latches onto the first 3 digits of the phone you are calling from and directs you to that State's centre of operations. I bought the phone in California, and of course I would be put through to California, who then had to go through a rigmarole to get me connected to the Washington State centre. But the service was good once that hurdle was overcome. They got me an AAA recommended towing service to shift my vehicle to an AAA recommended repair centre, and located an AAA discounted hotel for me too. I was amazed that the tow company turned up whilst I was still talking to the lady. A short tow took me to the Everett Auto Clinic. Whilst the kind Mr. Towman was unhitching my van, I got a call from Don and I explained the situation. The plan now was to leave the van here overnight, but make sure I called the Auto Clinic before 8am the next day to explain why I was parked on their forecourt. Don would try and get the dealer (bit difficult since the working day had long expired by now) to see if his mechanic would resolve the problem. Don felt bad about the incident; after 4 or so days I would be on my own, but after 4 - 5 hours, he felt duty bound to help me out.
    With nothing else to be done for today, I got a cab across to the hotel, and got chatting to Geoff, the cab driver. He too is in to hiking. He went on to say how he liked Britain and would love to come over and have tea with the queen. I tried to explain to him how lower orders don't just pop in for tea. He just thought it would be cool to do so. Dream on. Fare time popped up, I asked him if he offered AAA discount. "Certainly do sir" was his response. He dropped the fare from $5.44 to $5, then he decided to drop it to $4. We parted with a shake of the hands, and I entered the hotel to check in. As I was checking in he returned and handed me his phone number. Hmmm......
    I'd had enough for today and walked a block to get some Asian Fusion food (I think that means they can get away with b....y murder). The young waitress who served me approached me after a while to ask me what "cheers" meant. She knew it was associated with the clinking of glasses, but obviously sensed a different meaning when I had used it. I realised now that I had glibly said it when she delivered my Tsao Ting beer, and explained to her that it is often used in some parts of Britain as a replacement for thanks. She was tickled pink at this improvement to her knowledge base. I couldn't stop her after that; I got the run down on English relatives she has. What am I doing in Seattle was her next avenue of attack, so I went through my itinerary with her explaining how Seattle fitted in, and she was in raptures that somebody would even attempt such a feat. Crumbs! The next minute she had dragged the owner of the restaurant over, a pleasant Asian looking lady. This Asian lady related a tale of how she and two friends did a Rail-card tour of Europe just after graduation and really enjoyed it, and dreams of repeating a trip abroad again, perhaps the far east. I explained to her the economic sense of buying a car/van if the trip lasts a few months, and she saw the sense in that. The lady then went on to tell me that American's who wanted BMWs used to fly to Europe, buy them brand new, tour Europe in them to effectively turn them into second hand cars, which would make them cheaper to ship back to the States. As I left the restaurant (for some unknown reason a lot of the restaurants in the Seattle suburbs close at 9pm), the young waitress cried out that she would pray for my safety. A kind thought.
    An interesting day, but a pleasant way to end it.
...... previous day next day ......
Seattle Seattle

Uploaded from Best Western Cascadia Inn, 2800 Pacific Avenue, Everett, WA 98201 on 20/05/10 at 20:30

Last updated 21.5.2010