I think we were both somewhat reluctant to leave Portland in the end. We certainly delayed getting back on the road for longer than we have at any other stop, and actually took the time to get a decent breakfast from a local (sustainable) bakery. But eventually we packed up our bags and loaded the car to leave for Seattle.
This required more than the usual “string lots of carrier bags around Dave’s neck and point him in the direction of the car” procedure, since today was the final drive and we’d be dropping the car off before finding our way into central Seattle. So we had to make sure that all of our stuff actually fitted into the suitcases we’d brought and that the car was clear of USB leads and Oreos. This was easier said than done, since our frequent yarn shop visits have increased our initially inexplicable holiday-yarn haul to almost unmanageable levels. But we eventually lugged two groaning suitcases into the car and set off.
If I’m honest, I crawled the car up the I5 to Seattle at a snail’s pace, because I was sad to finally hand it back. Of all the things we’ve done on this trip, the driving has been the most enjoyable portion for me. We’ve covered so many miles, across so many different landscapes and so many towns and cities that handing back the car feels like admitting we’re near the end. But we eventually covered the short distance and found our way to the car rental drop off site.
Or so we thought.
Fellow travellers, there’s a note of caution in here to take away with you. Whenever you’re using a satnav to plot a route to somewhere, always double check the address it points you at. Before we’d set out, I hadn’t taken this advice. Instead, I’d searched for “Thrifty Seattle airport”, and selected the first location it gave me.
When we got there, we found the Thrifty location as expected, drove into the rental car drop off area, parked the car and noted the mileage as instructed and walked over to the office to settle up. We were a little surprised to find a sign up saying the attendant had gone to lunch and that we should just drop the paperwork and keys into a mail box, but not too bothered. There were other rental drop offs there, so it looked right. And it was the right company. But we decided to hang around until the attendant came back, just to be sure.
Eventually, when it was obvious no-one was coming (and we’d noticed a sign saying the office had shut an hour ago) we decided to package up the keys and post them in the box and be on our way. As we were seconds away from dropping the keys in slot, a kindly looking old lady called Nancy wandered past and asked if she could help us. We asked her a question about the key drop and she said that, yes, that was where you dropped your key and we should go ahead and do it. And then she asked “wait, where did you pick up your car?”. We answered “Chicago”, and suddenly a look of realisation dawned on her face. She calmly told us that we couldn’t drop off the car here, that there was another Thrifty location just up the road for interstate rental drop offs and that if we’d left it here we would have been all kinds of stuck!
Honestly, she was really, really nice. Didn’t slap me upside the head for being an idiot, just gave us some simple instructions to get to the other place and we were on our way again. I bet she makes really nice apple pie as well. Thanks Nancy, you saved us a lot of trouble!
When we got to the real drop off location, we had no further trouble. The car was checked in without any problem and we were free to find our way into central Seattle. We decided to avoid a massive taxi fare and jump on the train ($3 each), which was mostly fine, but like many US cities the public transport seems to be unreliable on a weekend due to maintenance. So we had to change onto a shuttle bus halfway, and this eventually got us downtown.
Our lodgings for Seattle are another Airbnb. This time, a private condo in Belltown, so we summoned a Lyft (did I mention I love this service?) and were there ten minutes after stepping off the bus. Once again, the driver was very friendly and gave us lots of tips for things to do in Seattle.
Getting into the condo was a complicated affair, and we’d been cautioned by the host that neighbours didn’t approve of Airbnb, so we had a cover story to use in case anyone challenged us. It was a little clandestine and not something you’d encounter at a Holiday Inn, but quite fun. Eventually, we got into the building and found our way up to the apartment. To my eternal relief, our final stop is really lovely. A modern, studio type flat, with a lovely kitchen and bathroom. The host takes the Airbnb thing very seriously, and has lots of little helpful notices around the place, as well as a really cute pin-map thing for guests to show where they’re from. We’re the first English guests to stay here!
You might expect that after arriving in a new city, vibrant and full of life, we’d be straight out and into some bar or other for the night. Well, after a month of travelling, we were both so relieved to get to somewhere homely and comfortable that we got some drinks and food in, got cleaned up and had a night in front of the TV. We watched “Ancient Aliens”, “Portlandia” (with newfound understanding) and “Supernatural”. It was great!