Day 73 - August 20, 2002
I picked up a rental car this morning at Thrifty in downtown Seattle. I hooked up with a great deal on the rental. Here's what happened. I got a "free 1 class upgrade" coupon at a tourist information station and took it down to the Thrifty last night and got signed up for a Chrysler Sebring for the same price as a Dodge Neon. When I went down to pick up the car it hadn't been dropped off yet so they upgraded me to a Nissan Maxima. The Maxima had cracked windshield when the Thrifty guy and I inspected it so I got another upgrade - to a Suzuki Grand Vitara XL7. All in all, I got a $69 per day SUV for $39.
Although SUVs are very dangerous vehicles and get poor mileage, I accepted the deal. It turned out to be a very nice vehicle with lots of power and plenty of extras.
I then made my way to Everett, Washington where Boeing assembles their 767, 747, and 777 jumbo jets. The assembly building is the largest building by volume in the world. The huge size and unbelievable complexity of these planes makes this assembly process pretty amazing.The perimeter of the building is 2.2 miles and the floor space is large enough to host 75 NFL games simultaneously. Since there are nearly three miles of walkways in the building workers use bicycles to get around in the factory. Parts are moved around the factory with a network of 26 overhead cranes that run on 31 miles of interconnected track. The railroad track that leads to the facility climbs a hill with a 5.6% grade - the steepest railway in the northern hemisphere.
I went on the factory tour which consists of a video presentation, tour of the 747 assembly area, and driving tour of the entire facility. They don't allow photographs or video on the tour so I don't have any pictures of it. The trucks they use to transport the long wing segments between facilities are very unique. The rig is so long that the trailer also has to be steered by an operator who sits in a cab slung in front of the trailer wheels. On my way out of the facility I passed one on the road and had to get some pictures
Crossing the U.S./Canadian border was a real hassle today. The Canadian Customs agent I talked with was quite rude and didn't believe a word I said. He asked for proof of citizenship but all I had was my Pennsylvania Driver's Licence. He became irate when I couldn't produce a passport or birth certificate and gave me the impression that I was wasting his time. He informed me that he was insulsted that I try to cross their border without the proper papers. Then came the standard barrage of questions: Where are you coming from, where are you going, how long will you be there, who will you visit, etc.
He didn't like my answers and the pieces didn't fit in his mind. I was from PA, had a car with WA plates, was only going to be in the country for two days, just finished a bike trip but didn't have a bike, and left home over two months ago. He made me pull over and go into the immigration office where I was drilled with about two dozen questions until I had satisfied the officer that I truly was a U.S. citizen. Never before have I even had to produce a document. Next time I'll take a passport or birth certificate. Anyway, here's a picture of the Peace Arch park at the border.
I drove through Vancouver on my way up highway 99 toward Whistler. What an amazing drive! Whistler is one of the highest ranked ski resorts in North America and surely is in a beautiful setting. There were many bikers along the way and some pretty cool scenic views as well. Here are some pictures: