Monday, June 3, 2013

Butchart Gardens to Tacoma

Butchart Gardens, British Columbia – A rare sight... no people
Butchart Gardens oozes tourists. We permeate the place like a plague, pausing only to gawk and bump into other tourists. The ones from Japan are most charming, neither giving nor taking offense when bodies collide. It's bumper cars with flowers.

The garden's story is long and convoluted, winding like its many paths. Two brothers made a fortune in the cement business. One of the brothers married a Scottish lass, Jennie, who became so famous for her hospitality that she reportedly served tea to 15,000 visitors in one year.

She built a garden, and it kept expanding. Fast forward several decades, and here we all are, bumping into one another.

After a morning of bumping, we eat lunch at the cafeteria. The food is expensive but tasty. We share a salmon noodle salad (vermicelli with black beans, corn, garbanzo beans, peppers, and edamame) and blueberry cheesecake on the patio.

To drink, we have a pint of Hermann's Dark Lager on tap. Hermann's is brewed in Victoria, and it's good to see the local product represented.

* * *

Back on the coach, Lyle is up to his usual tricks. “What an idiot,” he says calmly as a car passes him on the right. “Sorry, he probably doesn't know it's illegal. He's probably from Van-COU-ver.” It's the worst swear word he knows.

* * *

On the ferry, across the strait, off the ferry. Dogs sniff our bags and we return to the car.

More driving. US-101 to WA-104 to WA-3 to WA-16. We cross the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in a carpool lane that confuses us. We can stop at the toll plaza and pay Washington $4 now, or we can pass without stopping and pay $5.50 later. The confusion arises over whether or not carpools must pay a toll.

Either way, we are in a hurry to catch a ballgame, so we keep moving. Months later we receive a bill.

The game–Tacoma Rainiers vs Las Vegas 51s–starts at 7:05 p.m., and we arrive at the 19th Street exit by 6:55. We didn't buy tickets in advance because we weren't sure how long it would take to get from Port Angeles to Tacoma. Besides, when I checked last night, good seats were available for cheap.

Traffic stops. The van in front of us unloads three kids, who walk off the freeway off-ramp and up the hill toward the stadium. It will take us 40 minutes to go that final half mile.

We fail to find the Rainiers game on the radio, catching instead the Mariners up the road in Seattle. Félix Hernández is pitching against the Red Sox.

One of the announcers notes that top prospect Danny Hultzen is making his home debut in Tacoma against ancient left-hander Jamie Moyer, who played for the Mariners from 1996 to 2006. Moyer is 49 years old and returning from a season lost due to elbow surgery. He puts us all to shame.

Meanwhile, we miss the game. This spawns an article ($) that describes, among other things, what happens next:

Whatever the case, we continued along 19th Street to a hospital, not because I needed mending–although this could be another metaphor–but because we had to find our motel. We got directions from our somewhat trusty phones and proceeded to a part of town that defies reasonable description.

To the north, there is an adult bookstore, a thrift shop, and an empty lot strewn with trash. To the south, a dingy-looking Chinese buffet. The freeway was spitting distance from our room, which I know because I felt droplets while we walked to the pizza chain just past the adult bookstore. Or maybe that was rain.

There were some negatives as well, but I'll spare you the details.

Either way, Hultzen was pitching against Moyer about five miles from us. Hernandez was pitching against the Red Sox 35 miles away. And we were carrying a box of chain pizza back past the adult bookstore, the thrift shop, and the empty lot strewn with trash to our room, where we dined in luxury, washing our pizza down with fine craft beer [ed note: Kiwanda Cream Ale and Tsunami Stout] procured some days earlier in Oregon and now sipped–in the mode of Paul Giamatti's character from Sideways–out of paper cups generously provided by our motel.

So if you ask my opinion of Hultzen, I will tell you that his presence in Tacoma helped destroy a perfectly good evening of baseball for me. If you want to know what I thought of Alex Liddi, I can tell you only that the beer was delicious despite being consumed out of paper cups and that the flowers on Vancouver Island made our delay worth the while.

Still, the motel looks like the kind of place that would find you hookers if you asked at the front desk. Not that we ask.

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