It is an early start today. Our replacement bus is at 9:00. Based on getting the train a few years back, we’ll need to be at the station well before it leaves. I’m aiming for 7:00.
Which means we need to be up early. Like 6:00. I organised wake-up calls for both our rooms. I’m already up when mine comes in. Checking my emails one last time. Just in case.
I pick up the kids at 6:30. Surprisingly, Andrew is both conscious and dressed. And all packed up and ready to go.
There’s a taxi waiting outside. Which we take. It’s not far to the station. And it allows me to get rid of most of my remaining Canadian dollars.
“What have you been doing in Vancouver?”
“Just a holiday.”
“Seeing the sights?”
“The Steam Clock. And other stuff.” Thinking back, other than breweries and restaurants, that’s all we’ve seen.
We did plan that. Just got nowhere near visiting. Not a total lie, then. I’m weirdly embarrassed to tell him 95% of our time in Vancouver has been spent drinking. That’s waking, time, obviously.
Our driver rattles off a few more tourist sites and, polite Englishman that I am, I pretend we visited some. Luckily, it’s not a long drive. Shorter than my lying capacity.
Pacific Central Station is very quiet. Except for where the buses depart. There, a few confused people are milling around. Great.
I look for something about the Amtrak bus replacement. And eventually spot, in a weird spot, a tiny poster – smaller than A4 – that gives a few details. Very few details. Evidently it departs from bay 8 or 9. And that’s about all it says. Very informative.
Even though quite a few other buses are leaving, it’s not that busy. Just a few small clumps of people nervously checking their phones. The joys of bus travel. So great, that I usually avoid it, lest my heart explode in ecstasy. Or make my arse sore and my neck ache. It’s one of those two I’m avoiding. You decide which.
This should be an Amtrak rail service. But the trains aren’t running. I think because of a staff shortage. Annoyingly, they’re supposed to start running again in a few weeks.
Last time we had to check in and do US immigration and customs before boarding the train. That doesn’t seem to apply. Meaning we turned up way earlier than we needed to.
Oh, silly me! I get it. We’re going through the road crossing. All the checks will be at the border. Just like in Tijuana. I wonder how long that will take?
It’s going to be a long journey today. We’ve an early evening flight back to Amsterdam. By the time we get home, we’ll have been travelling for the best part of a day.
I wasn’t able to check in online because I wasn’t able to provide documents that show I have the right to enter Holland. Thanks, Brexit. I suppose I’ll have to show them my Dutch passport at check in.
Bus stations are always so chaotic. Always. Way more confusing than railway stations. Maybe that’s just me. You’re never quite sure from which bay a bus will leave. It’s very unsettling.
I make a quick visit to the bogs before we board. They’re very impressive for free toilets in a station. Better than many airport toilets.
I get back to the kids just before boarding starts. At 8:10 rather than the scheduled 8:30. The bus is almost full. But, luckily, I have an empty seat next to me. Where I park the rucksack containing my laptop. I wasn’t going to have that thrown into the hold.
We leave almost 30 minutes early, Brilliant! My big fear is the bus being delayed and having to rush to get to Seattle airport in time. In time for a decent length of time in the lounge, I mean.
Over four and a half hours might seem a lot. But I’m a paranoid old twat. I’m not taking any chances.
The road follows pretty much the same route as the railway line. Quite often you can see the tracks. Luckily, the roads aren’t too crowded. I was afraid we might get stuck in traffic.
It takes around an hour to get to the border. Where we hang around for a while before disembarking and joining the immigration queue.
“This is fun, kids.”
“No, it isn’t.”
“At least it isn’t as bad as at Schiphol.”
“That’s not saying much. Like Middlesbrough is prettier than Scunthorpe.”
“Have you been to either of those towns, Andrew?”
“I don’t need to. I’ve seen enough video. And you’re always going on about how shit Middlesbrough is.”
“And how often have you been there?”
“A few times.”
“Could you be more precise.”
“Twice. Maybe. It could have been once.”
“Mr. First-Hand expert, then?”
“Fuck off. I still know it’s a shithole. That’s what Dave said. And he came from there. He said the only worthwhile part of the city was Ayresome Park, the football ground.”
Lexxie jumps in. “That’s a bit extreme.”
“He really hated his hometown, Dave.”
“A bloke who lived in 96 Brudenell Road. Worked as a town planner in Peterlee for a couple of years and had some sort of breakdown. He quit his job and moved to Leeds, where I think he’d studied. I don’t know if he was studying or . . .”
“I just asked who he was. Not for a biography.”
It takes a while. But once we get to the immigration officer, we’re done in a couple of minutes. With no need for fingerprints, just a photo.
When we\re through, I join the queue for the two toilets. The kids start getting anxious about missing the bus.
“Come on, Dad. You can have a piss on the bus.”
“I prefer a proper toilet to pissing my kecks.”
“Wimp. There’s a bog on the bus.”
“I’m old. I deserve some luxury.”
“Don’t come with that ‘I’m old’ shit again. Just shut up.”
There’s another passenger queueing behind me. The bus isn’t going without me.
We’ve spent over an hour at the border. The driver tells us we’ll get to Seattle in around 1 hour 45 minutes. Which would be 15 minutes ahead of schedule. I hope that’s true.