On the road again. To the Pacific Northwest. Seattle, Portland, and mountains in between.
Flew into Seattle, rented a car -- through Hotwire this time. Bought the cheapest car, ended up with Hertz and, surprise, a peppy Mazda 3, far better than what I paid for. It happens.
Thing about Hotwire is that you buy the deal, put the money up ahead of time, without the options of canceling or changing. That's the trade-off. I Paid $156.68 for five days, including taxes and fees. Rental car fees are killers. The car was $94.68.
My original plan was to tool around Seattle, visit family, including chef Scott who's now managing the hot, new Bill The Butcher sophisticated meat shop in Redmond, then drive to Portland, Oregon, about 4 hours away.
When I was researching rental car fares on the Internet, I didn't count on a drop-off fee of more than $200 to drive from Seattle to Portland. So, I booked the car for five days, then took the train to Portland. This was one of my better travel decisions for 2010.
Seattle to Portland for $29
What a great deal. Light rail from the Seattle/Tacoma airport back into Seattle to the Amtrak station was $2.50. Train from Seattle to Portland, less than 4 hours, was $29 ($24.65 if you are 62 and older).
My only complaint: Amtrak signs in Seattle. You get off the light rail at Seattle's International District Station, only a block from the Amtrak station, but there are no directions on how to get to Amtrak. I asked several people before a man (in Starbucks) directed me around the corner of a building, down an elevator and across a small parking lot. It was easy. But Amtrak should post itself a sign.
I love train travel. If only all the nation's major cities were connected by convenient train service, such as downtown Seattle to downtown Portland for $29. Sure would keep a lot of us off the congested highways. The whole trip was made easier by Portland's free downtown rail that dropped me off a block from my Hotel Monaco.