“Moral? It’s better to ask some of the questions, than to know all the answers.”
Fables for Our Time/The Scottie who Knew Too Much by James Thurber.
“Why am I doing this?” I asked myself at 5:05 AM that Sunday, but it was too late. I’d already asked too many questions.
I started by asking “where can I go to take pictures of butterflies?” Thought that I found a great answer in “Wings of Wonder” But when I asked for further details, the biggest one was that they had closed two years earlier.
Further inquiries about a good place to see butterflies, advised me that the Oregon Zoo was a good bet. The Oregon Zoo still lists “Winged Wonders” as one of their special events. But they don’t have any plans do to it again. At least, no plans they’re willing to tell us about.
That’s actually what provoked this whole interest: the exhibits they had held seven and eight years ago. The entry that listed the Oregon Zoo as a great place to see butterflies neglected to tell me how to pull off the enough time travel to get back there. Too bad, because this time I’d catch the shot I missed because my camera’s SD card was full
It was a wonderful shot. This guy had a camera with a mega lens so big, he had a tripod for the lens. He was bent over, intently attending to the shot he was trying to get and didn’t notice the butterfly landing on his back. It was such a cool shot, I’d risk tying a knot in the time-space continuum to get it. That may be why no one has told me how to pull it off.
Left with the time-space that was available to me, I queried Seattle’s Pacific Science Center. Their exhibit is listed as permanent, and a day trip to Seattle seemed doable. But then I asked, how long is that drive? Google’s answer: three and a half, maybe four hours with traffic each way. That led to more questions.
Given the amount of time I could spend at the exhibit, did I really feel like spending seven or eight hours driving? Not really. Did I want to deal with Seattle traffic? Seattle without traffic is like Portland without rain: it does happen, but don’t count on it. To find some other way to get there, I Googled again.
Google was so quick, I didn’t finish typing out: bus portland seattle before it was showing me listings on Bolt Bus. I read Joseph Rose’s column on Oregonlive.com about riding it to the NFC championship game. Joseph’s Bolt Bus Review. Bolt Bus sounded like a good alternative. A brief visit to their website was encouraging. The next question was how would I get from where the bus would land me to the butterflies.
Again, Google directed me to a useful site, the SoundTrnasit trip planning site. All the routes suggested involved walking a block or two, a transfer, $2.50 for fare and 20 to 30 minutes. I decide to mull it over.
A crucial question that I had to resolve: was the exhibit going to be open this Sunday. Stuff happens. It’s a year round exhibit open every day, but Stuff Happens. Seattle, Seattle Center’s a nice place to visit, but it would suck to get there and find the exhibit closed. I called and confirmed I wouldn’t be up there saying “Damn I should have checked first.” That situation turned out to be closer than I realized.
In theory, this was a simple day trip. Hop up there, take a look around, take some pictures, and hop on back. I still had some hoops to hop through. One more alternative that occurred to me was the monorail. The 1962 Seattle World’s fair had two icons: The Space Needle and the monorail. I got to visit the World’s fair several times, and got to take in the view from atop the Space Needle, but I don’t remember riding The Monorail.
When I saw the route map for the monorail, it didn’t look like Westlake Center was anywhere close to my landing zone at 5th & King. Monorail or not, all this planning had me pretty much committed to making the trip. But was I through with questions? Don’t ask.
Which departure time to schedule? That looked simple: 8:30 AM is a decent, civilized time to be awake and about, even on a Sunday. When I looked at the available times for the return trip, not so simple. Leaving Seattle at six wouldn’t leave enough time to unwind out of weekend mode and get ready to get back to work. Leaving at three wouldn’t give me enough time at the exhibit after I allowed for travel time inside Seattle.
So it would have to be a 6:30 AM departure from Portland. Could Tri-met get me downtown by 6:20 on Sunday? Tri-met’s trip planner told me NO. That answer was not satisfying, but better than having it suggest I could catch a 1 AM trip and hang around. I needed to be more resourceful if I was going to get this website to work for me.
Catching the 6:30 AM departure after parking at the nearest park and ride lot wasn’t going to work. Could I make it if a picked a stop closer to Portland? The answer was yes. The 5:22 AM departure from Millikan Way would get me there with time to spare. In fact, time to kill, more time to kill than I wanted, but that was the deal. If I didn’t feel like catching that one, the second Tri-met option was the 3:30 Max train.
I made the reservations with Bolt Bus, and, a minor inspiration raised another question: How hard would be to get to Westlake Center from where the bus left me? Easy, all kinds of easy. I’d make sure I carried enough cash for bus fare. I was done with questions and concerns. . . . Not entirely.
The bus ride was comfortable. The Link Train ride to Westlake Center was uneventful. It ended inside a shopping mall. There were directions for different facilities, but none for the monorail. I navigated my way out to the street.
“Damn! where did they hide it?” Elevated above the street, the monorail and its track should be easy to spot as I circled the block from where I emerged, but no joy. I thought about asking my smart phone, but decided instead to ask the polite looking gentleman who was tidying up the sidewalk. He accompanied me half a block and pointed “See the Starbucks? It’s on the third floor of the building behind it.” I thanked him and was shortly back on track.
Now it was time to take in the sights:
The Space Needle
The graceful arches of the Pacific Science Center
And the butterfly exhibit.
Knowing that it was a year round exhibit, I was curious about whether they had a special exemption that allowed them to breed butterflies. When I asked one of the staff members, he told me they didn’t. They imported fresh batches of chrysalides to replenish the display. He informed me that they had recently scaled back some on the size and variety of the population. Tomorrow the exhibit was going to close for several weeks of extensive refurbishing. You really don’t know what you’ll find out until you ask.