Thursday, April 12, 2007

Eastward bound


Drew snapped the photo and added the caption: "Tim rockets away from the Boeing tour center, off to race the storm to Snoqualmie Pass"


After nearly fifteen years of visiting Seattle, I was finally determined to take the tour of the Boeing plant at Everett. Drew and Alex decided to join me. They would cross on the ferry as pedestrians. I loaded up the motorcycle for the road and we caught the 11:30 ferry to Mukilteo.

The tour costs a shocking $15 per person! (At least Robert Mondavi offered hors d'oeuvres and wine tasting with their $10 tours!) No cameras allowed. A fairly “canned” tour. It begins in the Tour Center auditorium with a self-described Boeing propaganda film. We then boarded a tour bus, which carried us around Boeing's airfield, past rows of new aircraft being readied for delivery, and over to the assembly buildings.

After exiting the bus, we entered a tunnel beneath the largest assembly plant in the world. We rode a freight elevator to a mezzanine overlooking the 777 assembly area. The nose of the aircraft is built in Kansas, the body sections come from Mitsubishi and Kawasaki in Japan. A 777 has a 45,000 gallon fuel tank capacity. The engines may be manufactured by Pratt & Whitney, Rolls Royce or General Electric. Boeing has 2,500 suppliers representing 40 nations. $300M per aircraft. The other section of warehouse we could see from the mezzanine was mostly bare. It is the future home of the new 787 “Dreamliner” assembly line. The tour bus returned to the Tour Center, and we exited through the gift shop.

Browsed the Tour Center briefly, but the sky looked ominous, rain coming. I was a bit anxious, thinking about Snoqualmie Pass, and still I had to stop at “Ride West BMW”. Outside the Tour Center, I bid farewell to Drew and Alex.

“Ride West BMW” was fairly simple to find in North Seattle. Picked up the fuel pump electronics module they had ordered for me. $100.27. (including a $20 expedited delivery charge. This is the cost BMW has shifted to customers since their shops now stock so few parts. For me, a major irritation.)

Made a “beeline” for Snoqualmie Summit, hoping to clear it before rain, or possibly even snow, hit. The road was open, pavement dry and traffic fairly light, so passage was easy.

With that obstacle behind me, I could relax. Left the Interstate east of George and followed highway 283 towards Ephrata (with its Old West downtown district, frozen in time.) Along the shores of Grand Coulee, I started to search for a campsite, while there was still plenty of daylight. The official campgrounds are expensive ($19), designed primarily for motorhomes. It irks me that in many campgrounds I should have to pay as much as a motorhome with their electrical and water hook-ups, and sanitary dump facilities.

Refused to pay that price, and so, passed on a few opportunities to set-up camp early. Continued on toward Grand Coulee Dam.

South of the town of Grand Coulee, I stumbled upon the Spring Valley Campground on a scrubby hillside high above Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake. The campground was open, with a few campers, though the facilities were closed. There was a self-registration station, which I ignored. I set up my tent on a sandy patch of ground and settled in for the night.

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