So, Supportive Partner Woman and I just returned from a new travel spot (for us).
See… we do travel to places other than Orlando.
We headed to the Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet… primarily on the recommendation of our friend Beci, but also because of the lure of 1) never having been there, 2) Disney Legends Marty Sklar and Bob Gurr, and 3) My inner aviation geek was going to see the Boeing factory at all costs.
To make a long story short, well, mission accomplished. It looked a little dicey for awhile, though.
Let’s turn the hands of time back to last Friday. We had a mid-morning flight out of Baltimore. If you’ve never used that airport, it’s actually pretty nice. The layout is readily understood and it’s clean. It doesn’t have that peculiar airport odor that you find at Philadelphia… you know, that odd combination smell of desperation and urine. The parking is reasonable and plentiful, and there are lots of flights. Before we could leave, though, we had to get out of the house. This was made more difficult when we discovered a small ant infestation in SPW’s backpack. We finally got that cleaned up and I sprayed the hell out of the living room. The culprit was apparently a lone forgotten caramel creme that had attracted the little buggers.
Our flight to SeaTac was in two legs. First one was BWI to Denver (aka HQ of the New World Order). I actually like the Denver airport, bizarre sculpture of the demon horse aside. Sadly, we didn’t have a lot of time at DEN. We made it to the departure gate only to find they were a little behind schedule. Turns out some weather on the east coast had impacted Southwest’s flight schedule and the flight attendants scheduled for our flight to Seattle weren’t going to make it. Southwest loaded some crew on a plane from Las Vegas and they kind of got off the plane and got on ours. There was also a special needs person that took awhile to get seated. No worries, it happens. Found the only pair of two seats on a Southwest aircraft, and even got to see some beautiful scenery, namely Mount Rainier. It’s a beautiful sight to see poking up above the clouds as you whiz by at 500 mph and 32,000 feet.
For being our first time at SeaTac and not being familiar with their car rental system, I think we did OK. They have a consolidated off-terminal system, so we grabbed the shuttle, picked a car, and off we went. We knew things were tight, time-wise, but Siri said we’d just make it to Everett in time for the Boeing tour. What a liar Siri turned out to be. See, what I didn’t know was that after 2:00 PM, the I-5 around Seattle turns into a large parking lot.
I was, of course, freaking out… I mean, my aviation geek fantasy was evaporating in a cloud of slow-moving vehicles.
Thankfully, SPW (mistress of the telephone!) was along. She called the Boeing tour center, talked to some fine folks there and was able to get our tour rescheduled.
Got to our hotel in Lynnwood, which was an Embassy Suites currently under construction. No matter… they still have a yummy breakfast included. Met up with some friends, met some new friends. Observed the opening night Disney trivia contest, only to find that this is a primarily Disneyland meet. No matter… an Imagineer is still an Imagineer, no matter the coast. Also met Don, the meet organizer. Went for a late-night forage, and off to bed, as the time change caught up with us.
Saturday was the meet day. We hopped in the rental car and headed to the nearby Lynnwood Convention Center. It’s a nice little venue, next to a strip mall… go figure, but nice regardless. There was the usual round of get-to-know-you bingo and some welcome remarks by Don, who introduced Stacia Martin, a Disney artist and historian. Ms. Martin gave an interesting presentation of her work and her role in the company. Afterward there was some time to look at the various exhibitors and see what they had to offer. I might add that before the speakers started, both SPW (possessor of the Magic Geek Vest!) and I managed to get autographs from Messrs. Gurr and Sklar, as well as Ms. Martin.
I should explain that this was R.H. “Bob” Gurr, the man who pretty much designed every ride vehicle at Disneyland, and Marty Sklar, former head of Walt Disney Imagineering. I was fanboying like nobody’s business. I had brought along my copy of Mr. Sklar’s book to have him sign, and SPW had all three guests sign the Geek Vest. There was some great art available, as well as some authors who have written books on Disney history. One author, David Lesjak, had two books, one on the role of Disney Studios during WWII, and one on Walt Disney’s service in WWI as an ambulance driver. I look forward to reading both. Mr. Lesjak was able to sign both of my books, which is always cool.
Bob Gurr, Don Morin, and Marty Sklar
Sunday, there was a Q&A session with Bob Gurr and Marty Sklar. It doesn’t take long to realize the level of mutual respect between these two men, as they joked back and forth and reflected on their long careers working alongside of Walt Disney himself, as well as after Disney’s passing. The time for this session went way too quickly, that’s for sure.
After the session was done, SPW (Most patient wife EVER!) and I headed north to Everett for our tour of the Boeing factory. A few facts about the factory… the assembly building has a footprint of 98 acres. There are six assembly bays. Each bay’s doors measure the length of an American football field (100 yards or 91.4 meters), and the newest additions actually measure 120 yards. It’s hard to get a sense of scale until you are on ground level and realize just how massive the building really is. In this building, Boeing assembles 747s, 767s, 777s, and 787s. The smaller 737 series is built in Renton, south of Seattle. Guinness has certified this as being the largest building in the world by volume, enclosing over 472,000,000 cubic feet (13,385,378 cubic meters). The building itself in around 0.25 to 0.30 miles wide. The tour starts in a theater where a short film on Boeing’s relationship with the community is talked about. You board a bus and are taken across the field to the assembly building. We were very fortunate to have great weather that day and began our tour with a visit to the 747 production area. There were two planes currently being worked on… a 747-8 freighter and a 747-8 Intercontinental passenger liner. Back on the bus to go to the other end of the factory, because that’s the fastest way to get there. This end saw us on a balcony overlooking the 777 and 787 lines. One thing we did notice was that on each assembly bay, there are representations of the tail art of all airlines they have built that particular aircraft for. The 787 that was closest to completion was the first one being built for Uzbekistan Airlines. Very cool.
Remember earlier when I was talking about size and how it’s hard to get a handle on the actual scale of the aircraft? While we were not allowed to take photos on the tour, we were close to a GE90-115 engine that was going to be attached to a 777. This engine was as tall as the tour bus. The engine itself is as wide as a 737 fuselage. That kind of puts things in perspective.
There’s a lot more to the trip, but I will save that for the very near future.