My alarm goes off bright and early – 5:00 AM. I forgot to turn it off last night… but who am I kidding? I want as much time as possible to enjoy the last little while before both Ben and I take off for our respective journeys. Ben and I make our coffees, and do last-minute pre-trip “checklists” )”Do you have….?”) and remind each other of gaps in our packing lists.


Ben leaves for work, and we wish each other much success and a ton of fun, and whatever other amazing things will come out of this trip.


For a while, I have the house to myself. I take out all the little things that will later be clipped to my backpack when I need to make room for dog food; for now, they’ll fit inside my trusty backpack, and I marvel a my audacity of thinking I can fit 13 pounds of dog food, in addition to my running gear, street clothes, and other stuff for Jenny, into one backpack. I make sure all my liquids and gels fit into a freezer bag, make a couple of last-minute phone calls, lock up the house, and hit the road.


A friend has agreed to drive me to the airport. We’re early enough that we have time to take our service dogs for a run in the park. Hope is much smaller than Jenny, but we quickly learn that they play well – in addition to working well – together. We laugh as the dogs chase each other, wrestle, go off and sniff separate quarters, then go back to chasing. After half an hour, we’re fairly convinced that the dogs have all the “puppy” played out of them.


The conversation on the ride to the airport is deep and personal, and my friend wishes me well as she lets me off at the Arrivals gate. Jenny wanders a little, slightly distracted, then stands and stares for a full minute at the revolving door as though asking me what in the world THAT thing is. Ultimately, she decides to go through the manual doors, and we step inside the airport… and have to walk ALL the way to the far end to check in with Alaska Airlines. The counter agent moves me to a seat with no one beside me so that Jenny will have more room, and I don’t protest. Another agent assists me to security. I had hoped to use AiRa, a service where a blind person can receive visual information from a sighted agent, to go through security, but the counter agent insisted on calling someone to personally assist me. I don’t argue, and Jenny does a flawless “Follow” to security.


My backpack is fine. My purse is mostly fine (I forgot to take out an 8ml hand sanitizer bottle I’d put in there last week). Jenny’s harness pack is fine. I have a brief exchange of words about protocols for security agents and my guide dog (they can ask me to walk separately from my dog through the detector, but THEY cannot separate me from my dog). I go through no problem, Jenny is visually inspected, and my hands are swabbed for contact with chemicals. My liquids are NOT fine… I’ve brought too much! I have to leave a half-full bottle of shower gel and a nearly-empty shampoo bottle behind. My backpack already feels lighter!


After security, I make it through customs in a matter of less than two minutes. Jenny continues her flawless guide work as we make our way to our gate, then to quisno’s for lunch. I purchase a mesquite chicken sandwich and eat it at my gate – the part that doesn’t explode all over the wrapper, that is.


The flight is bumpy and turbulent, and there’s a steady stream of cold air that blows on Jenny and I. We’re cold, we’re tired, and this flight is NOT fun. I drink coffee and read, and Jenny lays down in the ample space we’ve been provided. When we land, I get off the airplane, hoping to use AiRa for free to locate my Mom (SeaTac Airport is a Sight Access location, so anyone can use it free of charge), but there’s already a helpful airport staff person waiting for me. I tell him three time that I have no checked bags to pick up, but he insists on taking me to the baggage claim area. Mom has a similar experience, and is told to meet me at baggage claim. We are finally able to connect, though we’re both less than impressed with the staff’s unwillingness to listen – there are NO bags to pick up.


We pay for parking and drive through the slightly congested streets to our AirBNB. The setup is clean and comfortable, and there are two dogs in the back. We take Jenny off her leash and harness and let her take care of her biological needs, then settle in for a while.


In finding places for dinner on a Friday night, we learn two things almost immediately: It’s almost impossible to find parking in this area on a Friday night during dinner, and drivers appear out of nowhere and do REALLY crazy things.


We make it back to the AirBNB, turn in early, and talk for awhile. Neither of us sleeps overly well in a new place, but we get up bright and early to meet Kevin, my guide runner, at MOHAI for a 20-km run. It’s slow, but steady, and I’m happy with my pace, especially given that I’ve never gone this far before. But I made the mistake of doing this run without first having coffee, and I vow never to do this again. But for the first time, I feel that a half-marathon IS achievable. It may not be pretty, or as fast as we’ve trained for, but the distance IS something that both Jenny and I can do…


We wave goodbye to Kevin and head for a Denny’s for food. It’s chaotic, but we get our food, water and coffee, and already my sore hips are thanking the universe.


After a quick trip back to the AirBNB for a shower and some rest, we head out to Walmart to do some shopping. For less than $70 uS, I purchase about twice the amount of items I could buy back home, including a hoodie that I specifically needed to buy. I is asked if Jenny is a service dog, and when I say yes, I am asked no more questions. Some of the customers stand and stare at us as though Jenny were a unicorn, but we are able to make our purchases with no issues.


We’ve made arrangements to meet my friends Chris and Sabrena for dinner Saturday night. I’ve known Chris through online spaces for quite a few years, and I am excited to finally meet him and his wife. The conversation is easy, the food is good. Mom provides a running commentary on what Chris and Sabrena’s 4-month-old kitten is doing in relation to Jenny… they both pretty much ignore each other. The four of us talk about Seattle, dogs, life, love, and relax as the older bluesy music plays through the speakers. The evening ends almost too early, but Mom doesn’t want to drive back in the dark; I don’t blame her. We hug Chris and Sabrena goodbye and contentedly make our way back to our AirBNB, where we chat with the caretaker for half an hour, until little blood-sucking bugs force me inside. We’re contented and exhausted as we turn in early again.


Sunday morning comes early. We’re both wide awake long before the alarm goes off. My body is slightly stiff from yesterday’s literal near-half-marathon, but I’ve got another guide runner lined up, and I’m itching to log some miles. We grab coffee from a gas station on the way, and when the man behind the counter hears that I’m running, he stops and says, “You’re running? But you’re blind!” I laugh and tell him that both statements are absolutely true. He wishes me good luck, and I smile and I drink my coffee and head back to the truck.


We meet Margot, my guide runner, in the parking lot. The pace is quicker, but the road is quite bumpy, so I’m not risking injury. Margot gives great directions perfect lead time, and thinks Jenny is awesome! The conversation continues both during and after the run, and it’s fluid and easy. Margot wants to keep in touch and hear more about this trip I’m on. I smile and tell her to add me on Facebook. She does.


We head back to the same Denny’s for similar post-run food to yesterday. The staff is more relaxed than yesterday, the food is solid, and the atmosphere is relaxed. We decide, since we’re so close, to pattern Jenny and I through the train station I’ll need tomorrow. I’m glad we made this decision, as the building is big and cavernous with a couple of parallel hallways. Jenny finds what we need – and things that we don’t – and we hit the road again.


Mom has brought with her a 6 kg (thirteen pound) bag of dog food. I thought I could fit an unopened bag in my backpack, but realized last week after packing my clothes that this is not likely to happen. We start putting food into plastic bags and start loading up the backpack. We start with twelve days of food. There’s more room, so we add another five. we THINK we might be able fit the next five days in… and we do. I shove clothes and packing cubes in where I can, but I need to do laundry, so the actual packing configuration will look different. But I am fairly confident that I can carry the food and my clothes and not have to worry about things being shipped to me on the road… fairly confident. Mom hugs me goodbye and heads back to Canada, and I rest, relax, and do some laundry. Once my clothes are clean and dry, I start what I affectionately dub “Operation Packing Cube”. I have more clothes than I started with, so I make a couple snap decisions. i’ll clip my pajamas and change of clothes to the laundry back on the outside of my backpack so I’ll have easy access while on the train. My running clothes can go in the main backpack, and my street clothes can go in the back compartment with a couple bags of food on top of them. Two more bags of food will sit inside my purse, in addition to her needed food for on the train. I zip up the backpack… and everything fits. I’m blown away!


My friend Robin invited me out for seafood tonight, and I’m so excited I could burst. I LOVE seafood, and the vibes of seafood restaurants. I’m able to get a ride from the caretaker of our AirBNB, since he’s headed that way. Robin and I get seated almost immediately on the patio, and the staff offer Jenny some water while they pour our glasses. Our food comes rapidly and is extremely good. Robin and I talk and laugh and go on rabbit trails for nearly an hour before we’re asked if we want dessert. We both do. Once our dessert plates are cleared, we continue the conversation until one of us notices the time and thinks we need to get back to our respective places. I’m disappointed to leave the relaxed and cheerful vibe of Duke’s Seafood Bar, but I am tired and should probably get back. Jenny leads the way through the crowded restaurant, through the tables, and up toward where we got dropped off. Robin thinks we might need to go another way, so we turn around and Jenny flawlessly and carefully makes sure we know where everything is. Robin gets to meet Jenny before her ride arrives, and we hug goodbye and thank each other for a super fun evening.


Robin’s Lyft arrives before my Uber, and my driver tries to call me several times but can’t hear me (I can’t hear him either). He drops me off what what we both think is the right house, but he can’t see the numbers of the houses. As I walk down the driveway, I’m asked abruptly “Where are you going?” Thinking this is the upstairs rentor, I say nothing until he asks again. When I tell him I’m looking for downstairs, he says I’m at the wrong house. The Uber driver waits as this man (the next door neighbor, as it turns out) walks me next door, introduces himself as my neighbor, and calls me “baby” as I open the gate. I’m by turns grateful for his kindness and a little creeped out about being called “Baby.” But I’m back, and I’m safe, and I fall asleep quickly.


I wake up on my own, and I’m suddenly super grateful that I have to pack almost nothing. I can enjoy the morning with a coffee and a keyboard to update my blog, and can make my way to the train station when I’m ready. My host is up at 6:00 making coffee, and we chat as it brews. I finish packing the last of my things, and my backpack seriously can’t hold another thing… and then I shove my windbreaker into it. It’s so heavy that I wonder if I can carry it around Montana, but then I remember the time I spent an entire day hauling a backpack and a beading kit through Victoria. If I can handle THAT, with the uneven weight distribution, I can handle this monstrosity.


This backpack is big!


I check out of my AirBNB,, call an Uber and arrive at the Amtrak station with time to spare. My heavy backpack is checked behind the counter, and I sit and enjoy a coffee and a wrap from a food truck outside the station. After exploring the station and chatting with my dad and stepmom, I get ready to head to the closest drugstore, where the food truck operator said I could find a new bluetooth keyboard (the one I am currently writing on sometimes doubles up letters, and some of the keys don’t work right). I’m given really bad directions to the T-mobile store,,, who doesn’t have a bluetooth keyboard either, and get advised to head to Target. I walk for over 30 minutes (dodging crazy drivers and navigating weird intersections with medians in the middle)… only to find that Target, too, doesn’t have any bluetooth keyboards! The definition of pointless errand!


I make it back to the station,, where I retrieve my backpack and chat with a couple of other travelers on my train. Before I know it, the train arrives, we climb on board, the whistle blowss, and the train drives off into the Seattle afternoon.


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