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5/13/2016 Safeco Field

Willie Bloomquist is one of my favorite players and when he announced his retirement it made me sort of sad. I was never able to get any memorabilia signed by him or meet him at any of the games while he was active on the field. But I’m happy he’s retired and doing the things he wants to do. He recently accepted a job with the front office with the Diamondbacks so there’s still a chance I can catch him at the ballpark to get something signed.

I recently connected with him on Twitter and asked him how retirement was going…

…seems like everything is going well at the moment.

The Angels were in town this weekend and I always try to make it out to the stadium to see them. Mainly I like heckling Albert Pujols because he seems to make it a point to ignore the fans. So whenever he takes his at-bats, I like to obnoxiously yell “Puuuujjjjoooolllls!”. On a positive note, I like to wave and cheer on Mike Trout because he always responds to his fans, and I like seeing that from him.

My girlfriend, Alexandra  accompanied me for the game and we stopped at the Pyramid Ale House prior to game time. I ordered the beer battered fish, which by the way, was awesome but the service wasn’t so great…

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…we’ve been here before and our last visit the service was sub-par as well. We both decided this would be our last visit here.

When I entered the stadium, I spotted my first baseball of the day on the ground near the Root Sports set up. Once the rest of the stadium opened up, I managed to find three more baseballs in the right and center field bleachers and one was hit my way and I was able to snag it on the carom.

Alexandra and I headed down to the Angels dugout and once at our seats, we found this stuck to the front of my seat:

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Here’s a closer look at what it says:

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This was the view from our seats during the game:

By the bottom of the fourth, the game was tied 1-1 until Nelson Cruz hit a high drive out of the park in the bottom half of the fifth. Then in the bottom of the eighth, Angels pitcher, Joe Smith walked Norichika Aoki and then literally tried to pick him off at first base several times. The crowd became extremely restless and then on about the sixth or seventh attempt, Mike Scioscia challenged the play:

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It was the first time I’d ever witnessed a live challenge and so it was interesting to watch the umpires put on the headsets and watch the video over and over again. The call stood; Aoki was safe at first. It was still pretty cool to see.

The game had lasted well beyond three hours so we left after Robinson Cano belted a double into the gap. The Mariners had the lead at this point by one run. Steve Chisek would be in to close the game out and by the time I got home and checked the score, I learned he blew the save. The one thing I was happy about was the fact that Robinson Cano had extended my Beat The Streak game streak to 16 with his double to the gap. The Mariners losing in the 9th? Not so happy about that but it’s baseball.

Total Lifetime Games Attended: 120

Total Baseballs Snagged This Season: 4

Total Lifetime Baseballs Snagged: 339

Total Lifetime Foul Balls Snagged: 1

Total Lifetime Home Run Balls Snagged: 0

 

 

 

 

Seattle Mariners Fanfest 2016

The main goal was to attend this fan fest and get Jay Buhner’s autograph on a baseball bat. I had purchased a nice wooden bat from a sports retailer the night before, packed up the camera and headed into Seattle.

The last time I attended a fan fest was a few years ago and I really had a good experience. I wasn’t trying to mirror this experience to last times but I was imagining some quality time with Buhner. After all, it’s fan fest!

When I got to Safeco, the lines were already wrapped around the stadium:

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The rules for autographs were pretty simple: the first 200 people in line that claimed vouchers upon entry would get that players autograph of their choice and so on and so forth until there were no more vouchers for that player. The players were staggered at various times so all you had to do was enter the ballpark, walk to the banner with the players name on it that you wanted, grab the voucher from the staff member and beat feet up to wherever the autograph session was taking place. Make senses? Okay, good.

Jay Buhner was signing autographs right at 10:30am so as soon as I got inside, I grabbed the voucher with his name on it and I just followed the signs that led me up to this hallway:

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There were all kinds of cool things to look at waiting in line but all I really wanted to do was meet Jay Buhner.

I have been a Mariners fan since 1989 when my Mom took me to my very first Mariners game in the Kingdome. We sat up in the 300 level near the 3rd base side and the Mariners played the Baltimore Orioles. That was the first game I witnessed Cal Ripken Jr. play and all of my Mariner favorites. Since then, I’ve attended handfuls of games growing up with my Dad and we always sat where we could see Ken Griffey Jr.

Over the last few years, I’ve met a lot of players and I wanted to start meeting my childhood favorites like Jay Buhner and Dan Wilson. I met Edgar Martinez a few seasons ago by being in the right place at the right time.

Anyway. When Buhner finally arrived I had a question in mind that I wanted to ask him. And when I got up to the table to have my memorabilia signed, the staff member who was with Buhner was handing him so much stuff so fast for him to sign, I think Buhner was a little flustered. He even made a comment to the guy, something along the lines of “you’re handing me stuff and I don’t even have time to sign it!” Something like that.

When I handed my bat to the staff member, I stood in front of Buhner…

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… and asked him, “Jay, when do you think Ichiro will hit his 3,000th hit?” He immediately replied with. “How many hits does he got?” I think at the time Ichiro had 2,919 or something like that. I was soon cut-off by more fans walking in front of me to get their picture taken with Buhner and the staff member kept piling on the memorabilia for him to sign. So I just picked up my bat and sort of walked away. I turned back once or twice more to watch but I was soon greeted with, “Have a nice day!” from another staff member which sort of meant, “please exit this way”.

Wow. I stood outside of the doors and just watched Buhner scurrying to sign balls and bobble heads and cards and all sorts of stuff. He had his head down and was just signing away.

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Occasionally he would look up and laugh or whatever and shake a hand or two, but it was all business getting everything signed in front of him. I felt bad for him and I felt bad for the fans. Buhner had 200 autographs to sign in an hour and a half and I guess the point of the whole thing was to just get something signed and move on. But I wanted to at least talk to him for a minute or two like I got to talk to Edgar Martinez. I got to tell Edgar how I went to games as a little kid, and cheered for him and chanted, “Ed-GAR! Ed-GAR!” with my Dad and we drove home that night smiling after a M’s win. I shook hands with Martinez and took a picture and all was right in the world.

All wasn’t right in the world on this day. Buhner was a mad man signing autographs. I don’t blame him, though. It’s all about making the fans happy, I suppose. And if it’s just spending two quick seconds getting something signed from a baseball player and not having much interaction, then I guess that’s what makes people happy.

I feel fortunate as a baseball fan, though. I have a decent sized collection of signed baseball memorabilia from some of the greatest baseball players who’ve ever played the game. I’ve met and took pictures with many of my favorite players, I’ve traveled to 14 different MLB stadiums, I’ve seen MLB games in both Japan and Australia, I’ve caught a foul ball and I’ve shook hands with Nelson Cruz in Macy’s in down town Seattle. So over the years it’s been fun.

I walked away from Safeco today feeling happy that I got Buhner’s autograph on a baseball bat that’ll forever be in my collection but at the same time, I felt a little frustrated. I sort of put myself in Buhner’s shoes for a moment, too. He gives a lot of his own time to the fans. He raised the 12th man flag at the Seahawks game and he seems to be pretty involved in the community around the area, plus he goes to these fan fests just about every year. My only wish is during these autograph sessions, the process could just go a little slower.

 

6/28/2015 Grand Cayman Islands (Day #6)

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I took this picture as we headed to the hotel lobby to get our cab and head to the airport. This is 4:30am and the sun was just starting to come up. It was absolutely gorgeous.

I don’t normally blog about a “travel day” because typically nothing very eventful happens while sitting in the airport for hours on end waiting on flights. Since we had such a miserable flight coming to the Grand Cayman Islands, I thought I’d share some more nightmare-ish flight adventures.

As you know, (if you’ve been reading since day one) Alaskan Airline left our luggage in Seattle on our way over to Grand Cayman. Oops. No big deal, right? Except for the fact that we needed clothing because after traveling for a day and a half we weren’t exactly feeling very fresh anymore. So on our first day on the island, we went out and spent $300 dollars on some swim stuff so we could at least enjoy the pool while we waited on our luggage. Our flight itinerary was basically this: Seattle to St. Louis, St. Louis to Miami and Miami to Grand Cayman. Every flight after arriving to St. Louis was delayed for one reason or another. It wouldn’t be such a big deal except that one delayed flight screws up the entire order of things.

American Airlines was our main flight provider, and although they were extremely helpful in helping us get our luggage, they really didn’t offer us much more than an apology over Twitter. And that seems to be the norm on their Twitter account. Endless apologies for things that have happened to other travelers.

Soooooo fast-forward to our travel day back to Seattle. Our flight from Grand Cayman to Miami was seamless. When we got to Miami, our flight was supposed to leave at 2pm. That didn’t happen. About five minutes before boarding at our gate, they changed our gate number and we had to go to our new gate which was literally on the other side of the airport. When we got there, the American Airlines guy kept saying something about interference on the field or something, we couldn’t understand what he was saying. We didn’t board our flight until around 3pm. Then we sat on the tarmac for ten minutes before finally leaving for Dallas/Fort Worth. We knew when we got to Dallas/Fort Worth airport, we’d have about ten minutes to get to our gate. Luckily, we didn’t have far to go when we arrived. Unfortunately, our seats were literally at the back of the plane.

We arrived closer to 5pm local time and I thought to myself that were still in good shape to get to our gate. I also thought that American Airlines would communicate to any connecting flights that there was a half hour delay and to hold any planes for arriving passengers. Apparently, they don’t do that anymore. We hustled to our gate with moments to spare. 5:05 PM to be exact. The plane was departing at 5:15pm. I figured since every other flight we’ve been on from American Airlines has been late, I assumed this one would be too. I expected to encounter a long line of people or a nice lady with a smile on her face welcoming us onto our flight. We received the exact opposite. It’s like a storm cloud followed us over to our gate and we got some unhappy, rude woman standing there. I said, “hold on, hold on! We are on this flight!” I attempted to hand my boarding pass to the woman and she instantly stated “No, you were on this flight” like it was our fault that we were late. “Excuse me? What do you mean “we were“?! I replied. “I already gave your seat away…”

Oh, hell no. You did what, American Airlines? You gave my seat away?! Is that what I heard correctly?! Every flight on this trip has been late by 30 minutes or more and I’m late by TWO minutes and you give my seat away?! I was floored. No apology. No sympathy, nothing. One of the rudest person I’ve ever dealt with in my life was standing in front of me and I had to do everything in my power not to literally verbally destroy this woman in the middle of the airport. I was blown away at how cold and uncaring this person could actually be. Flying domestically has become such a travesty. There isn’t any customer service anymore. The airlines (and not just American Air) nickel and dime everyone. They don’t even hand out small bags of peanuts  and most airlines won’t let you have a full can of soda. It’s shocking that stuff is even free anymore.

After getting a new flight (now departing at 6:50pm) we trekked across the airport again only to get to our new gate to get the news that our gate had been moved again. Good grief. Of course, I took my complaints and frustrations out on Twitter and started tweeting about how miserable this experience was with American Airlines. What do you know, they responded, and apologized:

The American Airlines Devil Woman at the desk who kept me on my flight that I paid for, you know, the one that gave my seat away? She wouldn’t even look at me let alone give a sympathetic apology. I had to go fishing for an apology on Twitter. That’s pretty pathetic.

I get that airlines like to run flights at near-full or full capacity to turn more of a profit. Unfortunately, they are sacrificing good customer service. The American Airlines Devil Woman made it seem like it was all our fault for being late. Like, we were nursing a hangover or out boozing it up at a local bar in the airport. No, lady. We weren’t. It was the airline that you work for that made us late. We were early for all of our flights like they say to be. Two hours before your flight you need to be at the airport and blah blah blah. Why, so I can sit at the gate and be redirected two or three times to another gate only to have our flight delayed by some mechanical error or some other issue and have to sit on the tarmac for an hour like my flight back to Seattle from Chicago earlier this month?

Our flight was supposed to depart at 6:50 PM and when we finally got to our gate the flight information read that it was delayed to 7:05 PM. Prefect. Why wouldn’t our flight be delayed. This was American Airlines after all. I wouldn’t expect anything less. We started boarding at 7:05 PM and when our group was called to board the reader board stated that all the overhead bins were now full and people were told they had to start checking their luggage. Great. American Airlines ought to put “it’s a surprise” under the departure time instead of an actual time. It was now 7:39 PM when I actually sat down in my seat on the plane. At approximately 8:01 PM, the flight took off from the runway and we were Seattle bound. Un-freaking-believable.

We arrived at Sea-tac around 10:30 PM and while we were walking passed the baggage claim area, we overheard a conversation between a customer and an American Airline staff member. Something along the lines of “it’s showing your luggage was left in Dallas and was never put on the plane”. Well, that’s no surprise.

I don’t want anything from American Airlines. I surely don’t want a travel voucher or a free flight. What I want is my time back. I want my three hours back. I should have been home at 7 PM instead of 11PM. That’s what I want. I want my time back but American Airlines cant give me back my time. Even if they offered a free flight, I would decline. I wouldn’t give it to a friend or a family member either because I wouldn’t want to put anyone I know through the kind of hell they put me and my girlfriend through. I wouldn’t wish this kind of torture on my worst enemy. The best thing American Airlines can do at this point is to tell Devil Woman to get rid of her Resting Bitch Face and start treating customers like they have some kind of value to the company. To tell someone who’s been traveling all day “you were on this flight” and “I already gave your seat away” because they were two minutes late was a pretty good slap in the face. It was rude and I should have cussed her out. But I didn’t. I’m above all of that kind of nonsense because it doesn’t solve anything.

Sorry, American Airlines, but I’m not sorry. You have offensive and ill-mannered employees. And it’s not just with Devil Woman. I’ve noticed a handful of other employees having attitudes as well. Maybe this company needs to invest in better customer service programs. The customer service industry can be a real pain and it’s not easy but that doesn’t mean your employees need to take it out on their passengers.

It’s no wonder that American Airlines had to file for bankruptcy back in 2011.

6/27/2015 Grand Cayman Islands (Day #5)

Our last full day before we had to head back to the United States. Boo! Leaving this tropical paradise would be so hard but at the same time, it would be bittersweet. After seeing what Georgetown had to offer us yesterday, my girlfriend and I ventured off to see Seven Mile Beach.

Seven Mile Beach is the number one place on the Grand Cayman Island. The water is crystal clear, the sand is so fine and it literally feels like walking on cotton balls. It was the place to be. After arriving to the beach, we instantly regretted not coming out here sooner. But our whole premise behind the trip was to not be rushed and try to cram a bunch of stuff into our day and be exhausted at the end of our vacation. I felt a little rushed when I went to Australia last year and I certainly wanted to just enjoy my stay on the island and not be all wore out when it was time to go home.

The beach was absolutely stunning…

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…and what vacation wouldn’t be complete without a beach selfie:

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The sun felt so good on us. The sand was so pure and soft between our toes and the water was warm and it cooled us down from the hot summer sun. It was everything we wanted it to be and purely amazing to be here. For the next few hours, we sat underneath a grape tree and talked about life. We stared out into the vast Caribbean sea taking in all her beauty. It was so breath-taking. To think we would be leaving soon to go home kind of made me sad but it would be great to get home and share our memories with friends and family.

We splashed around in the sea for a while longer and then decided to head back to the hotel. Our flight was leaving early the next morning and we needed to pack and get good rest. Plus, our hotel was prime real-estate for a beautiful sunset.

Here’s a few more pictures of us having fun in the Caribbean sea:

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If you ever get the chance to visit the Grand Cayman Islands, I highly recommend the Holiday Inn and Resorts. It’s a little out of the way of everything but the hotel offers a courtesy shuttle that runs every hour on the hour from 9am to 5pm and will literally take you to all the places you’ll want to go. If you want to venture out further, you’ll have to take a cab but they are reasonably priced and the cabs are not metered . So you’ll pay a flat rate which is awesome. I’ve been ripped off by so many cab drivers in my travels thus far and quite frankly, it’s really nice to see some kind of control so people can’t get taken advantage of in foreign lands.

From day one the staff has been extremely helpful and polite. Everyone from the house keeping staff to the cab drivers are extremely friendly. People go out of their way to help others here and the Holiday Inn staff made us feel extremely special. The food was amazing wherever we went. It was a little pricey so make sure you bring plenty of money when you visit but it was so worth it. They do have some fast food places like KFC, Wendy’s and Subway, but we weren’t interested in those places so we never stopped in to see if the food quality was any different from the United States.

Aside from Alaskan Airlines leaving our luggage behind in Seattle, (which we got two days later) I would certainly come back. I’d recommend visiting all three islands, though. There’s Grand Cayman (where we stayed) and then just East of this island there is Little Cayman and then Cayman Brac. Eventually, I plan to see all three islands in another visit. Also, there’s Rum Point where you can see sting rays swimming around and a turtle farm about ten miles North of our hotel. We didn’t get to all of those things mainly because we were on “island time” and we just let our day unfold as it did. We were in no rush to do anything except what we wanted. Isn’t that the point of a vacation?

Tomorrow we’d be flying out and that made us sad. But we finished strong and ordered a huge pizza from the Blue Iguana and ate some ice cream afterwards.

6/26/2015 Grand Cayman Islands (Day #4)

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Now THAT is a yogurt parfait! Holy smokes! Another great meal at the Blue Iguana just like yesterday, the day before and our first day on the island.

Today we’d experience Georgetown. That was the plan. Georgetown was one of those places where it’s extremely tourist-y and just about every shop sells the same little knick-knacks and trinkets. Alexandra ended up buying a shirt for her Dad and a few little hand-made turtle figurines for her cousins. I bought a much needed coffee mug that had the map of the Cayman Islands on it and a small little turtle figurine for my Mother. My Dad is rather hard to shop for so I’m keeping my eye out for something special for him.

Who knew there’d be a Hard Rock Café around here…

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…and here’s another street view picture of Georgetown just to give you an idea of what it was like:

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Do you notice the direction of travel that the cars are going? It’s looks backwards, right? Well, that’s because here on the Cayman Islands they drive on the left side of the road and the steering wheel in most cars is on the opposite side of the car. Pretty crazy, right? It took a couple of cab rides to get used to it, to be honest.

We did a few more hours of shopping before we finally headed back to our hotel room…

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…and on our way back, we found this awesome home-made sign that had directional arrows pointing to different destinations around the world:

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After exploring Georgetown for most of the day, it was time to head back and get poolside to enjoy some much needed rest and relaxation…

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Some days a person just needs to kick back and relax.

6/25/2015 Grand Cayman Islands (Day #3)

Initially, my girlfriend and I, Alexandra, were going to go to Georgetown today. But since we were so badly sunburnt from the day before we decided to stay indoors for the better part of the morning. We finally braved the sun and ended up in Camana Bay.

I don’t know about other hotels within the area, but the Holiday Inn has been exceptionally good to us on this trip. We’ve had complimentary shuttles all week so we haven’t had to take a cab anywhere. When I went to Chicago earlier this month, I used Uber and other taxi services to get to and from Wrigley Field but it was entirely too expensive.

Camana Bay was awesome. We ate at a place called The Upper Crust…

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… and Alexandra ordered the Croque Madame…

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…and I got the Fish n’ Chips:

IMG_0872I know, I know. I’m in the Cayman Islands and ordering typical American dishes at restaurants. Rest assure. When we hit up Georgetown and Seven Mile Beach, we will be eating exquisite seafood once we find a place. The shopping center was really pretty and the few shops that we did go into, the merchandise was extremely expensive. We went into a store called Sand Angels and they had swim suits in their for $80 dollars! Since Alaska Airlines had lost our luggage, we had to buy some swim wear so we could at least enjoy our first day in the Caymans and the store we went to was called Divers Supply. They had a lot of name brand stuff like Oakley and Polo Ralph Lauren, Hurley, etc. We ended up spending $313 dollars on one pair of board shorts, two pair of flip flops  and a bikini for Alexandra. $313! Wow! Good thing the airline is reimbursing me.

We ventured over to a small island that had a bridge connecting to it…

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…and once we got over there, you wouldn’t believe what we saw running in front of us in the sand:

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Yep! Another Iguana!! We think the one we saw here is one of the Blue Iguanas that are protected because they were literally going extinct ten years ago.

We took our pictures on the sandy island and caught our courtesy shuttle back to the hotel:

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On our way back, I noticed how much gas prices were…

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…and we also passed through Georgetown. What an amazing town. We were totally excited for the next day to come to spend all day in Georgetown and while we were stopped, we snapped a bunch of pictures of three giant cruise ships that were docked close by. It was amazing to see these mammoth ships up close but the people on them have got to be the most obnoxious, egotistical humans that have ever walked this earth.

While at our hotel a couple of days ago, a huge group of people passed through while we were at the pool. One guy was chugging beer and smoking cigarettes while in the pool and they left a huge mess which allowed the Ching Ching birds to come in and scavenge all the left over food. It was pretty horrific and I couldn’t even eat my lunch because the birds wouldn’t leave me alone. That group acted so entitled like, “hey look at us, we are on a cruise”. Dumb.

Time to wrap this up and get some rest for tomorrow!

6/24/2015 Grand Cayman Islands (Day #2)

Breakfast in bed…what a luxurious treat:

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When we got to the Cayman Islands yesterday, the airline had lost our luggage. Right before breakfast we received a phone call from the airline stating that our luggage had been left behind in Seattle. What?! How does something like that even happen?! The good news was; our luggage was on the first flight out of Seattle and would be a straight flight to Miami and then, of course, another hour to the Grand Caymans. I was expecting it to arrive some time in the late evening.

After breakfast, we ventured back out to the pool area and out towards the ocean. I walked passed the bushes and this guy decided to show his face…

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…they were literally everywhere! And this was the biggest one we’ve seen so far!

Today was one of those days were we wanted to just sit in the pool or lay by the ocean and we pretty much did that for about eight hours…

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…not only did I lay by the ocean for hours on end, but I took selfies with the local wild life…

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…and took pictures of the local chickens and her baby chicks:

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Later that evening, we ate at the Blue Iguana…

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…and watched the sun set on the pier…

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When we got back to our room, the front desk had left a message on our door letting us know that our bag had made it to the hotel. We were ecstatic and relived at the same time! I rushed down to the front desk, grabbed our bag and returned to our room. What. A. Relief!

We made plans to head out to Camano Bay the following day and experience an adventure in Georgetown. Can’t wait.