Travel Tip! Here’s a helpful hint if you haven’t yet gotten one or more passes that professes to speed up your time going through security and border crossings: you only need one pass — the Nexus pass. It’s $50 per person, and kids under 18 are free. If you get Nexus, it also includes TSA pre-check AND Global Entry. This was never explicitly stated anywhere we could find online, but we got this notice from the helpful Border Agents when we spent a few hours in Blaine, WA getting our Nexus cards today. If you want help getting through security and customs faster, only get the Nexus card and spare yourself the time and money of going through the other two. You’re welcome.
[That said, to get our Nexus card required making an appointment 4 months in advance and driving to the Canadian border to do the paperwork and have our retinas scanned. Even so, I wish we’d done it first, years ago, and saved the hassle of doing the paperwork (and paying the fees) for all three systems.]
So this most recent adventure was primarily to make the 3 hour trip to Blaine from Bainbridge, but we made the most of the trek and added in some fun stops.
[Playing around while we wait for the ferry in Kingston]
On the way up, we made plans to see a former work colleague of mine. Years ago, when we were sitting next to each other at a lunch table in some window-less ballroom at a conference, she happened to mention that she was writing a kids/family book about the world needing a new Santa Claus, and how Santa holds a contest and selects a young girl to be the new “South Pole Santa.”
I immediately downloaded the book and read it to the girls. A few years passed and Christmas time came around, and I remembered how much we’d enjoyed “The Search for South Pole Santa” and decided to re-read it to them (along with the subsequent 4 sequels) now that they were a bit older. The second read-through of the book was an ever bigger hit with both of them. They loved the imaginative characters, the drama, the excitement, the heroine so full of kindness and love, the romance and the mysteries.
When we planned this trip up to Blaine, WA to get our Nexus cards, I realized that we’d be driving through Everett which is where this colleague lives and works. I reached out to her and invited her to have lunch with us, so the girls could meet the author of these much loved books. She gladly accepted! We spent some time before this trip going back over the books and writing down questions the girls had about her writing process, her characters, and her future plans for the story.
[Their handwritten questions (using the Apple Pencil) in Christmas colors!]
We met at a delightful restaurant in an old bank building to have lunch together. Sitting in the light of a bay window, the girls peppered her with their prepared questions. She was so forthcoming on her thoughts and process, really engaged the girls, asked them questions, and sincerely encouraged them write their own books some day soon. She even brought sweet gift bags with gifts, including t-shirts that say “Be Kind,” for the girls. Our time with her was a huge highlight for us all.
[With our author friend, “JingleBelle Jackson”]
After lunch, we drove up to Blaine, and went through the slow, strange process of getting our Nexus cards. Everyone was kind and helpful, but the government bureaucracy is just bizarre.
We left Blaine as quickly as we could and returned south to Bellingham for dinner. I’ve been hearing lots of rumblings about Bellingham being the next Portland, so we wanted to check it out for ourselves. We stopped in a sweet comic shop in town, and the girls found some new-to-them books that we browsed (and put on hold at the library!).
We found a highly rated, local/seasonal restaurant, called Brandywine, where we had a delicious meal. We still hadn’t selected a place to stay for the night, and weren’t finding anything inspiring anywhere near Bellingham.I wasn’t keen on doing any more driving, but Mark found a good deal on a hotel about an hour south in Mukileto, WA that was right on the water. Rather than driving the hour in the morning, we decided to do it after dinner. We left Bellingham, stopping to drive through the cute town of Fairhaven just to the south. Bellingham was cute, but I much preferred Fairhaven.
We pulled into our hotel in Mukileto with enough time to get our room, drop our bags, and walk back out to the waterfront to watch the sunset over Whidbey Island with the historic lighthouse at our backs, beach bonfire parties off to the side, fish jumping from the sea, and herons flying low over the water.
It was a full day. The girls were tired. We were tired. But we’re filled with so much gratitude: for having interesting friends who are willing to share their story, for not being rushed, for the ability to be flexible and unplanned, for getting to see new areas, for having bureaucracy go harmoniously, and for getting time together as a family.