Nirvana Tour Logistics: Renting Rooms and Roaming Public Transport

Posted: October 14, 2013 in Nirvana Maps and Locales

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Ten days. Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, Aberdeen/Hoquiam/Montesano, Olympia, Seattle, Portland, Seattle. I slept in the same bed for a grand total of three nights (Weds 4 to Fri 6) and the rest of time shunted back and forth between locations and the kind hospitality of friends. It’s kinda nice knowing that if I go back there are so many people who would welcome me and give me a place to crash — I’m worth it! I do good house-cleaning! I’m an OCD tidier! I’m good at DIY! I can (almost) cook! I’m a useful house-guest and serf! …And I’ll definitely be going back.

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Confession and self-parody. I worked eight years in Events and it gave me a liking for hotel living — running ten events a year for five years got me the initial thrill and the ultimate ‘meh’ feeling that occurs once you’re used to seeing a lot of hotels and the differences wear off. Don’t let anyone fool you, no matter how many stars a hotel has, no matter how beautiful it might be, ultimately a hotel is made for anonymous living, you are merely a by-product passing through the guts of the building and you will be expelled and all memory of you wiped away except on those rare occasions someone passes a UV-light over the fabrics. If anyone ever boasts to you about which hotel they’ve been in remember to crush them with something like, “gee, that room sounds way more interesting than you — can you just leave me with the photos and stop talking?” If that’s a little too brutal, the alternative is to come up with some attractive statistics about the number of insects living in the average mattress, how rarely hotel mattresses are replaced and the persistence of bodily fluids within the fabric of a mattress — just hijack the conversation and go from there, it’s fun to watch social-climbers splutter.

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As a sidebar, you see it a lot in London, the minimalist look — essentially it’s a case of people admitting that they have so few interests and so little engagement with anything other than their work that there’s nothing of themselves that they can bring to a room. Again and again you’ll walk through supposedly sophisticated flats and apartments and see rooms designed by magazine advertisements and furniture catalogue committees; they look like hotel rooms because the people living in them are just transients with no engagement or connection to their environment. You’re basically there to make them feel they’re real humans and that they’re living in a home rather than a GQ-provoked paranoia telling them what it should look like. A lot of people buy houses just because they don’t have anything better to occupy their time or money and decorate it richly…with all the soul and personality of a Heathrow advert hoarding.

With that in mind though, ya gotta live somewhere. I hope I’ve at least indicated that my desire to show hotel photos is more to do with the completist urge to represent the entire trip rather than anything boastful. Oh, and did I say, hotels can be lovely to live in — if you’re route-marching cities for anywhere between four and nine hours a day, or trooping round in a car from 9.30am until into the evening, maybe you’ll want to pay a little more and enjoy it?

There’s plenty of cost saving to be had on the accommodation front. If you can plan well enough in advance the best accommodation option I saw was here:

https://www.airbnb.co.uk/s/Seattle–WA

Basically it means you’re taking someone’s spare room — very cheap, nice way to live, some lovely places on here. Might mean you’re living a little outside the centre but you’ll have the benefit of a local resident who can explain how to get in to you, plus a bit of company. Family business kept me away from being able to get this sorted and communicated and confirmed.

Alternatively, as seen the other day, the motel and inn option is well established in Seattle. There’s the strip of options along Aurora which has advantages in that you’re half way between Reciprocal Studios and the other sights located above Lake Union and then the sights downtown too. The motels I walked past looked perfectly comfortable. If I’d known they existed I’d have considered them.

Motels

I’d have to say the nicest hotel I stayed in was the Hotel Murano in Tacoma (http://www.hotelmuranotacoma.com/). Dead centre of the business district, one street (literally) from the bus stops on Commerce from whence, for $3 dollars flat rate (remember that the bus drivers don’t tend to give change, take exact money) you can catch the myriad of buses over to Olympia (http://www.intercitytransit.com/mapsandschedules/routemapsandschedules/Pages/603-605-612-Weekdays-Southbound.aspx) — I took the 603 myself, it’s about an hour. You can stop off at the Tacoma Dome on the way if you wish to stroll round it. As a sidebar, to get out to the Community World Theater’s location you will need a taxi or someone to drive you. Again, this isn’t too expensive, you might handover $25 dollars and taxis are usually queued outside the main hotels so that’s always a good place to hunt one down.

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When lost in cities I usually look up a hotel and head there because the staff usually know the local area on the one hand and the street outside is a magnet for taxis on the other. I also stayed in Hotel Max which features a ‘rock floor’ with the cooperation of Sub Pop who supply vinyl LPs to every room to go with the record player, as well as LP cover art on the walls of the rooms. The Paramount was pretty darn lovely too. I had booked the Silver Cloud near Lake Union but ended up cancelling it to stick close to areas I knew better. I also didn’t book hotel accomodation in Olympia. The Guesthouse Inn & Suites in Aberdeen were pretty darn comfy too.

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The bus station in Olympia is extremely central. The Evergreen State College is a walk-able distance from the centre if you’ve left time to do so (I hadn’t so had to abandon a few locations that day.) I think, in Nirvana terms, it’s fair to think of Olympia as the terminus either getting you back toward Seattle or Tacoma, or hurling you out to Aberdeen on the number 40 (http://www.ghtransit.com/40.html). Amtrak (http://www.amtrak.com/home) is also an option for the Seattle-Tacoma-Olympia run; greater comfort, higher price — Olympia to Seattle one way is about $20 and the station is at 6600 Yelm Highway SE, Lacey. There are three major Amtrak routes covering the North-West and all of them will get you as far as Portland. You can also use this route to visit Bellingham if you want that an extra out-of-the-way Nirvana related stop (the October 1992 show venue — http://www.wwuvikings.com/facilities/wwu-facilities.html — NOT demolished!) or Spokane (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spokane_Coliseum, demolished!)

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If you wanted to complete the full run of Nirvana-gig locations in the Northwest then the places you’re trying to hit are Seattle (duh!), Tacoma, Olympia, Aberdeen/Hoquiam, Raymond, Bellingham, Spokane, Ellensburg, Auburn and Bainbridge Island. As suggestions for the latter three, none of which I attempted, give these a shot:

The 577/578 bus route to Auburn heading south from Seattle (http://www.soundtransit.org/Schedules/ST-Express-Bus/578?dir=inbound) and yes, the Lindbloom Student Center still exists as part of the Green River Community College: http://www.greenriver.edu/student-services/conference-and-event-center/planning-an-event-start-here.htm

For Ellensburg, give the Greyhound buses from Stewart Street a shot, it’s a two hour ride and fairly pricey, anywhere between $30-45 dollars one way (https://www.greyhound.com/farefinder/step1.aspx — the Ellensburg stop is at 1512 HWY 97, Ellensburg, WA 98926). Again, the venue is still there, the Hal Holmes Community Center: http://www.ci.ellensburg.wa.us/index.aspx?nid=145

And finally, Bainbridge Island, yet another change in transport option, this time take the ferry: http://www.bainbridgeisland.com/ferry the problem being is it was a birthday party show so there’s little indication of where it took place. This is the kinda thing that’ll cut down your travel itinerary; there’s no indication of where Speedy O’Tubbs Rhythmic Underground in Bellingham was so what’s the point of it? The venue in Spokane has been demolished, meanwhile Cobain’s former home in Carnation isn’t visible from the public thoroughfares, to look at it you’d end up having to trespass on private property and frankly do you really want to take the risk and/or scare people at home just to gaze at a home that was barely lived in?

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Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, you’re in America the land that more than any other has turned the automobile into a fetish; hiring a car is probably going to be the simplest option. I’ve never seen, however, an attempt to explain the public transport options for touring Nirvana sites in the North-West — it’s entirely possible to do it via public transport and to do it for well under $200 in total all in. We’re talking walking/bussing all Seattle sites with a taxi hop out to the two homes on the shores of Lake Washington; Amtrak or bus to Tacoma, Amtrak or bus to Olympia, bus to Aberdeen/Hoquiam and then taxi for Raymond and Montesano. It’s the Greyhound for Ellensburg, the bus for Auburn, Amtrak for Spokane and Bellingham, then the ferry for Bainbridge Island…

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Comments
  1. Marcus says:

    On the subject of hotels and Nirvana sites, maybe it’s time to collect some info from closer to home, Nick. You can start with this place!

    So much catching up to get through with this blog, but it’s all great. I demand you write up this trip as a book, and I’m good for a copy.

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