Seattle Center Monorail in Seattle, Washington

Seattle Center Monorail

As I mentioned in my post about Chihuly Garden and Glass these are a tad bit out of order. But, I do you have you on the right day (Sunday)! Well, the right day four months ago. So fasten your seatbelts whether you wore a skirt or not.

The previous night after dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse I asked my aunt what time she would be ready the next morning. She said 9 a.m. sharp as she wanted us to get in as much for the day as we could. There is one thing about me and that is when I’m given a time I stick to it.
I called her in her room to have her say, “I’m not ready. Call me back at 10:30 a.m.”
Another reason Golden Retriever’s rock…they are never late.

Oh before you start in I’ve been around a lot of females in my life and I get it! 🙂

We finally arrived at the hotel lobby floor, checked our bags and out of our rooms. I was ready to blast down the street on foot because I had plans and we were now extremely late!

Aunt B, “I need coffee.”
Me, “Ok.”

Phonograph needle scratching across the record.

Aunt B’s coffee. I don’t drink coffee. Caffeine and I do not get along. We were really going to be pushing our time now.

Picture of Aunt B while I hold the camera in one hand and impatiently tap my finger on the counter and look at the clock on the wall.

I felt like I was literally dragging her down Pine Street to get to 5th Avenue and the Westlake Center Station when she said, “I need another cup of coffee.”
Me, “Ooookk…”
We got her another cup of coffee literally at the same corner where we needed to be for the Seattle Center Monorail in Seattle, Washington.

For 20 years, non stop, this had been one of my two bucket list items to do in Seattle if I ever returned. Every time I would comment on a blog post about someone’s trip to Seattle you would find that I frequently mentioned the monorail. Always picturing in my mind when I had visited Seattle before that I would board this futuristic ride and go back and forth. If you ever wanted to see a grown man turn into a man-child this was one of those moments.

We bought our tickets and I was chomping at the bit. My aunt knew that this was a big moment.

Have you ever been at the front of the line waiting to get into a big concert? That same feeling…

The Seattle Monorail was built for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair…


In its first half-year of service some 8 million passengers road it that year and now that number has dipped to 2 million for a full calendar year.

It is a straddle beam monorail built by Alweg Rapid Transit Systems and has brought in $750,000 in operating profit annually which is split between the city and the operating company. For $2.25 one way you can be one of up to 450 passengers on a train that leaves every 10 minutes. Then you can go flying down the track at 45 mph (70 km/h) for the epic 2 minute ride over one mile (1.54 km).

What? It was epic to me!

The gates opened and I went dashing to the front to get the very first seat next to the driver…

I wrote his name down and lost it. I’m still almost positive it’s Kenny. He would be our Seattle Center Monorail driver in Seattle, Washington. And he said himself he had never met a passenger like me.

I introduced both my myself and my aunt and immediately began chatting him up as my aunt was sitting directly behind me. He had been out late the previous night at the monorail drivers bar. That’s where the drivers talk about riders like me from their day of work. I told him what this weekend was for us and that I waited for this moment for 20 years. I shared that I had a blog and I would be posting this story with him in it. He thought that was the coolest thing ever. Kenny loves his job too but said one really ironic thing to me.

Kenny, “Ya know Mike, no one has ever sat up here and talked to me like this. It’s a nice change.”
I said, “Talking to people in new cities is a big part of the travel experience, right?”
He replied back, “Absolutely. Hey Mike, you want to the hit the button for the horn before we get rolling?”

I could have done backflips!! It was like Walt Disney asking a kid to go for a ride with him on the Matterhorn!
I said, “No way! Are you serious?!”
He said, “Yep, that button right there”, and pointed to the correct one and when I pushed it there was the most resounding, bellowing air horn sound ever. That’s right, Mike Vogler, horn operator extraordinaire.

Meet Kenny. Kenny is bad ass. Because Kenny drives the Seattle Center Monorail in Seattle, Washington.

We took off out of the station and I said, “So Kenny, what you think? Will we be getting her up to 200 mph or so?”
He burst out laughing, “No Mike, that will only be 45 mph on the straightaway this morning.”
I continued, “Oh I see, you have to go slower because of the children on board. I get it.”
“Exactly,” he said trying to keep some composure.

Now we were really pulling some serious G’s (my story) at about 25 mph here. My hair was flying back and my head was plastered back into the seat. Ok, it’s a completely enclosed train and it wasn’t that fast. I was furiously taking photos though.

I asked Kenny, “Hey, what time does the meal service start?”
He snickered, “That’s going to be tough as we only have 90 seconds left for the ride.”
Me, “Ah, having to cut down on amenities, I hear ya.”
Completely befuddled by his new-found passenger friend, he said, “I have a Snickers bar in my pocket that you can have, Mike.”
“That’s ok Kenny, you had a hard night and you will need it, ” I reassured him.

Then, after all of these years we cleared the skyscrapers that were whizzing by. Then the less taller buildings and in it’s beautiful grandeur there it was. The Emerald City’s crown jewel…The Space Needle.

I felt excitement, nervousness, eagerness, anxiety. Like meeting that mesmerizing, intoxicatingly beautiful ex-lover from your past that you haven’t seen in years. And she was just as beautiful as the last time.

I looked at Kenny, with my face beaming, “Do you ever get tired of that view?”
Him, “Never a single minute.”

Oooo…looks like we were headed into some sort of Bat Cave. I asked Kenny if we needed to be blindfolded. He said no, the secret was out.

Now it was time to pull into the Seattle Center Station which is next to the Space Needle.

I started my goodbye to Kenny and tried to get a picture of the smokin’ hot blond in the gray sweatshirt…

I told him that his picture would be on my blog if that was ok. He said absolutely and shook my hand and said to my aunt and I, “You two have been my favorite riders EVER.”

We walked out and I just stared dumbfounded though we were within minutes of being late for something super special. The second bucket list item for the day.

This was it. To meet Darth Vader and one of his Storm Troopers begging for money. No wonder The Force Awakens is out in December…there is poverty in the future!

That was it. We saw the Space Needle from the outside and Darth Vader and it was time to wrap it up. We had to get back on the monorail. Wait just a gosh darn minute…is that? It better not be. Kenny??

It was!! And he had let some kid in MY seat!!

Ya, look at Kenny’s shocked face seeing me. Ohhhh, this was going to be an uncomfortable ride back to downtown.

I once again bolted for the front seat with my aunt sitting right behind me. Kenny sat down and we talked things over about him giving up my seat to some other passenger. He said he felt bad…with tears coming down his cheeks he was laughing so hard at me. Sooooo, THAT’S the way it was going to be.

I did turn around to see a shy little Asian boy talking in sign language with his parents. I invited them to exchange seats with me but they would not. Through my own hand signals and gestures I did convince them to let the little boy come up and sit in between Kenny and I. The boy didn’t talk but he did listen. I could tell he was both thrilled (I know the feeling kid) and nervous. Kenny and I both convinced him to push the button to the horn at which he squealed with delight, giggled, laughed and it made his parents sign something that obviously meant incredible joy!

Tears started to flowing down my face as I realized I was witnessing a very special moment in their lives. So, that made for two of us.

I didn’t talk at all but took pictures and kept looking at the little boy’s face as he stared ahead.

I realized the trip to Seattle was now essentially over but I was able to share this perfect two-minute ride with this young soul whose life had been touched today as mine had so many years ago when I was younger.

I thought of making a remark to Kenny about the McDonald’s down to the left. But no, this moment needed to be left in silence.

I craned my head back to get one last shot of my favorite structure in the entire world. A forlorn goodbye…

It took me so many years to get back here.

There had been so many twists and turns over the year that had led up to this trip.

What was ahead for me in the future?

I had to take a “Rain Man” picture…

I felt very uncertain about even going back to Reno and…

…that there was a green left turn arrow and a stop light on the Seattle Center Monorail track in Seattle, Washington that turns to the left.

It was time to pull into the station. I didn’t want to get off.

I looked at all of the happy eager people ready to get on the next ride. I watched the young boy and his parents hold each other in one of the happiest embraces I had ever witnessed in person. He and his parents signing back and forth in a flurry of happy, silent exchanges.
No, seeing Darth Vader was not the second bucket list item and there is one last treat in my next post. No more teasing or foreplay but you will understand why I built up to it the way I did. It’s one of my all time bucket lists come true 🙂

What special moment have you ever had in your travels?

Leave a Reply