Vail Valley Voices: Late crossing |

Vail Valley Voices: Late crossing

Warren Miller
Vail, CO Colorado

After finishing a recording in Seattle, Laurie and I started north on the Seattle-Vancouver race track commonly known as Interstate 5. Traffic was moving along at its usual 78 mph in a 65 mph zone without a single patrolman to be seen anywhere, because they are all looking for terrorists who are supposedly waiting in the ferry boat lines.

We managed to get out of downtown Seattle a little after 2 in the afternoon and stopped briefly in Marysville for a Subway sandwich split and a couple of shots of lemonade. We had figured that if we could get in the ferryboat line by 3:30 p.m., we would have a good place on the 6:25 p.m. ferry. We stopped briefly at the Swinomish Reservation to fill up on gasoline because it was a dollar a gallon cheaper than on the island.

Fifteen minutes later, we put our credit card out for a book of ferry tickets and discovered that the 6:25 boat was already on overload and the next one we could get on was the 8:50. We had two options.

• Drive back into Anacortes and have a leisurely dinner and take our chances at snagging a place in line that would let us get on the 8:50 ferry that would get us to our island at 10:25.

• Or flip a coin. We both lost two out of three flips and that had us sitting in line for the next 51⁄2 hours, or so we thought.

As we sat there, we watched some of the other people who were waiting, throwing Frisbees and walking dogs. One was walking a miniature pig. A few carloads were eating large picnic baskets full of sandwiches and other good deli stuff. I tried to doze off, but the car alongside of us was having a tailgate party, and I could not make my passenger-side seat recline because Laurie had made a Costco stop while I was doing my recording and the back seat was full to the roof with groceries and stuff for the next couple of weeks.

As I watched the sun slowly move along behind a stand of large trees, we walked down to the snack shop in the ferryboat building. Laurie opted for her usual $5 Starbucks, and I went for one of their great chocolate chip-cookie ice cream sandwiches.

By now, it was 7:30, and the 6:25 ferry could finally be seen off in the distance headed in and would soon disgorge all those cars and reload.

As it turned out, our 8:50 left at 10:00, and we made it home at about midnight. That would not be too bad, only 10 hours for what should have been 31⁄2 to 4 hours. I can drive from Seattle to our home in Big Sky, Mont., in only two hours more than this 90-mile drive took. Amazing, but that is what a Friday night is like here!

I don’t want to slam the ferryboat system, but when I checked three years ago or so, it was reported that they had more than 300 people in the administrative offices to handle 22 ferryboats. I wonder if they laid off too many executives and that is the reason for the ferries always being late.

There was a fun rumor about 15 or 20 years ago that the ferryboat executives had hired a $75,000 consultant to tell them why the ferries were quite often late. After 34 different ferryboat trips, the consultant suggested that they publish new schedules and the ferries would always be on time. No other corrections were necessary.

Living here on the island, we live and die by the ferryboat schedule, and I just hope that they will just keep on rocking and rolling for another 40 years, at least. Maybe they could start naming the ferries after successful Seattle people and businesses.

I would like to ride on the new Costco or the Gates Foundation or the Kirkland, for example. Why not? They have named the baseball and football stadiums after companies. Why not a new fleet of ferries? They could even have races against each other in the spring. They could hold contests over turnaround times, how well-maintained each ferry is, how spiffed up the crew is. How much chipping and painting the crewmembers could be doing while steaming from one dock to the next, to lower the maintenance costs.

Could the baseball teams or the football teams have survived if their stadiums had not been paid for the way they were by selling naming rights?

Except my wife would fight it. She grew up here and loves the ferries all being named after Native Americans or their tribal locations.

At any rate, our 8:50 ferry finally left about 10 p.m., and we got home at about midnight instead of our anticipated 4:45 in the afternoon. Even with all this, I’m glad we don’t have a bridge to the island … it would get too crowded!

Filmmaker Warren Miller lived in Vail for 12 years, and his column began in the Vail Daily before being syndicated to more than 50 publications. For more of Miller’s stories and stuff, log on to For information about his foundation, the Warren Miller Freedom Foundation, go to

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