Getting around the Puget Sound region can sometimes be a pain in the booty, especially for islanders. A simple trip to the mainland can turn into a sequel to "Planes, Trains & Automobiles," which in my case recently morphed into Cars, Vans, Ferry Boats, Airports & Trains. Those were the five modes of transportation I used to travel from Whidbey Island to Seattle for the July 20 Manchester United vs. Sounders FC game at the newly named CenturyLink Field.
First off, I can’t call myself a soccer fan, having previously seen only one professional game in my limited sports spectating career. That was back in April 1976, when the NASL Seattle Sounders hosted the New York Cosmos. Not only was it the first sporting event in the Kingdome, superstar Pelé was in the Cosmos’ lineup, the only player’s name that I recognized. My hubby and I, along with my parents and the rest of the 58,126 fans, crammed into Seattle’s new stadium for this historic game. Mom and dad weren’t overly impressed — nor was I. We were all baseball fans, raised on the Seattle Rainiers at Sicks' Stadium. Even worse were our seats, in the very top row of the Kingdome, more commonly referred to as the nosebleed section.
The main reason I wanted to see the Man U-Sounders FC game was my connection with Manchester, a city I’ve visited twice while in England. During my last stay, I took a tour of Manchester United’s Old Trafford Stadium, which turned 101 this year. Add that to my hubby’s office having bought a block of tickets for the friendly summer face-off, and I was there. Plus, I’d never seen this version of the Sounders or attended a sporting event at the stadium formerly known as Qwest. It turned out that getting there was a game in itself.
There was no way I was driving into the city. In addition to the international soccer match, there was a Katy Perry concert at KeyArena the same night, so I-5 and the feeder streets to and from the venues would be jammed. And since my hubby had driven his car to work earlier that morning, having two cars in the city would be a waste of wheels. So, it was all about me getting to town via some other means. Years ago, I would have simply hitched a ride with somebody I spotted on the ferry, but that’s not quite so easy these days. Those old, familiar faces just aren’t as plentiful or welcoming as they once used to be.
Riding Sound Transit’s Sounder Train from Mukilteo to Seattle wasn’t in the mix either, as the only four southbound trains are in the morning and the four northbound are in the evening. My other option was taking the bus to Seattle, starting with Island Transit to the ferry, then hopping on a southbound Community Transit bus in Mukilteo for the trip downtown. But during mid-day, there are no direct buses to the city, which means transferring and waiting.
That’s when I got creative and decided to take Whidbey-SeaTac Shuttle from the island directly to the airport. Although the driver and a few fellow passengers on the van thought it was odd I was going to a soccer game via Sea-Tac, it worked out fine. When we arrived, I headed to the Airport Garage for the short walk to the Link light rail station where I would “Ride the Wave” to Stadium station.
In the end, my total transportation time was just a little over two hours and cost me $37 ($34.25 shuttle, $2.75 light rail). About the same price as driving my car, paying round-trip for the ferry, and supporting Seattle’s pricey parking lots. So how was my first Sounders FC game? It ain’t baseball. The British accent of the announcer took a bit getting used to; CenturyLink Field’s food selection didn’t seem nearly as inviting as Safeco Field’s; and although we weren’t quite in the nosebleed section, the soccer boys on the field appeared to be a couple counties away. Plus, where was that seventh inning stretch? The only thing familiar was the final score: Manchester 7, Seattle 0. Just like a Mariners’ game.