Tacoma is gritty. Tacoma is beautiful.
When you drive by Tacoma on I-5 all you can see is the ominous Tacoma Dome and some strip malls. That part of I-5 is notorious. The freeway takes a hard right to avoid the bay. Traffic grinds to a halt.
If you are driving south from Seattle, and you look quickly to the west, you just might see Tacoma's downtown and a bit of the port. Mostly, though, the city is hidden.
The Tacoma Maritime Fest occurs in July and is a good excuse to get people down to the waterfront to listen to music eat corn dogs. During the festival, the Port of Tacoma rents a big boat and hosts tours. We arrived early to wait in line and tolerate children. We piled on to the boat.
On the top and bottom deck they had rows of chairs neatly laid out. I ignored these. I led Caroline by the hand to the bow of the boat. A few chairs had been placed out front, but was empty otherwise. We stood at the very front and waited for the overflow crowd to fill in.
The tour motored us around the cargo ships and cranes. A kindly man with a lousy PA system explained who did what and this machine was called. The cargo ships are immense. Sideways skyscrapers that drift through the water.