this is the Northwest...it rains. A lot. An umbrella wouldn't be a bad idea. Really.
Meh. Most of us in the Northwest don't fuss with umbrellas, because most of the time it rains very gently. You can walk around quite a while without really getting wet. I wear a hat to keep rain off my glasses, and I wear a coat if I will be out for more than a couple of minutes, but you should be able to make it from the parking lot to the fest without melting.
In the Pacific Northwest, it sort of mists for days or weeks or months at a time, so the ground is usually damp, the sun is hidden behind grey clouds, and it's dreary and depressing. But it rarely pours down so hard you get really wet walking around in it. (I'm in the Seattle area but I think Bellingham is pretty similar.)
If you're staying in a local motel, AVOID THOSE LOCATED ON SOUTH SAMISH BLVD. The local cops keep all the crack-heads, tweakers and other various riff-raff confined to the daily/weekly/monthly motels along this street--no need for you to go looking for trouble, it will find you if you stay there for long.
Hmm. I have stayed many times at the Motel 6 at the south end of Samish Way, and I haven't seen any trouble. Of course, I was early to bed and early to rise; maybe if I had walked around at 2am I might have seen the riff-raff.
But if you check the LinuxFest NW hotels guide page you will note that none of the recommended hotels are on Samish Way. (And of course, LFNW is on the north end of town, so why not stay in a place on the north end.)
The one exception to this rule is the Shamrock Motel in North Bellingham--I hear more call-outs on the police-dispatch frequencies referencing this motel then any other address in Bellingham. Avoid it.
Ironically, I stayed at the Shamrock Motel last year before LinuxFest. I believe you about the police call-outs.
The Shamrock Motel is very inexpensive. It's also old... I'd estimate it was built in the early 50's or something like that. Rooms have electric baseboard heaters and no air conditioning (not that you need AC in April in Bellingham). The room was shabby but clean; the sheets smelled like bleach. There was a flat panel TV on the wall, the newest thing about the room. Their web site says they have free WiFi, but I couldn't get a decent signal from my room; I reckon they probably have a single consumer-grade WiFi access point set up in their office!
I don't think the folks who run the place are trying to make a den of iniquity... but I remember there was a sign up front saying something like "if you stay here you need to pay, don't ask us to let you owe us." I think the people staying at the Shamrock are likely to be poor.
I stayed there because I didn't plan far enough ahead and the places I wanted to go were already booked. I'm not in a hurry to stay at the Shamrock again. But as I said, the room was clean, and I wish no ill will upon the folks who run the place.
Most years I have just driven my car up from home, and not used a motel at all. Last year I decided to take Friday off from work and ride my bicycle to Bellingham, so I needed a place to sleep. I'm planning to do the same thing again this year, but this year I want to stay at the Hampton Inn because it is the one that will have a hacker room. I don't know what the hacker room will be like but I figure that is the place to stay.
Oh, and if you have a car and want to stay somewhere really nice, the LFNW hotels page has the Fairhaven Inn. I have never stayed there, but Fairhaven is an old neighborhood that has been transformed into an upscale place with shops and restaurants, so my guess is that the Fairhaven Inn is the nicest place on the LFNW hotels page.
Bring an UP TO DATE street map, especially if you're going to be driving anywhere besides the Technical College--Bellingham has the most ill-designed street layout of any city I've ever been to, including San Francisco. Not going to vouch for Google maps or TomTom like devices either...really, get a map.
Hmm. I have used both a TomTom and Google Maps on my phone when driving to LFNW, and both have worked perfectly. The LFNW guys have their act together, and they have big signs at major intersections showing which way to go; I think both the nearest exits from I-5 have good signs directing you to LFNW.
But last year on my bicycle, all I brought were turn-by-turn directions printed from Google Maps, and somewhere near south Samish Way the directions told me to turn on a street that didn't exist. I couldn't figure out where to go, and I bitterly wished I had brought some sort of map. I tried using Google Maps on my phone in GPS navigator mode, and it kept trying to make me merge onto I-5... not on a bicycle! Finally I just started riding north by northwest, playing it by ear, and then at a major intersection saw a sign directing toward the Fest and I worked it out. Anyway, in a car I think you are okay using GPS navigation. It never hurts to have a real map, but I will be content with just Google Maps on my phone. (I have a new phone with a better version of Android and the maps work better anyway.)
If you're driving in from the south, gas up at the Skagit Valley Casino--lowest gas prices in the area as it is on native lands (Upper Skagit Indian Tribe).
This is excellent advice. Gas stations on Indian land are able to undercut gas stations on non-Indian land because of WA state taxes on gas. And as far as I know, Bellingham sells a lot of gas to folks from Canada so they can get away with charging a bit more.