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Last Post: Trip Report: Big Easy Quickie, Part One.
Last Commentator: UncleMarkie
Last Modified: September 20, 2014 @ 6:37 pm (GMT -7)
 
Sat
20
Sep '14

Trip Report: Big Easy Quickie, Part One.

What can I say… $258 round-trip to New Orleans and I’m out of here.

Here are a couple of selfies from the Board Room… in the “cone of silence” chair, which I found a little claustrophobic…

And a much more normal chair…

Even got upgraded on the way down on the Salmon Thirty Salmon II

I’m starting to get used to flying up front…

Even if I do have to have a window seat… but my office is set up once we hit 10,000 feet:

OK, the window is good for some things…

Then came the salad course…with beads! Not sure where I can sweeze the DigiPlayer onto the tray table:

Followed by the main course…

As for the DigiPlayer – guess I have to wait until dessert:

Smooth flight, lots of cocktails, wine, more cocktails…feeling no pain when I land a Louis B. Armstrong International Airport. Grabbed my checked back and headed off to grab the $2.00 bus to the city (the Jefferson County E2 Line):

Yep, it’s raining, and still manages to be humid.

E2 to Loyola, walk half a dozen blocks and catch the St. Charles Street Car Line ($1.25 – $1.50 with a transfer, which I didn’t need). Amazing that I remember how to do this from previous trips – cheap way to get from the airport to the condo, as long as you have an hour and a half. Looking a little tired at this point….

I’ve stayed at the Avenue Plaza many times – maybe that’s what makes the transit so easy. And it’s right on the St. Charles Street Car Line, which is even better.

Full discloser, I took this photo on the way BACK to the airport, as I also took this one the last day, showing off my FABULOUS view:

But the rest of the place is nice:

Nice shower, nice kitchenette – guess I should go two doors down to William’s Market, which is just past one of my favorite places (if you can stand the cigarette smoke) which is Igors Bar, Restaurant, Library and Laundromat:

Sorry that William’s Market and Deli is so plain as to not really warrant a photo, but the food is GREAT – this was the smoked sausage sandwich I had for lunch one of the days:

I was a little confused when she asked if I wanted the sandwich “dressed” – with tomato, lettuce, etc., as opposed to “naked”.

I picked up a dozen eggs and a couple of other things – I’d picked up a 12-pack of Diet Coke Caffeine Free at CVS on the transfer between the E2 and the St. Charles.

All set for the morning…and I have my itinerary all planned.

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Sat
20
Sep '14

Trip Report: Cabo Destruction Pictures.

Before I get started on this week’s adventure, I thought I’d do a quick additional update on Roxy and I’s Cabo San Lucas trip and the devastation that followed. Here is Terminal One, that I flew out of…

I was in that terminal on Friday afternoon, the lounge is on the second floor, to the left of this picture.

Roxy was in Terminal Two on Saturday, which now looks like this:

By Tuesday, all was a mess.

The travel gods shined brightly on us this last trip. Guess I’ll hold off scheduling Linda, Peter, and Clair’s trip next spring.

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Tue
16
Sep '14

Trip Report: Cabo Postscript.

When Roxy flew into Cabo San Lucas International Airport….

His plane took a more westerly approach to dodge Hurricane Norbert so he could land on Saturday afternoon. Friday afternoon and Saturday morning the airport was buffeted by winds…. Here the wikipedi description of Norbert:

The NHC began monitoring a large area of disturbed weather in association with a trough of low pressure near the south-central coast of Mexico on August 31.[111] Amid a favorable atmospheric environment, the disturbance steadily organized and was acquired sufficient organization to be declared Tropical Storm Norbert at 15:00 UTC on September 2.[112] The cyclone moved generally northwestward following formation, steered on the southwestern side of a mid-level ridge over northern Mexico.[113] With a symmetric central dense overcast and curved bands wrapping into the center, Norbert was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane at 03:00 UTC on September 4.[114] Initially steady state, the cyclone began a period of rapid deepening early on September 5, becoming a Category 2 hurricane at 00:00 UTC and a Category 3 hurricane at 06:00 UTC.[115][116] After attaining peak winds of 120 mph (195 km/h), the effects of cooler ocean temperatures began to weaken the system. Norbert weakened below major hurricane intensity at 21:00 UTC on September 6 and below hurricane intensity at 15:00 UTC on September 7.[117][118] After lacking deep, organized convection for over 12 hours, Norbert was declared post-tropical cyclone at 09:00 UTC on September 8.[119]

By the time I arrived on Monday, Norbert was a distant thought, a little beach swell, but no flooding.

For our week in Cabo, the weather was mid-80′s with some humidity, so basically I hung out here:

For FIVE DAYS… just bring me food and booze – OK, it wasn’t that bad, but close. My feet never touched the sand or any beach/pool water.

I left on Friday morning (well, from the resort, afternoon from the airport), but wen Roxy left on Saturday, the waves from the next storm were already lapping at the beaches….

Thanks Roxy for the FaceBook shot that I stole for this post.

Apparently Roxy and I both got out in time… because Hurricane Odile was a duzzy”:

On September 7, the NHC began monitoring disorganized convection in association with a trough several hundred miles south of the Mexico coastline.[120] The disturbance gradually organized within an environment of moderate northeasterly wind shear, and it acquired sufficient organization to be declared a tropical depression at 0900 UTC on September 10.[121] Six hours later, it was upgraded to Tropical Storm Odile.[122] Over the coming days, only slow intensification occurred as upper-level winds remained unfavorable; by early on September 13, however, the satellite presentation began to change quickly, with the center fully embedded within a central dense overcast. In conjunction with satellite intensity estimates, the cyclone was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane at 09:00 UTC.[123] Odile then began a period of rapid deepening, becoming a Category 2 hurricane at 00:00 UTC,[124] a Category 3 hurricane at 06:00 UTC,[125] and a Category 4 hurricane at 09:00 UTC on September 14.[126] After reaching peak winds of 135 mph (215 km/h), the start of an eyewall replacement cycle caused the system to weaken to a Category 3 hurricane.[127]

Thanks again Wikipedia.

Reports mentioned Cabo Villas where we were staying – distressed honeymooning couple, flooded Hiltons, etc.

Here is the report from the honeymoon couple….http://abcnews.go.com/us/hurricane-turns-cabo-honeymoon-nightmare-family/story?id=25513418

This would be up e beach (north) from where Roxy and I were staying…..but a short stroll….

Dodged two storms – reminds me of a trip with Jillar where we cancelled and moved our holiday to Sonoma.

And it feels weird to be making this post t 35,000 feet over the Denver Airport (according to the Captain)

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Mon
15
Sep '14

Trip Report: Cabo Back To Seattle.

My final day in Cabo, or shall I say my final morning….for the afternoon will be at the airport.

But first I had to get some breakfast into me… and Roxy:

Nothing says morning like Strawberry Daiquiris!

Eggs Benedict for me (against my diet), and a avocado shrimp omelet for Roxy.

Now to just get to the airport…the shuttle doesn’t run with the exception of Saturday…so it’s $65USD for a cab to the airport. Packed and headed to the cab stand, and notice that you CAN schedule a shuttle (which I didn’t) at 11:15am (it was 11 when I got there) so I hang out…and find another couple who had booked a shuttle. Technically the shuttle is $17 a person, but I hopped on theirs which picked up two more people, and in the end it was $30 – cheaper than the solo cab, but more than a scheduled shuttle.

Quick time through security…the joys of being hours early. And on the other side I was greeted with a pleasant surprise – a lounge that I had a card to get into for free (well, the first two visits per year).

Here is the main area of Terminal One at the Cabo San Lucas airport:

And the VIP Lounge which comes as a benefit of my Chase Ink card….

Good food (which I shouldn’t have eaten with lunch on the plane coming up), good Wi-Fi, good drinks – 440 Pesos for those without privileges ($40USD).

Several hours later, I’m the first on the tarmac for my first leg, SJD-SFO:

Nice shot of my Airbus320 if I don’t say so….onto San Francisco and immigration, And then back through security before the next lounge…. The new one at SFO, which as it turns out is a temporary one, with a multiple story one coming in the next year or so…not bad for a “temp” lounge:

An hour or so, and it’s time to load up again….

Oops, wrong plane, long era….

But the remodeled United Terminal 3, Concourse E, Gates 60-69 is stunning:

And Klein’s Deli is GREAT! Not this trip, but earlier trips….

Look at all the seating with outlets and chairs. Even the sunsets are good.

It was around 11PM by the time that I got home…tired and ready for my own bed.

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Sun
14
Sep '14

Trip Report: Cabo San Lucas With Roxy

This post will mostly be pictures, since I didn’t really do anything other than lay around on the outdoor couch. A place that is so comfortable (after 3PM when it’s in the shade) that I’m going to post the picture again:

Now all I need is a houseboy…alas, Roxy isn’t that type of boy.

Speaking of Roxy, he was out playing when I arrived at the resort so I was all by myself for the “owner/new owner/upgrade” reception at Baja Brewing on the roof of the building next door to ours in the complex.

Alas, I didn’t win any of the prizes….so it was back to the condo with its wonderful view:

And the condo isn’t too bad either…

Sorry, forgot to take pictures of the bathroom which had a walk-in shower for four people, including a nice bench.

Roxy finally arrived, with a boy in tow (a theme that was to develop during the week)…

I shouldn’t say boy as Carlos is 28 (Roxy will turn 31 on Friday, the day I leave). We ordered room service for dinner my first night.

Tuesday at noon it was off for the “owner update” for $60USD in restaurant vouchers. Had I known Roxy was going to tag along (for the free lunch and drinks) I would have had him listed on the presentation and we would have scored $160USD. Add this to the $100 in restaurant credit I got for paying my dues early, and that should make a dent in our food expenses (and whiskey expenses were trimmed at Duty Free).

We got a buffet lunch (value $18USD according to them) with a decent Margarita at the restaurant while we went over the preliminaries, then it was on to the real “sales pitch” and several more margaritas….

I’ve never seen someone put salt on the rim of a Styrofoam cup – but they were like 16 oz. Margaritas… I got through another 1.5 and took the rest back to the room after they finally realized they weren’t getting any money out of me…when you only paid $1USD plus a $100USD transfer fee (THANKS COLONELS!) they’d have to set the bar REALLY low to get me to pony up. That and I’m pondering if I want to keep it at all, preferring the WorldMark Cabo San Lucas for its full kitchens and closeness to the Mega Mart just up the road (and walkability to old Cabo – San José del Cabos).

Not that the scenery by the pool is lacking at Cabo Villas:

I can only imagine what a zoo this place is at Spring Break (when Linda, Peter and daughter Claire are coming next spring)…

With all the restaurant credits at Baja Brewing, we took many meals on the rooftop, including this lunch one of the days.

Enjoying a couple of Bourbon and Gingers on the roof while waiting for our food.

Champagne corn chowder with bits of catch-of-the-day, and Roxy’s grilled catch-of-the-day salad:

Ack! The view is so boring!

If you wanted water-based activities, there are certainly lots to choose from:

Jet ski rentals, glass bottom boats, parasailing, dinner cruises:

Including one on a “pirate” boat:

Though I’m a little unsure about the name of the boat…yes, that would be the Buccaneer Queen:

Though, my former Tall Ship Captain buddy, Bebbe-Center, recommends you check out the “Sunderland” which moored at the marina in the center of town but sank in 2013, was refloated but not allowed out of the harbor for dry dock repairs so it was broken apart to be used for educational exhibits…sigh.

Or, you can just experience the sunset:

A truly lazy week laying around until you are hungry, go to one of the restaurants on the property, use the 10-15% off card, or order in (and transfer it from the Styrofoam to real plates), then go back to relaxing.

Finished up all the New Yorkers that I brought, killed another paperback (that wasn’t even worth coming home with – Night Watch, by Alistar Maclean), leaving the hardback for the trip home.

Whilst I was lounging about, Roxy was working the local scene like a pirate plundering booty…of 9 meet-ups arranged, 8 showed up and he ended up plundering booty from 7 out of the 8, and one came back for an additional plundering, another for three. Made me tired just watching the effort involved. But I guess when you return to college in a week after a seven year absence you need to all your oats in the ground before fall. One more metaphor and even I might puke.

My last night (Roxy stays another night) he didn’t get home until 2:30AM – good thing I’m not his mother (or father).

That said, we both had a great time doing the things we love. Maybe I should sell the timeshare to Roxy and go back to staying at the WorldMark – just a thought.

Back in the air tomorrow. Now to figure out how to get to the airport.

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2 Comments »

2 Responses to “Trip Report: Cabo San Lucas With Roxy”

  1. The Senior Colonel Says:

    Did you get out before the big blow? No pun intended.

  2. UncleMarkie Says:

    Yep — see latest post…

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Wed
10
Sep '14

Trip Report: Do You Know The Way To San Jose (del Cabo)?

Apparently “the way” starts WAY EARLY. The things I do for a free (actually $91.98 in taxes/fees) ticket to Cabo San Lucas.

Up at 3AM, out the door, forgetting the two breakfast burritos that I’d made last night and bemoaning the fact that my favorite parking garage no longer gives Alaska Airlines Miles for each day you stay.

At 3:30AM, only the center checkpoint at Sea-Tac is staffed…an I almost panicked until I noticed that there was a TSApre line open – I was no mood to take off my shoes, dig out my liquids and pull out my laptop. This should give you an idea of my mood:

The United Club doesn’t open until 4:30 and we were to start boarding at 4:45 for our 5:20 departure. No coffee, no snack, no newspapers. Sigh. I get free lounge access on any itinerary that includes international flights, a lot of good it does me this morning. There was one bright spot – I was the only person to get a gate upgrade to seat 4F in First Class. This is a happy Uncle Markie:

Guess I didn’t need to buy that ham and Swiss sandwich at Starbucks. United Airlines are the only folks I know of that will upgrade you even if you are flying on a Frequent Flier Mileage Redemption Ticket for Premier members according to their level and are paid. I’m guessing the started that as compensation for all the other benefits they took away when they changed their program this year.

One of the goals of this trip is to try out a new tablet backpack – the never-ending quest for the perfect bag…

If it doesn’t work out, it’s getting returned on my return.

I really do enjoy sitting up front – not enough to pay for it, but still – it gives me an excuse to have a cocktail at 5:15 in the morning:

Vodka/Cranberry squeeze of lime – it’s a little too early to be drinking whiskey, and Bloody Mary mix gives me heartburn. One advantage of United Airlines over Alaska Airlines is that United serves the first round while you are on the ground.

And maybe it’s a good thing I got that Starbuck’s sandwich as this was “breakfast” in United First:

Luckily I have a three hour layover in San Francisco…and the opportunity to try out one of the newest United Clubs – which to get to is a labyrinth of corridors, but the end result is pleasing:

This is the only United Club I’ve been in that actually has a toaster for the bagels! Though, on the downside I miss the Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese of Alaska’s Board Room.

Hung for an hour or so, then it was off to Duty Free to get supplies for the timeshare….might be enough to hold us for the week since Roxy apparently picked up a bottle of Jim Beam as well:

Pretty amazing that Mexico allows three liters per person on the way in.

A little time at the Club Room (two whiskey/diets) before heading to the gate for my flight from San Francisco to Cabo San Lucas, which I knew I’d been upgraded to seat 2B. Apparently there aren’t many Premier’s on this flight according to the number of empty Economy Plus seats….no wonder I got upgraded on this flight 72 hours in advance:

All those blue seats are empty Economy Plus seats.

And as you can tell after we were all loaded, LOTS of empty seats. But then again, September and October are the hottest months in Cabo San Lucas.

Luckily the lunch is much more filling:

That would be the Chicken Salad – my seatmate (2A) had the prosciutto and mozzarella salad which looked bad – and turns out it was cold as well. Speaking of seatmates – if there are any German speaking motorcycle enthusiasts, he runs a tour agency – usa-biker-tour.com. Tours on Harley’s to all of North America great road trips – Key West, the American West, Baja, etc. He was headed to Cabo San Lucas to check out a new hotel in Concepción, on west coast of the Baja Peninsula.

I didn’t check luggage so I was the first through immigration and customs, which just means waiting outside for the shuttle for all the people with luggage. Since they wouldn’t let me back in the terminal to use the facilities, I had to use the ones for the taxi/limo drivers…with some amusing graffiti….

Translations welcome.

Being in central Cabo I was the last of the stops…but it was all worth it with the view from the room after I poured myself a cocktail:

I don’t think I’ll be moving for the next five days. Wish me luck getting return trip upgrades.

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Sat
6
Sep '14

Stay At Home Report: Dinner With Friends! Repeatedly.

Seems I have a week at home – time to invite friends to dinner (after a lovely Labor Day End Of Summer Party at Drew and Renee’s place in North Seattle.

Tuesday: Dinner with the business partner, partner’s partner, customers, customers who are vendors (www.locuswines.com) as well – good food, good company.

Menu:

  • Fresh pretzel-style rolls
  • Salad
  • Green Beans (thanks Jim)
  • Sautéed Jim-gathered mushrooms and onions
  • Leg of Lamb
  • Bed of roasted root vegetables (Yellow Fins, Yams, Walla Walla Onions, Rosemary)

And especially for Shama, I baked some chocolate chip short bread cookies…

A good time was had by all, with more to come.

And then there was Wednesday which was supposed to include the Gay Volleyball player in town for a tournament, who then realized his first match was at the exact time of dinner – the rest of us had fun:

Of course to get there I had to hit the Safeway 30-50% off rack:

Which resulted in this and this:

And the bill….

Apparently I saved $130. And it took me 15 minutes to check out with all the double scanning… and the checkout line – took my 15 minutes with all the double scanning for the discount…and annoyed people behind me – never seen that many people abandon a check-out line:

Lots of spices which ran up the bill. But many of those are things to use in the Botanical Brandy blend.

Thursday night is just Jonathan and me…for a hash made of the lamb and root vegetables from Tuesday’s dinner.

Speaking of the Botanical Blend – lots of things being blended in the kitchen:

Lots of recycling….many dead cases of wine… I pity the recycle guy.

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Sun
31
Aug '14

Trip Report: Victoria With Hoosiers.

Met up with the kids in the check-in line at the Victoria Clipper – actually not in the line, at the counter…I was running a few minutes late getting there. Turns out we were some of the first people on the boat so we had our choice of tables. I prefer the ones in the back closer to the Duty Free counter.

Joe and Lisa on one side:

Me on the other side of the table with fixin’s for a Red Baron (also known as a Poinsettia):

Three hours later we are queued up for Customs and Immigration in Victoria:

Lisa had signed us up for the City/Butchart Gardens Tour through The Clipper which is basically a driving tour of the city on the way into and out of town on the way to The Gardens. Here is Chinatown:

And then the world-famous Butchart Gardens:

We tried to have our pre-tour lunch in The Dining Room but the soonest they could seat us was 2:30 – it was noon, AND the bus was due to return to the city. The Blue Poppy was where we ended up. Cafeteria line, but sit down, and with wine. I had the pulled pork sandwich and a glass of Cabernet. Lisa and Joe had sandwiches and shared a Salmon/Clam Chowder which looked like it had too many potatoes for my taste.

Back in the city we were the last hotel drop off as we are at the far end of inner bay. We only had to wait a few minutes for our room to be ready:

We were a little far for my tablet to get a good connection in the living room so I set up shop in the guest bathroom:

And even that took some work to get a connection – the redirect on their site after log-in wasn’t working so I had to call technical support and to have the phone close enough to the computer to work through stuff with tech support I had to string both the unit’s telephones together using the data jack on one to feed the other:

The things I do for a computer connection, at least with my status it’s free.

But the view is great – even for being on the first floor:

That would be the Coho Ferry heading back to Port Angeles – it’s the other ferry connection direct to Victoria’s Inner Harbor.

Joe went off to do the grocery store shopping while Lisa and I went around the corner to the mini-mart for the heavy items like Diet Coke, Tonic, Ginger Ale and ice since the clean out the ice bucket between guests which is a pain when you really want a cocktail ASAP.

I’d brought up Flank Steak for the first night large enough for leftovers with the eggs in the morning, and T-Bone Steaks for the second night. Protein is about double the price in Canada as in the US so it made more since to clean out some of the 50% off cow I had in my freezer. And dinner was good:

And breakfast was good thanks to Joe’s cooking:

For our full-day in Victoria, Joe and Lisa headed off on the water taxi to check out Chinatown and Antique Row:

It being Thursday I stayed behind to get the wine shop’s website updated. We met up for lunch at Barb’s Fish and Chips at Fisherman’s Terminal – my guilty pleasure when I’m up there. The one-piece for me, the two-piece for Joe, and Lisa had the Salmon and Chips.

Little did we know that Labor Day Weekend was an antique boat gathering called Classic Boat Festival. That might explain us not getting a Penthouse Suite with the hot-tub.


Quite a schedule of events – that we will miss since we have an 11:35 boat back to Seattle. At least we got to see them arriving in the harbor”

The afternoon for the kids was poolside. I joined them for an hour before heading of on the water taxi to the marina downtown to check out all the boats:

The ride into town was amusing with this group of partiers… apparently for $15 you purchase a wrist band from the water taxi folks and it gets you four ferry rides between various waterfront bars, and if you have at least four people in your group you get a free appetizer to share at each bar. Sounds like a smashing deal to me (Pickle Pub Crawl):

And here is a really great selfie on that same trip – so good I used it for my FaceBook profile picture:

Several people have commented that it makes me look like a young Pappa Hemingway. But the point of the trip was to see the stunningly gorgeous wooden sail and power boats:

Even the dinghies are pimped out…

And maybe one of the stunningly gorgeous captains…

And the wicker chairs in his cabin that he hates but can’t get them out of the cabin without cutting them in half…apparently they were loaded in before the roof was put on:

Sorry for the glare…gives it an odd “impressionist” feeling. And speaking of pretty boys, these buskers were also talented:

Time to head back to the condo for drinks and dinner…

Our condo from the water…we are one unit back from the front on the 1st floor:

And the dinner that I mentioned:

Up earlier on the final day to catch the ferry home…

Very crowded it being the Friday of Labor Day Weekend:

Not a free seat on the entire vessel – and for the final photo of this post, some crisps we shared with our tablemates:

Home a little after three and turned in for a power nap for tomorrow is a work day.

What a fun couple of days.

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Sat
30
Aug '14

Trip Report: Rainier With Roxy.

I was feeling the need for one more road trip with Roxy – and actually pulled it off. He wanted to go hiking on Rainier with our Park Ranger buddy Sierra. An overnight hike isn’t my cup of tea – but at least I got him up there. Sierra will run him back down the hill to Enumclaw afterwards and he can catch the bus home.

On the road again…

The entrance to Rainier National Park

The Visitor’s Center at Sunrise in Rainier National Park

And our buddy Ranger Sierra

I didn’t know that having a personal invitation from a Ranger would get you in the park free – there’s a $15 savings!

Ranger Sierra actually lives in the building to the left of the visitor’s center photo:

Yep, his bedroom window looks out on Mount Rainier. And here is the common room. Glad to see the Rangers drink beer:

Ranger Sierra was leading the 3PM walk – he switched from the 1PM so we could do it, not realizing I had to leave at 3. As it turned out later, I made phenomenal time getting back to Seattle and probably could have made the walk and still make my 7:30 appointment with a house appraiser. Here he is in a park poster:

Since I was going to miss it, Roxy and I set out on one of the easy trails…yes, I’m hiking AGAIN.

Here are some of the better shots from our outing:

And finally the one that was taken by a German Tourist of the three of us, just before I left to head back to Seattle:

What a fun way to spend the day.

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Thu
28
Aug '14

Visitor Report: Two Different Worlds Visiting.

Visitors from Ireland, visitors from Tokyo – it was a busy time at Uncle Markie’s Home For Wayward Tourists. The first to arrive were Jeff and Mindi – though Jeff only for drinks from 10PM-1AM with Mindi’s brother as she got sick on the flight from Dublin. Sorry, no pictures of the drunken festivities – though it did wreak havoc with y packing for the Denver trip which was in the middle of all these visits, and hence why Jeff came over late at night – because it was the only night that we’d be in town the same day, and he didn’t want a repeat of when I was in Ireland last month I was headed south to the wedding as he was cabbing in from the airport.

The day after I got back from Denver, Tokyo Dave showed up – at least I got pictures of that! Dinner Saturday night was at Swanda’s place. Here are MY pictures:

And here is Swanda’s picture of the event – clearly we know who is the better blogger:

That is TRULY a GREAT photograph of the two of us.

Sunday night’s dinner I did a little better when Mindi (ex-pat from Ireland), Anne (ex-workmate), and Tokyo Dave (ex-pat from Tokyo) joined me for a flank steak dinner:

Tokyo Dave was staying at my place, and after he’d decamped for the airport on Monday I found a t-shirt and underwear left behind, and then got a message that he was missing his work iPhone5 as well. Apparently enough sleep wasn’t part of anyone’s holiday plan – both Mindy and Anne arrived for dinner a wee bit hungover from the previous night. Ah, the life of travelers. I’ll have to try that sometime myself.

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Wed
27
Aug '14

Trip Report: Amtraking From Seattle To Denver Via Sacramento (Part Three)

Too bad I didn’t get the picture of the woman on the platform in Denver doing the ALS Ice Water Challenge – I did, however, donate my ice to the project. I had ice still in my bucket, and I’m in Denver, my destination – better to soak someone than being poured down the drain. Personally I like the picture from the movie Carrie that I posted on FaceBook with the comment “Ice Bucket Failure – Got Blood Instead”.

Because of a thunderstorm that rolled in at the same time as the train (coincidence?) our table was a little late as they moved patio people inside… but soon we were eating at the lovely Stoic & Genuine:

Drinks in hand, waiting for oysters….

Oysters killed, killing the tuna tartar….

Then the heirloom tomato salad – and in the background the watermelon salad.

After dinner we walked through the rehabbed station….

There is even a hotel in the station – the front desk looked good, but no idea the rates. That would be the Crawford Hotel.

It was a long night…luckily both Dan and Lisa aren’t working for my “big day” in Denver…Dan and I ran to HomoDepot (and didn’t give in to the hot dog guy there) to check out parts to fix my suitcase (again) and then off to shop for cheap liquor for me to drag home….but soon it was dinner time:

Chicken off the grill (that’s what is in the big bowl, lots of legs off the grill) while Dan dealt with issues on one of my web servers… and before you knew it, we were both beat…

When you are beat, you are beat.

Before I knew it, it was time to head back to Seattle. Thanks Lisa for running me to the airport!

Got my booze laden bag checked (2×1.75, 1x.75) and headed to the Admirals Club (American) which Alaska has privileges with. First priority is to start posting some blog reports… second thing is to get some food before my trip. Yes, there are cookies and snaky things, but unlike the Alaska Board Room, you have to pay for real food – I got the roast beef sandwich on a Pretzel Roll and I swapped out the chips for extra pickles ($9.95 plus tax) – I didn’t realize I was going to get a bucket of pickles:

Loved the horseradish sauce.

Got a post done and then it was onto the Alaska flight home…sigh, no upgrade., but new seats with power outlets. Not an open seat in the plane and in case you were interested, I was number seven on the upgrade list. Damn Friday afternoon flights.

I was in seat 6D – so these are in the back of the first class seats – the regular seat outlets look like this:

I love the fact that the outlets take ALL international plugs…and have USB, the true international standard.

And thank goodness for the Whiskey and Diet smuggled onto the plane…

It isn’t pretty, but it worked.

Had my free drink on the plane (MVPGold Status Benefit), read a little, napped a little and caught a cab home.

Too short a visit – but I needed that train ride (and the time with Dan and Lisa).

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Sun
24
Aug '14

Trip Report: Amtraking From Seattle To Denver Via Sacramento (Part Two)

Even with the delays we got into town a few minutes early – I would have preferred several hours late so I could have had the free breakfast on the train. Basically I have a 5 hour layover in Sacramento.

Not terribly impressed with the station – which is under serious renovation:

It took a 12-block walk to find breakfast – some of it pretty:

Some not – lots of vacant storefronts. Nothing to eat in the station, though there was a Starbucks at the end of the block (like everywhere). I ended up at Cafe Bernardo at 15th and R. The train station is at 4th and I. That sounds like more than 12 blocks. I had their version of the eggs benedict – sourdough toast, sliced ham, poached egg, hollandaise. Odd but OK.

The train, she is a comin’

And yet another train without ice – but my car attendant got be a bucket from the dining car. Nice man:

Off to The Mile City we go, with stops in Truckee:

And then on to this countries ugliest Amtrak station, Reno, Nevada. This is trackside where they just buried the platform two stories down in a pit:

Which is sad since the front of the station is nice (and there is even a “gentleman’s club” across the street):

Heading further east we got to see some “wild mustangs” grazing, and even a couple of Union Pacific’s Company Cars – the railcars that executives use for travel on their network:

I’ve travelled in private rail cars from San Diego to Los Angeles with LARail.com – seriously a fun way to travel. Must be time to party!

Creative uses for an empty ice bucket…and onto Winnemucca, Lossamucca, Drawamucca.

Then Elko, Nevada…

Train station or bus stop – you figure it out. Soon it was time for bed…

Up at 7AM for breakfast – handy to be 3 doors down from the dining car as I was back in bed by 8AM to sleep until 10:30 or so. Before I knew it I was in Grand Junction, Colorado where Dan’s mother lives:

Their station is under renovation as well. Generally Amtrak doesn’t cover any of the costs of station renovation. The railroads generally sell the stations to the city for $1 as they did with King Street Station in Seattle, and then the city picks up the bill for renovation and modernization with tourist dollars.

Then it was onto Glenwood Springs where we had a little time to get out and wander:

And then the train came to a stop, a long stop, for track repair work – upwards of two hours – at least the view was pretty:

Frasier, Winter Park…headed to the Moffat Tunnel:

And on the other side of the mountains we are greeted with this lovely rainbow – which even made me move from the comfort of my roomette to the lounge:

Or maybe it was the allure of a Colorado University (Boulder) student named Edmund (who was also back in the sleepers, though unfortunately not mine):

Time to pack up the circus since the next stop is Denver:

Out of whiskey I had to hit the lounge car – who were out of everything other than two Rums and a handful of Gin and Vodka – good thing Denver is a provisioning stop! I took the last two rums – not what I wanted, but with the train running behind I’d settle.

At this point we were running two and a half hours behind – threatening my 8:30PM reservation at Stoic & Genuine, a new fancy restaurant in Denver’s recently renovated Union Station. Because of the delay I snagged a 5PM reservation for dinner and had the Flat Iron Steak (again).

And finally we arrive into Denver, backing the train in:

They did a stunning job on the renovation of this train station. Dan was waiting for me on the platform with Lisa holding our table at the restaurant – only a little past our 8:30 reservation.

Stayed tuned for Part Three – Time With Friends

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Fri
22
Aug '14

Trip Report: Amtraking From Seattle To Denver Via Sacramento (Part One)

Dear Amtrak,

This is how to NOT start a relaxing three-day train trip from Seattle to Denver. While we boarded and left on time, that’s where the good news stops. My butt in my roomette until tomorrow morning at 6am is now my butt in my roomette to Portland, then I have to pack everything up – get on a stinky bus – ride to Eugene and then unpack everything again. I understand bridge work, but didn’t you know that when I booked my ticket only a couple of months ago? I would have travelled earlier in the month or later – I’m not that picky. There goes my after lunch nap. There goes hanging out in the Metropolitan Lounge in Portland reading the paper and uploading documents via their high-speed connection. By the time we hit Eugene, Oregon, that is the end of any cell phone coverage, which means no Wi-Fi in our next train which I hope will have a Parlour Car, not that is will do me much good at that point. Gone is my welcome tiny bottle of bubbles, gone is my amenity kit. Gone are the choice of apple, cranberry or orange juice in the sleepers – we are down to Orange which is too acidic for my throat. When the airlines tried this in 2008 in the downturn, they lost their business class customers – as a sleeping class passenger I’m paying a huge premium over coach. Get with the program and ignore penny-pinching Congressmen and bring back real service.

Let’s also add that due to mechanical issues this train which only goes to Portland, has no Parlour Car. No Parlour Car means no work because the Parlour Car is the only one with Wi-Fi, no Parlour Car means to Parlour Car
lunch menu which means being squeezed four to a booth the Dining Car. No Parlour Car means children running amuck (literally up and down the aisle of the sleeper car) when they could be in the lower level of the Parlour Car watching Toy Story 18. Where is the car attendant to counsel the parents about appropriate train behavior?

And can you explain why, after leaving on time, having to wait for 20 minutes north of Kent, Washington for a freight train? I can understand that when Amtrak is off schedule (i.e. running late) that we are at the mercy of freight, but we were on schedule.

It Portland the circus really began. NO instructions for what people were to do to board the couch to Eugene. At least the sleeping car passengers didn’t have to re-check-in again… but again, NO INSTRUCTIONS about where to go, what line to stand in, the works. The poor folks in coach didn’t even get their Seattle assigned seats back – they were doled out in order of where you were in line. All it would have taken was a conductor’s announcement after the Vancouver, Washington stop: “Sleeping Car passengers, please proceed to Gate 8 by baggage claim to get your bus transfer slip. Coach Passengers please line up at Gate 5 to get your bus transfer and new seat assignments”. Now WHY they had to get new seat assignments is beyond me (or my pay grade).

That confusion led to the last bus delaying the train by 40 minutes out of Eugene, which meant a “First-Come, First-Served” dinner process – at least they held off the calling Coach passengers until most of the Sleepers were served. I used to be in operations at Microsoft, whoever did the operations planning for this should get demerits.

The Seattle-Portland leg had ice available in all the sleepers for passengers personal drinks (and in my case for a plastic baggie for my cranky knee), when we got back on the train in Eugene, NO ICE in any of the four sleeping cars – I had to go begging in the Parlour Car which thankfully was operational on this leg. Finally I can get some work done…until, of course, 30 minutes out of Eugene we are in a dead zone for the next twelve hours.

I dropped all 15,000 of my Amtrak Rewards points for this one-zone roomette ticket (Award Code 104) – please make me happy and return a third of them, or offer me lots of dollars in future travel credits because this wasn’t the holiday I was promised.

Mark Souder
Amtrak Guest Rewards Number: XXXXXXX

That’s how the trip started.

The reading material for the trip? The Big Burn (and the Fire That Saved America), by Timothy Egan. Reading this on the train on the 104th anniversary of the forest fire that destroyed Wallace, Idaho and numerous other towns. 3.2 million acres of mostly public forest land were destroyed by the fire – and hundreds of lives and buildings. Truly a fascinating read even for someone who usually prefers fiction.

As usual you can click on the book and be directed to Amazon to purchase it – it’s just out in paperback, and it looks like you can borrow it f free.

From the letter above (which will have all the other “foibles” from this adventure before I send it off to the folks at Amtrak) you can see the “ugly” side of the trip, but there were good moments like the renovated King Street Station in Seattle – though I don’t look totally awake in the photo. Apparently when you have cocktail company show up at 10PM, wake up on the couch at 3AM not having packed, suddenly are you glad for a packing list:

Computer Bag

  • Tablet with Front Page and Streets and Trips
  • Power supplies
  • Mouse
  • Extra keyboard and stand?
  • Paperwork for train and flights
  • Plenty of ones for tipping on the train

     

Suitcase

  • White Port recipe book
  • Botanical Brandy mini
  • Extra book in addition to the Fire Book (which goes to the Colonels after I’m done with it)
  • Bag of computer widgets
  • 2 glasses for the train
  • Bourbon? Booze? For the train
  • Mixer for the train
  • Long pants for the train – green
  • Shorts for Colorado
  • 3 shirts
  • 3 socks
  • Matching shoes
  • Bathrobe
  • Speedo
  • Toiletries

     

Extra Bag

  • Box of booze for Dan and Lisa


Of course, there were a things missing… pen/paper and headphones in the computer bag, hat in the luggage – and I counted wrong so I was short a set of clothes. But still, not bad for 3AM with a cab coming at 8AM.

And the sleepy time photo of me:

Trainside:

And with the office set up (only to be broken down two hours later). I have tethering on my phone so the situation wasn’t nearly as “grim” as I presented it to Amtrak:

This Sleeper Car had something I hadn’t seen on other Sleepers – a counter where normally the ice, fruit bowl and huge trash can go – this car also had the advantage of the ice drawer under the coffee…something I wouldn’t see for the rest of the trip.

Welcome to Portland’s Union Station and the clusterfuck of moving an entire train onto buses and the traffic snarl on the freeway – hoping that we will be running late into Sacramento so I can get a free breakfast on the train. If it’s on time, I’d be twenty minutes early for the beginning of breakfast service.

Had lunch in the dining car (Bockwurst on a pretzel roll [diet out window] with pico de gallo relish, and chips that I didn’t eat) met a lovely young man at my table, Michael wearing a delightful t-shirt sporting “Drink Beer, Make Things”. He was amused that I was a home distiller and that my motto would have been “Drink Moonshine, Make Things, Don’t Use Power Tools.

During the transfer process I waited for Michael to load him down with water and fruit from the sleeping car since he was in coach.

We were the first coach to leave Portland, and the next to the last to arrive. How does this happen – though it’s not like they are leaving without us. At the Eugene, Oregon Amtrak station:

Before you know it, it’s time for the very unusual for Amtrak “First-Come, First Serve” dinner – normally by reservation, but I wanted the Braised Lamb Shank for dinner so I bolted for the dining car at the first announcement:

That would be a split of the Hahn Cabernet Sauvignon – at the shop we carry the Hahn Chardonnay. Not sure if it was worth the $15, but the Lamb called for a heavy red.

And typical Southern Oregon photo – trees through a rail car specially designed to haul cut timber:

I ran into Michael after dinner and invited him back to my Roomette to sample both my Oak-Aged Brandy and Lucky 13, which was aged for 13 months in New American Oak (as all Bourbons must be). Rules for Bourbon, in case you were interested.

The car attendant put the upper bed down, we continued drinking and chatting until past midnight when the booze ran out. And now, he didn’t stay, though I would have welcomed it.

Tomorrow morning at 6AM is Sacramento and the next leg – I just slept with the chair in recline mode – easier to get up and out in the morning.

[? ? ?] But can assume a couple of pound gain from “train food” three times a day.

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Tue
19
Aug '14

Advice Report: How To Be A Good Houseguest.

A quick post on some things I’ve learned over the years about being a good houseguest when you are visiting friends or strangers (in no particular order):

  • Travel lightly and don’t leave anything behind.
  • Just because airfare is cheap doesn’t mean that you should visit the same people every six weeks.
  • When using the shower – reset the controls to the same place you found them, i.e. if the water is coming out the tub fill when you got into the shower, make sure it’s there when you are done. And if there is a squeegee that means you should use it to wipe down the glass.
  • Bring a hostess gift. Wine is always a good choice. I know of a nice wine shop: Madrona Wine Merchants (sorry, that was a plug for my shop).
  • Speaking of alcohol, if you drink your host’s alcohol replace, is with equal or better quality.
  • Offer to shop and cook meals – it’s the least you can do since you are saving lots of dollars compared to a hotel.
  • Be mindful loading the dishwasher – many hosts are VERY particular about how things go in.
  • Inquire with your hosts if they’d like you to strip the bed or leave it at the end of your visit.
  • Don’t linger in the bathroom – get in, do your business, get out. This is especially true of places with only one bathroom. And leave the bathroom at least as clean as you found it.
  • Travel with a bathrobe – and use it.
  • Don’t overstay your welcome – think 3 or 4 days max.
  • If there is easy, convenient public transit from the train station or airport – use it. If it’s a quick overnight visit and your host is 45 minutes from the airport – just rent a car and save the three hours of travel time.
  • If you see a pile of shoes by the front door, add yours to them. It means that your host has a shoeless house.
  • Match your schedule to the host’s schedule – at least the getting out of bed part. And if you stay up later, quiet as a church mouse.

And some things you should pack for your convenience and so you don’t have to borrow from the hosts:

  • Pen and paper
  • Cloth shipping bag, which is good for a day bag around the city
  • Windbreaker that rolls up tight incase the weather changes

I’ve some of these lessons the hard way, others I’ve learned from bad houseguests of my own.

Any other rules you would like to contribute?

And I know, a blog post without a single picture….not even a selfie – miracles do happen.

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1 Comment »

One Response to “Advice Report: How To Be A Good Houseguest.”

  1. Uncle Markie Says:

    And don’t forget to pack a hat if you are sensitive to the sun.

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Tue
12
Aug '14

Visitors Report: The Colonels Come To Town.

What a lovely couple of days with The Colonels in town on their epic journey from Kentucky to Alaska (and back):

BTIIMap

Now THAT is an epic trip. And as full disclaimer, I’ve raided their trip blog for some of the photos (and the map above).

I’d arranged for The Colonels to stay at the WorldMark Seattle at The Camlin for their three day stay:

The Camlin

The unit I got via the “waitlist” was a Courtyard Studio Plus – which means stairs to all the units. Luckily, they got a unit with only one set of stairs, AND had the bell-staff schlep all the bags and boxes into the room.

They arrived at 5PM from Eastern Washington, and I got stuck in traffic so I didn’t make it until 5:30. As the room was a little warm (no AC, but a fan), we had snacks and drinks in the courtyard. Had I thought about it I would have brought steaks and salad since there was a BBQ unit right across from their room.

gallery_12

We were at the table to the left (WorldMark photo).

After a couple of drinks – and a tour of the property (the museum in the basement and the Cloud Room on the top floor) we were off to Dragon Fish Asian Café which is walkable for all of us. Here is a picture from The Colonels blog:

P8080277

The Lady Colonel took this photo as they were passing in front of Dragon Fish Asian Café on their way to dinner on Friday (that story to come later). His blog comment had to do with the ladies in blue dresses dragging huge crosses down the street:

Now, I know I’m an old white guy, rather conservative, and from a small town, but there were lots of folks in Seattle that just left me shaking my head. We didn’t get to photograph many of them, but the following photograph of two women in long blue dresses, each woman carrying a cross, might give you a sense of what I’m speaking of.

Our dinner at Dragon Fish was wonderful – I’d worried that the menu might be a little adventurous for The Colonels, but it turns out they like everything we had and shared – and then back the next day for lunch – that’s a testament to the quality of the food (or the close proximity to The Camlin). Here is what we had (as best I can remember):

  • CHICKEN POTSTICKERS 7
    garlic, ginger, cabbage, sweet hot soy sauce
  • ASIAN CURRIED STEAK FRIES 3
    curry spice, ketchup
  • KOREAN BULGOGI SKIRT STEAK * 8
    pickled cucumbers, sesame seeds
  • GRILLED MISO RIBEYE * 11
    tempura onions, sweet miso sauce
  • WAWAII ROLL WITH TOASTED COCONUT 12
    smoked salmon, macadamia nuts, blueberry wasabi sauce
  • CHICKEN YAKISOBA (wheat noodles) 8
    vegetables, yakisoba sauce, sesame seeds, pickled ginger
  • LIME RICKEY SHRIMP ** 8
    quick fried. peanuts, hichimi, lemongrass vodka sauce

Hung out at The Camlin with The Colonels for a bit after dinner, and headed home for tomorrow we are doing The Museum of Flight, then a tour of Madrona Wine Merchants, then dinner at my place.

Here are a couple of photos from our adventure at The Museum of Flight. But first a stop at The Taco Truck:

WP_20140807_001

It was pronounced good – and a good thing I talked The Senior Colonel into only one burrito – those things are HUGE. Beef for The Senior Colonel, Spicy Pork for me (we both had burritos, a rare treat for me), and Lady Colonel has three tacos, one each beef, pork, and spicy pork.

WP_20140807_002

Not a bad selfie with the three of us. First stop was the new building that I haven’t seen which is on the “air park” side of the museum, over the new bridge over East Marginal Way that I haven’t been over. The new building houses the mock-up of a space shuttle that we got from Houston – alas, no retired shuttle, just the full-size mockup. This will give you an idea of size:

WP_20140807_003

And then to go crawl around some planes:

WP_20140807_004

In front of a retired 707-based Air Force One – think ancient technology. And The Colonels inside a retired Concorde – like one I flew on several years ago.

WP_20140807_005

The aisle is only 12″ wide, and seats more like 16″, and if you are over 6 feet tall you didn’t want a window seat since you’d have to bend your head for the entire flight. Here is photo from Pigletté Takes The Concorde for pictures from that trip:

piglette-1

piglette-1piglette-1That would be with the appetizer of caviar, smoked salmon and a lovely 1986 Pol Roger Cuvée Churchill Champagne.

piglette-2

piglette-1

Or doing Mach 2 (which is 1380 miles per hour) at 51,000 feet….while feasting on lobster rings with cucumbers accompanied by a 1994 Château Petit Village Pomerol. Damn tasty – don’t remember what the main course of wine was:

piglette-3

But enough of my old travels, let’s move back to the present – a final shot of The Senior Colonel in the grand hall of The Museum of Flight:

WP_20140807_009

All tuckered out we headed back to my house to hang out in the semi-air conditioning (the bedroom, with a fan to push it into the living room). We chatted while I worked on dinner, figuring that a 6PM start would be better for The Colonels. The menu was:

  • Fresh home-made bread
  • Salad
  • Rib-eye steaks off the grill

WP_20140807_010

The plan for The Colonels the next day was to visit The Living Computer Museum, partly funded and supplied by Paul Allen of Microsoft fame. But alas, trying to track down medical information kept them in their room until it was time for dinner with Swanda – and quite a spread it was:

Seafair Weekend 008

And the group shot with The Colonels camera, somehow minus The Caveman:

P8080281

It was a fun dinner with The Lady Colonel bonding with The Caveman, Swanda’s partner. I left before The Colonels did which might be a record.

The following morning The Colonels were on the road to Kamloops, British Columbia. Guess it’s time for me to plan another trip to Kentucky, but not until they get back home.

For The Colonels blog of this trip, you can visit: http://froghollowfollies.blogspot.com/ once they are back from their trip (it’s private for the moment).

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Sun
3
Aug '14

Trip Report: The Long Road Home.

Man 5:15am is early – especially since I’m always nervous out a hotel’s wake-up call. It came. And as I was almost out the door when the phone rang again… “your cab is here”… ten minutes early.

I had LOTS of time at the bus stand since the Airport Bus wasn’t due until 6:30. Here is an over the top house by the stop:

Just a few flower boxes/baskets/concrete farm animals.

Uneventful ride to the airport – lots of stops but they remained on time. My plan was to check in and head to the Star Alliance Lounge…plans that were thwarted by Lufthansa not opening their ticket desk until 3 hours before the flight. Seems they don’t have many flights in/out of Dublin. So yes, I went upstairs to the food court and had an Egg McMuffin with Sausage.

Once in the lounge – all was well – more food, drinks, newspapers, life is good (again).

Very tasteful the Dublin Star Alliance Lounge was actually a “contract lounge” for many airlines run by the Dublin Airport Authority. Pleasant enough.

12:30pm flight to Frankfurt….

…and a scant 50 minutes to make my connection, which for some reason I had to go through immigration, and catch a bus to the other side of the airport. When I booked this ticket I worried about it being enough time but thought I wouldn’t have to do any lines. I made it, but I was sweating – and one of the last half dozen people on the plane. Needless to say…no lounge time though.

Arrived Stockholm a little after 4PM and waited an eternity for luggage, and then immigration/customs, and then for the airport shuttle to my hotel, which is located on the Parking Lot shuttle route.

My hotel – The Jumbo Stay:

Yes, it’s a hotel (actually a hostel) in a converted 747-200. Of course, the elevator was “out of service” so I had to haul my bag up a couple of flights of stairs to check in… after taking off my shoes in the “mud room” since they are a shoeless hotel. I was booked into the Wheel House Room which is basically where the landing gear folds up into the belly of the plane.

The entrance to my room:

My monastic wheel well cell:

And where I set up the computer:

No shower… that’s upstairs on the main deck. Here are some other shots of the exterior, the “wing walk” patio, etc. And just FYI, just as Ireland was unseasonable warm, so is Stockholm.

They are working on four “engine rooms” which look like they would be a lot of fun. Next time I think I’d take a shared room upstairs. Not sure the single room with toilet and sink is worth the extra money.

And the lounge:

With the lounge menu VERY limited, I walked across the road to the Radison Blu Armanda for a Caesar Salad, which turned out to be a Chicken Caesar:

 

And it being Scandinavia, that is what a $40USD meal looks like – and the drink was half that bill for a “double”.

Breakfast is included in the private room price – typical European Breakfast:

I passed on the bread, cereal and other carbs. At 11 I’m headed to the airport for my 4pm flight…the airport is WAY outside the city of Stockholm, so I’m just going to sit in the lounge, read, blog, eat, drink, be merry.

The Star Alliance Lounge at the Stockholm Airport is run by SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System) which means it’s way Scandinavian….

And they even had the fixings for a Rusty Nail:

I think a Rusty Nail in Sweden would cost about $40USD

Before I knew it was time to head to the plane – a special plane for me, on I haven’t ridden on, a 717-200. The 717-200 was a McDonald-Douglas airplane that Boeing inherited when their two companies merged, and wasn’t all that popular so it got killed off.

My exit row sit had plenty of room in exit row seat in the plane’s 2-3 seating.

Hello Amsterdam – and my connection to my Delta flight to Newark and my Alaska flight back to Seattle.

It was a free shuttle to my hotel – first a bus to their sister hotel, then a van ride to mine… the Bastion Schipol Airport/Hoopddorf (after the town that it’s in).

Clean and functional and cheap at 49EURO for the night. And the burger was fantastic, though I’m not sure why in addition to the fries it came with green beans with bacon…

And what hotel isn’t complete without snacks, water, pop, wine and beer in a vending machine…

Another morning of up and out early – off to the Star Alliance Lounge, this one run by KLM (part of Air France). Since Delta has lots of flights out of Amsterdam, the ticket counter was open and waiting for me.

Then it was the Priority Lane through immigration for another pretty stamp in my passport and off to the lounge.


Huge place with a huge bar…


My typical European breakfast with the addition of some scrambled eggs…


And my plane waiting for me. On the way to meet the plane, and go through security AGAIN because that’s what they do for flights coming into the US from Europe, I passed a coffee shop where you could have your coffee in a giant coffee cup:


Very odd and very Dutch.

Got through security and settled into my preferred seat on the 767, 1A:


On time out of the gate… and into the day’s entertainment. Two long flights up front. Glass of Champagne in hand (Champagne Jacquart Brut Mosaique).

Here are the movies from the Amsterdam to Newark flight… Charade with Audrey Hepburn & Cary Grant and The Breakfast Club:


I’d seen both before, but I’d forgotten how “dark” Charade was and how “light” The Breakfast Club was.

And then there is the food…


That would be the Smoked Salmon and Grill Shrimp starter. The wine was the Selbach Incline Riesling to go with all the fish.


Followed by the Caprese Salad and the Thai Coconut Soup (the Selbach Incline Riesling, Woodford Reserve rocks, and Diet Coke.


And a repeat (though with herbed butter) of the Beef Tenderloin that I had on the way over (other choices Roast Chicken Breast, Five Cheese Ravioli or the Chilled Deli Plate). I had to try both of the red wines:


And I went for the Vanilla Ice Cream Sunday – with a Chambers Rosewood Muscadelle from Australia.


The mid-flight fresh baked cookie.


And it’s time to recline and watch movies…


While waiting for the Hot Chicken Parmesan Sandwich – with yet more Woodford Reserve rocks, and Diet Coke.

With the research for this post it seems that they aren’t spending a lot of money on their wines – that said, they are getting interesting stuff that one doesn’t normally find on the shelves other than specialty wine shops like Madrona Wine Merchants in Seattle. Shameless plug.

Before I knew it – I was in Newark (by plan, not accident). Immigration (a snap with Global Entry), waiting for bag, Customs… and yet another lounge – NOT. Alaska doesn’t have an agreement with American (one of their partners) to use their lounge in Newark since they changed Terminals a couple of months ago (reminds me of SFO). Terminal is overcrowded and the air-conditioning can’t keep up. Uncle Markie not happy – and tweets Alaska with his concerns, still no pass to the American Lounge. Damn.


We load, we taxi, we wait, we turn the engines off (so the crew doesn’t ding their “flight” hours), severe storm passing through, drinks (alcohol) served in First, Coach gets water and the chance to use the bathrooms, we wait…two hours plus. No Digi-Players while on the ground. Pilot announces we are headed back to the terminal to wait out the storm with the other 75 planes that are stuck… and minutes later the Captain on the PA saying “Flight Attendants Take Your Seats” – seems there is a break in the storm, we are close to tarmac limits (new Federal Rules) and since we are already rolling they clear us to take off – in front of the other 75 waiting. Whew!

Watched a movie (and some TV) on the flight – 2001 A Space Odyssey:

I’d forgotten how crappy 2001 ASO was. Useless ape opening sequence, bad special effects (but good for the day), weird plot lines, bad acting.

Honestly I’m so tired at this point that there are no pictures of the Alaska food in first, but here is the menu:

  • Appetizer Salad of butter poached shrimp with tropical salsa and warm roll with butter
  • Pork Tenderloin with wild mushroom sauce, broccoli and sweet potato mash (other option was the Beef Provencal with artichoke potato puree and fresh baby carrots)
  • Crème Brulée Cheesecake with mixed berry compote

No remembrance of wines. Or of drinking Jack and Diets for the rest of the trip, knowing I’d be getting in well after midnight.

Add a chatty seatmate at the end (with are both hammered at this point) talking up his business (greaterchina-usa.com) which I need to remember in case I need Chinese-based manufacturing, which it’s always good to have a local contact for.

Landed, got bag. Bag banged up badly (and this is only ONE of the cracks – did they run over it?):


Alaska Airlines solution to a bag that can’t be fixed…give me a new one of about that size. At baggage claim, in under 20 minutes:


Well, it’s pretty and it isn’t black (great for ragtops, bad for luggage as everyone else’s is black).

Home by cab – great driver, good tip. Had to wind down for another hour or two before bedtime. Luckily a day off before a Friday/Saturday/Sunday shift.

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Tue
29
Jul '14

Trip Report: An Irish Wedding.

Part three of my Irish Saga. The real reason for my trip to Ireland – the wedding of one Mark J. Pucci.

A lovely train ride from Dublin’s Connolly Station to the town of Bray in County Wicklow. Popped into a taxi for the ride to Enniskerry and the Summer Hill House Hotel where the wedding is scheduled. I’ve booked in for two nights.

You guessed it – swiped off their site, somehow I forgot to get a picture of the main building. I’m out back in the Courtyard Units:

Perfectly functional room, complete with balcony (but no chairs). Downside is that there are no Wi-Fi repeaters in this building so I have to go to the main building to get access – and even then, it’s not great Expect TripAdvisor review. But the view of the Irish countryside is nice….

The first night’s activities were drinks in Enniskerry at Mac’s Bar at the Powerscourt Arms followed by dinner next door at the The Relaxing & Classic Lounge. Here is “downtown” Enniskerry:

And me in Mac’s Bar hoisting my first Paddy’s Irish Whiskey of the evening:

And the fair-haired Groom making the “time for dinner” announcement:

And my dinner of Fish and Chips, oddly served with salad and mashed peas – we are in Ireland after all:

And a selfie with Jill and her mother, Norma (who also all had the Fish and Chips):

It was a late evening – stayed up drinking until two with one of the other US-based wedding guests – put a HUGE dent in the Paddy’s I’d brought for the occasion.

The wedding was the next afternoon – an outdoor wedding – which has only become legal in the last couple of weeks – you still have to “rent a room” to sign the documents in – guessing to protect all the hotels. Lovely weather, if a bit on the hot side. Charming ceremony which included multiple quotes by Rumi, very humanist.

Pictures of Mark and Aisling tying the knot:

And the food – choice of pork or salmon. I took the slightly overcooked pork…

One of Aisling’s pals made the cake (which was gluten free if I remember correctly):

Another long evening of drinking the Paddy’s on the rocks – and considering that I have a 5:15am wake-up call for a 5:40am cab ride to Bray to catch a 6:30am bus to the airport – I really should have stopped sooner.

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Sat
26
Jul '14

Trip Report: Dublin.

After arriving in Dublin – well, at least at Jeff and Mindi’s place though no Jeff (aka Mork) – made pleasantries and went to bed for a 5-hour nap, which by the way is exactly what you are not supposed to do to help with your jetlag….I have other tricks up my sleeve for that. Awake at 5 while Mindi is on her daily work call – time for a little Knob Creek and seltzer:

Yes, weird ice “cubes” more like ice stalactites. The gin is waiting for Mindi’s G&T after her call.

Mindi works at home so I’ll be able to see lots of her this trip – and more importantly (for continued invitations) be able to cook our meals in.

Since I’ve visited before I know where all the closest markets are and they have a “veg” delivery service all we really need is some protein and some wine. Got the protein for tonight and tomorrow around the corner at the Halal market (no pork!). But before that we need to restock the wine rack – and no, not with this which made me CRINGE:

The first evening’s meal was marinated chicken bits in a semi-spicy curry sauce with a bunch of the “one their last day” vegetables…

And the incomparable Mindi waiting for me in the dining nook:

An evening of drinking was enough to get me to sleep through the evening until 10ish the next morning – we were both running a little slow.

Today’s outing is a new hairdo for Mindi – her monthly appointment. While that’s going on I wander the streets, pick up supplies like booze and diet soda and stumble into a gay bar – the big purple thing – called The George. No time to really go in, and I can only imagine a gay bar at 2pm in the afternoon – though it would have given me a place to sit. As I learned from the website later, at 2pm they would have been just opening so it would have been me and the bartender most likely:

And a couple of doors down, another place I should have tried but didn’t. Pitt Bro’s BBQ which apparently uses American-built smokers. I seem to have read something in an advert (as the Brits say) about these folks – even before stumbling across them:

My motto is that if you see everything on your trip you have no excuse to come back. Guess I need to ask Mindi when she is getting her hair done again. That would make the afternoon:

After Mindi’s hair was finished – she had a little shopping to do…at the Celtic Whiskey Shop – and this is only ONE wall – the even had a hallway filled with small bottling’s in minis – too tempting.

Here is the one that Mindi picked up for Jeff’s birthday – only EU125 ($168 at today’s exchange)

The salesman had ME at Madeira Cask aged. One of 377 bottles made just for this shop.

Tonight’s dinner is a lemon pesto roast chicken on a bed of root vegetables:

While that is going I worked on a little ratatouille for tomorrow night’s dinner – to be tossed with greens in an oil and balsamic dressing:

Got to use those vegetables before they expire.

Can you see why I get invited back? Especially since after the meal it was pulling off all the remaining chicken to make chicken salad out of for tomorrow’s lunch – and stock for the freezer:

Well, stock for cooking and chicken vegetable base – just add noodles.

Another late evening of staying up way past midnight shooting the shit – didn’t get out of bed until noon today, so breakfast was definitely brunch but without the Bloody Maries or bubbles. More like cheesy scrambled eggs with oven re-roasted root vegetables:

Got an email mid-day from the Groom (Pucci) saying that Aisling was going to be out tonight on the traditional Irish “Hen’s Night” and that he was free….off to the Halal butcher go I as we’d just had another batch of “veg” delivered (even though I wasn’t through with last weeks). Tonight’s meal in honor of the groom is an American BBQ dinner with a Mediterranean Flare: Grilled lamb chops (yes, these ex-pat Dubliners have a charcoal Weber), served with a zucchini-based tzatzkiki sauce, and the ratatouille and garden greens with olive oil and balsamic. Didn’t get a pretty picture of it before, but here is the during:

And in the background you see a bottle of 1994 Mondovi Cabernet Sauvignon… that didn’t survive the move from the states too well – the cork was shot. I had to strain it through a paper towel. It really was about TEN years beyond its prime… luckily we had another bottle handy.

Oddly not corked, just no fruit left – it wasn’t their Reserve which might have still been drinkable. This one was slated to drink between 2002 and 2008… 6 year ago. It was well after midnight when we stuffed the groom into a cab, not exactly knowing the address he was headed for but he knew the area and the street. Luckily he DID make it home in one piece.

And just to get us off the food track for a minute or two – the house where I’m staying:

And the back yard with the Weber:

Before you know it – the last supper has arrived. Walked a little further afield today to get pork for dinner and supplies for the trip – tonight’s meal are pork cutlets in chili-garlic sauce, cucumbers in yogurt, and the standard salad we’ve come to love:

After dinner it was off to the neighbor’s – Paul and Mary who remembered me from my last visit… a VERY LATE NIGHT of chatting and playing with the dog – Paul didn’t get in from the airport until after midnight and Mini and I didn’t leave until around 3am – and then talked back at the house for another hour:

Even with the late night, I still had time for a final meal – Heavos Rancheros that I’d prepped the night before so the eggs could soak into the corn tortillas…

Too bad I’m leaving for the train station at the same time that Mork, I mean Jeff his headed home from the airport. Guess we’ll have to just have drinks when they are in Seattle in August.

Before I knew it I was on the train to Bray to catch a cab to the wedding venue – more on that in the next post.

See what I look like with not enough sleep. At least we all ate well in Dublin.

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Tue
22
Jul '14

Trip Report: Ireland Bound.

Well – it’s another early day – luckily my buddy Ray is in town to get me to the airport at a little after five for my three-hop to Dublin for Mark Pucci’s wedding:

  • Seattle-Portland (Coach)
  • Portland-Atlanta (Business)
  • Atlanta-Dublin (Business)

Left the house a little after 5am, and here is a selfie of what I look like at that hour (with an Alaska 737 with Disney livery in the background):

Looking a little “gruff” – but then again, the bar doesn’t open until 6am – time for a couple of bagels with cream cheese. I’m looking a little better in Portland, and another Red Baron (bubbles and cranberry):

And yes, that’s my plane, which I thought was a 737-400 because it didn’t have the winglets that the majority of Alaska’ fleet has. Turns out that it’s a 737-900 that is in the middle of renovations – the new Recaro seats in the back and no hard divider between First and Coach – apparently they haven’t gotten the curtains installed yet since the current divider seems to be blue painters tape. Classy. I wonder if it’s the same on as in this YouTube video? LINK

But my seat is comfortable (notice the lack of divider):

I tried reading my current book – but it’s more of a page-stoner than a page-burner. I picked it up several trips ago at Compass Books in the San Francisco Airport on their remainder stack. The book is Pornographia, by Polish author Witold Gombrowicz. This is a new translation direct from the Polish. The previous edition was translated from Polish to French and then from French to English. Not a good idea.

I should say, tried and failed – at least so far. I hate travelling with hardback book (even when skinny) and then not reading it. It reminds me of the six weeks touring Europe while at Evergreen trying to get through Lewis Ferdinand Celine’s Journey To The End Of The Night.

Instead it was the call of dinner and reruns:

That would be The Big Bang Theory and:

  • Farro Salad
  • Warm Dinner Roll
  • Blackened Chicken
  • Creamy Polenta
  • Creamed Spinach
  • Chuckanut Huckleberry Cheese Cake

And both of their red wines to sample. I’ll give the book until the end of the trip and then it’s getting left behind, read or unread.

Got to Atlanta with enough time to walk across the airport, do some duty-free shopping and head to the lounge for a couple of drinks. Between my United Gold and my Alaska Board Room membership I’m pretty much covered. It did amaze me that the Knob Creek (at 100 proof) was the same prices as the Jack Daniels (80 proof). In stores there is a big difference in price:

Nice international lounge in Atlanta:

Even opted for a quick shower:

And I needed it since it is another 6+ hour flight before I get to Dublin.

The plane boss, the plane (as Tattoo would say on Fantasy Island):

That would be a 767-300 and what the business-class seats look like:

My two movies for this leg (before I got into the reruns) were classics – which is what I’m seeming to revert to in my on plane movie watching:

Started with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and moved onto Breakfast At Tiffany’s. I’d forgotten how light-hearted Ferris was and the dark themes of Breakfast.

With a two-hour delay (mechanical) out of Atlanta I was almost done with Ferris (and pleading for more champagne) by the time we took off. It was with dinner that I watched Audrey:

  • Shrimp with avocado
  • Mixed greens with cranberries, pecans and feta cheese
  • Squash soup
  • Beef tenderloin (amazing tender that loin) with Béarnaise sauce, buttered asparagus, lobster macaroni and cheese
  • Some cheese and sweets for dessert

I passed on the ice cream sundae (second shelf) because before you knew it some more reruns and little naptime:

About 90 minutes before landing it was breakfast time:

  • Seasonal fresh fruit
  • Portobello mushroom omelet with asparagus, potato wedges and bacon

I was actually impressed with bacon since you know everything is reheated. So much for the diet.

There was a curious thing about the meal service…the silverware was magnetized and you could do amazing balancing tricks with the cutlery:

One of the things that I like about flying into Dublin is the “low key” entrance form you fill out:

They don’t even ask for your passport number. And it’s quick when you are on the ground, especially if you are in seat 1A and they are disembarking from the front door.

By 11:30 or so (should have been 9:30 or so) I was at Mindy and Jeff’s – sadly only Mindy as Jeff (aka Mork) was in the states for “management training”. The perils of becoming a General Manager for a tech company.

Chatted for a bit with Mindi before heading upstairs for a 5-hour nap, waking just in time to start working on that duty-free Knob Creek.

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1 Comment »

One Response to “Trip Report: Ireland Bound.”

  1. Conan Says:

    Looks like Ray in one of your food pics across the isle but I know it isn’t.

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Thu
17
Jul '14

Trip Report: Whistler With Roxy.

Roxy goes back to college at The Evergreen State College in the fall, and left both of his jobs at the beginning of the summer to have one last fling before academia. With that in mind I’ve booked us three nights in the WorldMark Whistler Creekside – a one-bedroom plus.

Roxy’s bedroom – albeit meant for children:

My bedroom was meant for the adults:

Not a bad view – and this was taken before they came and whacked down some of the closest trees for an even better view:

We got to the place about 3:30 after stops in Squamish at the liquor store for wine and cider, and Nesters for groceries. The room was ready and I think I’ve even had this room before since it’s on the third floor – but that’s the entrance floor. Room was at the end, close to the back door for convenient parking.

Since Roxy is a PescaTerian, it’s fish rather than fowl for dinner – halibut with salsa to be exact, along with a nice salad:

In the morning it is up and out – according to what I have read, the 7th Heaven Express lift has limited hours. A little breakfast and out the door with the first stop be Guest Services to pick up our lift tickets – if you book 5 days in advance, you get a discount (which pretty much pays for the tax) and a second day free –which is a huge discount. Basically it works out to $25 a day for unlimited mountain top rides, but only one time up the mountain. We were in line behind some nice German boys:

What I discovered over the two days on the mountain is that Whistler/Blackcomb is truly an international destination. German, Italian, French, Kiwi, Spanish, you name it.

Our first ride is up the Whistler Gondola:

That takes you to the Roundhouse Lodge where we caught the Peak-to-Peak to get to Blackcomb.

The Peak-to-Peak is the world’s longest gondola run at 1.88 miles. From there we caught the bus to the 7th Heaven Express. So weird to see people waiting in line half in and half out of ski gear – I prefer the half out:

The bus was crowded since the lift had only opened half an hour earlier. Figure half tourists, half ski/snowboard.

Here is a selfie with Roxy on the open-air lift:

A beautiful day to be in the mountains. And from the top, which is 7,494 feet….

And the ski-bowl, which is open until July 27th this year:

Complete with skiers doing aerial tricks:

After hanging around for a bit, it was time for a little snack:

That would be the ham and cheese melt on a big slab of multi-grain bread, a shot of cognac (which hits you like a ton of bricks at that altitude), and my “water bottle” filled with Whiskey and Diet which lasted me all day – got to keep hydrated. As for Roxy – just a can of cider, he’s not much of a mid-day eater.

We caught the bus back down and grabbed the Peak-to-Peak back to Whistler and set off for the summit via a .37 mile hike (elevation change 180 feet) and yet another open-air chair lift. Whistler Summit is 7,807 feet in elevation and needless to say has stunning view.

Just to give you a feel of the ride down – several people have commented….no way in hell!

We decided to take the Solar Express to Blackcomb Base Camp since it looks on the map like it will be closer to the Free Day Lot (Lot Number 4) where we parked. We saw a black bear on the way down, but I didn’t get a good picture of it. For this ride on the Peak-to-Peak, we waited for one of the two glass-bottom cars:

The downside of these cars is that you have to wait for them rather than immediately getting on one of the regular ones, there are not as comfortable (i.e. you can’t put your feet up), and most importantly they are stuffed with other people.

Back at the condo – it’s another fish night, this time was a slab of grilled salmon with grilled eggplant – did I mention the condo had a grill?

A quiet evening for the boys…a little whipped by the altitude.

Up the next day – not as early since we’ve already done the summit with the early closing time – today is all about hiking – yes, I used that word. Granted, we are only doing the “Green” trails, not the “Blue”, and god-forbid, the “Black” trails. But nonetheless, yes, I’m hiking. Here is the hiking trail map.

We did one hike on each of the mountains, coming up the Solar Express from Blackcomb Base Camp in the morning. The first hike was the Spearhead Walk, which was .74 miles long with an elevation change of 55 feet. Twice the trail passed over the downhill run from 7th Heaven:

Lots of great views of the valley between the two mountains on our little hike:

After our first hike of the day, it was back onto the Peak-to-Peak to hit the Alpine Walk on Whistler. This one is .96 miles long with an elevation change of 213 feet. More great views, just no great pictures.

With that hike done it as time for a late lunch at Christine’s back on Blackcomb – onto the Peak-to-Peak we go….Christine’s is the fancy sit-down restaurant and I thought we should treat ourselves. It’s also a great way to avoid parents with children. My expectation was OK food and that you are really paying for the view….but first… cocktails:

Manhattan for me, Blueberry Margarita for Roxy. As for lunch, Roxy had the hot ahi tuna sandwich with arugula and black truffle aioli and I went for the pound of steamed mussels:

We shared bits and both were EXCELLENT – one of the best meals that I’ve had in YEARS. The bill? $88 CAN not including tax for the two entrees and three drinks. Any yes, the view was STUNNING as well:

It was after 4 by the time we were done with lunch, and time to head back down the hill.

Today there were four black bears out foraging for huckleberries – and I got a nice little video of one of them:

On the way back, we stopped at the new grocery store (Creekside Market) in Creekside Village where the condo it. I hadn’t been to this one, it’s only been open since the Winter Olympics in 2010 where Creekside was at the bottom of the downhill run.

We found a great selection of sausages – salmon sausages for Roxy, lamb for me.

Well after dinner, Roxy found some playmates down the hill – and me, I had another drink and went to bed.

Off before 11 in the morning as I have to been Susan at the Costco in Burlington to pick up some more bindery equipment that she is getting rid of – that after an easing short line at Customs after our trip to Duty Free (2 liters of Dark Rum for Dark and Stormy’ s since I still have some of the Reeds Ginger Brew). Roxy still needs to apply for Nexus so that when we go to Cabo San Lucas in September that he has Global Entry.

Both of us got a ton of sun on this trip…. 5 hours with the top down on the way up, 5-7 hours each day on the mountain, another 5 on the way home.

It was nice to switch off driving on the way home. Speaking of home, got there at 4pm after dropping Roxy off at his place in the old brewery.

And my next house guest was patiently waiting for me – he’d arrived yesterday. Luckily I have a lock box with a key in it for such emergencies.

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