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Uncle Markie out and about.

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Feb '17

Trip Report: A Couple Of Days In Santa Fe

This week is just a quick trip to visit the sis-in-law and husband – my only remaining connection to New Mexico. And for $188.20 round-trip, why not. Hell, the rental car was half the airfare.

No upgrade on the way down but the plane was one of the new three-class planes so free drinks and a snack box, but yet another service dog – this one I believe is a real one. Thank goodness the middle seat was open!

One of the quickest and easiest rental car pickups – I was on my way in minutes. It’s about an hour to Santa Fe – made longer by a stop at Albertsons for supplies (i.e. whiskey and mixer).

I still beat sis-in-law home by about five minutes!

A lovely meal of grilled pork chops and a nice bottle of red I brought. It was an early night for them, and by my standards, an early night for me.

This trip is really about visiting them rather than doing anything in town, and their place is really relaxing to hang out. Unlike yesterday when it was 72 degrees and sunny when I landed, today is overcast and in the 60’s – still nice compared to Seattle:

which is why for dinner on night number two, I popped over to the market and picked up a chicken and combined it with some of their veg for a wonderful roasted chicken…

Tonight’s wine was a Spanish White Box wine that I’ve gotten sis hooked on, now I have to track down who distributes it in New Mexico.

Another early evening (I am on holiday after all).

The final meal is at the Santa Fe Bite for a green chili cheeseburger (sis had that street tacos):

Before I knew it, it was time to return the car and catch my plane:

No upgrade, no premium class, and every seat filled on the plane. Sigh.


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Feb '17

Trip Report: Bye Bye San Juan

Time to head back to work. Time to say goodbye to Old San Juan. Since I had luggage, I used the ancient elevator, which moves at the pace of a very old man.

Yep – it has an inner folding closet door that must be closed for it to work.

Breakfast back at Caldera, this time actual breakfast. Two eggs, ham, toast:

But soon enough, it was time for me to call Uber and get a ride to the airport:

Basically, it was $11 – that would be almost exactly half of what the taxi from the airport cost. Fernando had warned me about tension between Taxi and Uber drivers – this was confirmed by my driver when he had to pick me up a block away since there was a cab stand across the street from my hotel.

Got checked in and just past security (yes, there was a TSApre line) was duty free. Wait. Duty free? You can have duty free without having customs and immigration first? Yep. So I ask at the counter what the limit was on the number of bottles of booze I could legally purchase. “How much can you carry?” She was talking about WEIGHT, not quantity.

Yep, this is what I picked up:

That would be (4) Liter Jim Beam (2 for $24), a Don Q Anejo ($18) and a Don Q single barrel bottling from 2007 (on sale, was $100, now $40). Thankfully they packed them in security bags –

Had a little lunch and got some work done at the airport bar:

Didn’t eat many of the fries – if I’d known I’d have had them hold them.

The airport is nice enough – but no lounge, sadly.

No upgrades on this leg, still holding out hope for the Chicago to Seattle leg.

But speaking of lounges – I noticed that my boarding pass had INTL in big letters – meaning United considers this to be an international flight, meaning I get lounge access because I’m Premier Gold. WooHoo!

And it’s one of their remodeled lounges!

Where they make “fancy” drinks at the bar (if you are willing to pay):

As for me, in my hour layover I had three cocktails, two bowls of chicken corn chowder, a helping of 5-cheese lasagna and a spinach salad.

And grabbed some cookies to zip lock for the flight.

So far it was a smooth flight day…until I got to the gate. It was time to board when the captain came out and announced there was a mechanical problem with the engine deicer – which flying into Seattle is a critical piece of equipment. The minute he stopped talking, all of us in line just sat down where we were”

Yep – we are all on the floor.

O’Hare has this cart that I haven’t seen anywhere else, it’s a mobile food stall that just drives around from gate to gate:

Thought that was really cool!

The delay was long enough that I probably should have gone to the lounge that was a gate away. But I was still pretty stuffed, and just a little buzzed.

We loaded up about two hours after we were supposed to and off we went. Sadly, no upgrade, and no middle seat open – at least I was in the bulkhead with a smallish women in the center.

Got into Seattle only an hour late, but it was almost midnight with doesn’t bode well for Roxy sleeping though texts/phone calls for a ride home. He keeps his phone on silent since he has so many message boards he’s on that it would be non-stop bleep, bing, gong, etc.

Time for another Uber!

Basically $23, but I’m home and can wind down from the trip.


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Feb '17

Trip Report: Exploring San Juan, Puerto Rico

Years ago I was in Puerto Rico with Dan – you can see the post here. Note – you’ll have to scroll past the CURRENT Puerto posts to get to the ones from 2004, but since there were several it seemed easier. In 2004 we explored the island, but not Old San Juan, the reason for this trip.

Normally I’d do a “Day By Day” report of a destination city, but I’ve rolled all three days on the ground into one report. Could be that with the heat, I’m coming back to take a lot of naps in the noon day sun. Could be that I’ve just been a slug while I’m here, walking, eating, catching up of work, watching the rolling mess of the current administration.

But let’s start with my first evenings meal here on the island – no help from Yelp, just wandering around until I found someplace that looked OK. Tonight, that would be Deaverdura. Basically, a hole in the wall with a small bar and a kitchen where I think it’s Mom cooking. Don’t expect quick service (it’s Puerto Rico after all), or a menu –what would you like, grouper, pork, chicken, etc., all served with rice and beans. That said, I felt like I was eating at a family table, and felt guilty for being one person at a 4-top..

Started out with a Pina Colada – it is Puerto Rico after all:

And moved onto the pork….

Those are the beans in the cup – they go GREAT over the rice.

I wanted a Mojito as my second drink – but they were out of mint. Truly a family place! I went for a light rum and coconut water…interesting, but not again.

After a night of sleep, it was off exploring the city. Walled down to the port and found a sandwich/wine bar for a bite. Mejunje Restaurant would be the place. I had the Sirloin Sandwich, which came with potato chips with a drizzle of balsamic – odd, but tasty:

$13 with tip and a Diet Coke. Apparently, dinners and wine run more.

Off to the old fort after my food…ended up walking there. As long as you have good shoes, Old San Juan is very walkable, and there is a free (if crowded) public trolley that winds its way slowly around the old city.

I opted for the trolley back into town for a nap. Uncle isn’t used to this heat and humidity.

Dinner at Hecho En Casa (which had a couple of Rainbow Flags inside, but I don’t see them on any Gay San Juan site, though the “hostess” was definitely family) for a local favorite, Mofongo, mine End Pulop (with Octopus). Here is a definition of Mofongo and here is a picture:

And your options:

Happy Uncle Markie….

Time for more cable TV, something that doesn’t exist in my house in Seattle. I’m an OTA (Over The Air) kind of TV watcher at home. Oddly, in the evenings, still watching the same thing, though during the day, it’s CNN with the sound off.

Exploring the city the next day brought a bit of a shock. FOUR cruise ships in town – right at the edge of Old San Juan. Holly Moly!

When I say “in the middle of the city”, I mean it. The city changed overnight as it were. The free trolley was jammed with PPPs (pasty, pudgy, plainspeople). You should have seen the CVS across from the dock. If it weren’t for cheap local rum I wouldn’t have entered!

Sad to say that my morning/noon meal the next day was at Wendy’s, on the Square across from the hotel, next to the Department of State (seriously, right next door, and there are cops everywhere) for a Clasico Singulare con Caso. This is what happens when you are cranky and need food NOW!

More exploring during the day, but I realized the cruise ships were in town for TWO days, so there goes my revisit to the Bacardi Distillery that I did in 2004. (LINK)

It might be the heat, or the new mini-dose blood pressure meds, or the humidity, but I’m taking a lot of naps in the air-conditioned cell.

But you still have to do at least one church….

The church was right across the street from El Convento – the hotel (in an old convent) that I’d toyed with staying at, but the “discount” rate of $265 a night put me off:

Maybe if I’d been travelling with someone I would have sprung for it (paging Rache!)

There was also this “odd” guy I saw a couple of time on the street – the first time is musket was not covered:

Guessing he was part of the National Park’s Fort Program. Did I mention I didn’t even go into the Fort – I left my Parks Pass as home, and was too cheap and too tired to pay the $5.

Dinner tonight was just around the corner from my hotel – at Café Punto. I opted for the non-air-conditioned hallway with more action that the two small square rooms with AC.

I ordered two appetizers off the extensive (and somewhat expensive) menu – the assorted meat/seafood turnovers and the fresh fish ceviche:

I love that it came with fried plantain chips. That would be a mojito with a slice of sugar cane as a stir stick. A little sweet for me, but when in Puerto Rico…

By day you notice that many of the street bricks are glazed (like Portugal):

Unless the cruise ships are still hanging around…

By night it is just as beautiful:

For my last full day in San Juan, decided to try the café in the lobby of the hotel for a sandwich…. Which was pretty good! The place is called Caldera.


And there is one very cute staff member (Ernesto?):

Wandered around the city a little more, took another nap (the heat kills me), got a little blogging and shop work done:

Even though there is no power, the second-floor breezeway between my room and the incredibly noisy ice maker is a nice quite space with a decent cell signal since I can’t get the laptop to connect to the network, but my phone will. Finally gave up and just tethered laptop to the phone.

For dinner I ended back at Café Punto to try their other ceviche which was baby conch, and their tropical ensalada capresse:

Basically I’ve been spending in the $30-$35 a night on dinner that included a cocktail or two. Trust me, I could have spent MUCH more looking at some of the menus in windows.

Well, that’s it for this post for tomorrow I leave the Caribbean and go back to Seattle.


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Feb '17

Trip Report: Puerto Rico Bound

Why Puerto Rico? When I was bumped off a flight in October in Columbia, South Carolina I was given a $600 voucher. When I was looking at the calendar – February sounded like a great time to go someplace warm.

Roxy was around so I got a ride to the airport in my own car — $20 savings right there – with time for a goodbye hug:

Got my bag checked and headed to the Alaska Lounge – with a pit stop along the way. I was coming out of the bathroom when I spotted these two guys that looked interesting…and looked like they could use free food and free drinks. Dragged them into the Lounge with me since I’m allowed two guests:

That would me myself, Jeff (I think):

And Payton:

Both from Bend, Oregon, I hope these boys don’t end up dead – they are on their way to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on the spur of the moment. Basically $2,000 dollars in airfare. For that, they probably could have flown first but I doubt they thought of that. They have an overnight layover at Sea-Tac so it’s probably a good thing I got them into the lounge for some food. Lounge closes at midnight, so hopefully they won’t burn it down in that time. I do worry a little since they seem to be out of a Cheech & Chong movie. Peyton is sporting a black eye from “falling down a couple of times”.

My guess that Payton is the wild one and Jeff the hapless tagalong was confirmed by this mugshot:

Seems that when he was 20 he got popped for DUI at 3:30am. Let this be a reminder – ALL sorts of stuff ends up on the web. (http://oregon.arrests.org/Arrests/Payton_Hill_22889703/) Had he not given me his business card with his full name on it…..

That was my airport excitement. One of the nice (and few) things about flying United is that in the waiting area they have a seat map of what’s still open – meaning that when I saw my bulkhead row was full, I had them move me to the exit row where the seat next to me was open:

A note to fliers – that bulkhead seat is also directly across the aisle from a bathroom door, so don’t expect to get much sleep.

Up in the air and it’s time for drinks, even though it’s a red-eye (which means I’ll pay for it upon arrival in San Juan):

Just as Alaska Air has added more premium liquor to the in-flight service (Crown Royal & Woodford Reserve), United has added Jim Beam Devil’s Cut (90 proof, which might not be a good idea) and for a dollar more, Buffalo Trace (both are Bourbons).

Spent too much of the flight reading and drinking, with not enough time sleeping, so my arrival at IAD (Washington, DC) was a little on the hungry/groggy side. Grabbed a quick bite – didn’t seem like enough time to make good value out of my United Lounge pass in my current state.

I’d gotten upgraded to First on the IAD to San Juan leg a couple of days ago (I was number one on the upgrade list for the SEA-IAD flight), so I have a little more room on this leg:

And pre-takeoff drinks…..

I was not hungry from my snack earlier, but I can’t turn down free food. I also realized I’d be starving by the time I hit San Juan at 1:30.

I really should have slept more on the flight to Washington – that way I could have drank more free whiskey on the way to San Juan. After that second breakfast I was OUT until we landed. Live and maybe learn.

Upon landing in San Juan I almost thought I was in Vegas!

Contrary to what Fernando told me, Uber doesn’t service the airport for arrivals – but the cabs are flat rate, with a “quote sheet” with the “base fare” of $19 and the “extra” $1 per bag, $1 airport fee, $2 fuel surcharge. Not that bad.

Got checked into the Hotel Plaza De Armas after a little delay – I showed up at 1:45 and check-in is at 3 – but they got me in at 2:30 with no extra charges. I’d wanted to stay in the heart of Old San Jose, which means, nothing is cheap. Even the non-fancy stuff is not cheap, hence, my $90 a night for a monastic windowless cell.

Plus side is very tall ceilings, down side is that wi-fi doesn’t reach the room, and cell service barely does, no coffee maker, no clock. Clean but a little on the tatty side.

I should add that there is a HUGE, for the size of this hotel, atrium that does have decent wi-fi (though I could never get the laptop to connect, the phone did) and plenty of comfortable places to sit.

As you can see, I’ve taken up residence on one of the walkways outside my room – FYI, this furniture wasn’t here when I checked in.

This spot is less than 20 feet from their routers wired third-world style:

What I wish they’d do is take a sander/buffer to the floor tiles, which would really POP. When this building was built, this was an open-air atrium.

My first priority was taking a three-hour nap.

Next up, exploring Old San Juan.

[? ? ?]

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Feb '17

Trip Report: Berkeley For A Couple Of Days

At least one adventure per week (sometimes three) for two months running. This week it’s Berkeley to delivery some wine (and have a good time).

Yep, that’s one of the pieces of luggage I repaired a week or so ago. But as we all know, trips start in the lounge with a Red Baron:

Lunetta picked me up at the airport (an option when I fly into Oakland mid-day) to pick up me (and the wine):

But when we get together, it’s really about the company and the food – as witnessed by the lovely ensalada caprese I made:

To go with the scallops for dinner:

But it’s really about the company…

The following day was errands in the afternoon, and q quiet dinner with the boys in the evening after making a condolence call to the family of a friend that had passed recently. I’m not good at those things, so I was happy that there were time constraints on the visit as the bird was in the oven (as they say):

Yes, that is gravy to go with the chicken…

Nothing like good food to put one at ease.

And ease I needed with the text/email (got both) the next morning. I had a 1ish flight out of San Francisco, but got this notice at 7:35 am:

An important update about your flight.

Confirmation code: XXXXXX


Due to weather conditions, FAA Air Traffic Control has issued a ground delay program for San Francisco. In order to minimize your delay, we will be operating out of San Jose, CA. We are offering complimentary shuttle service between the two airports. If you need the ground transportation, we are asking passengers to be at the San Francisco airport 3.5 hours prior to flight departure time. See a representative for information. 

Seriously – you moved AIRPORTS on my flight – to one that is an hour and a half away from SFO?

Lunetta was planning on running me to the BART station so I could catch the train to SFO so I got him up early since I needed to be there 3.5 hours before the flight. Luckily, he saw the silliness of taking an hour-long BART into SFO just to retrace the trip to get to San Jose. He got his clothes on and just drove me to San Jose – an hour each way in morning traffic. Maybe we should call him Saint Lunetta.

So, instead of having noodles in the Cathy Pacific Business Lounge (which is why I booked that particular flight in the first place, I had a mimosa and eggs benedict in the San Jose Airport at San Jose Joes:

All’s well that ends well?

Home about the same time as expected…but I don’t really need that kind of stress. Luckily, I have friends.

[? ? ?]

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Feb '17

Trip Report: Back To Boston For The Miles

For the miles, and lunch with friends. This is the final Boston mileage run for the winter – I’m surprised that all of the flights actually made it there and back since Boston has serious winter weather. As it turns out, it was Seattle’s weather that almost tripped me up.

Yep, that is a snow storm in Seattle…but I’m warm inside…

But there was a huge backup in getting deiced….

Because we were on the ground for two hours, by the time we got in the air – those who were still awake were treated to free movie players, free drinks, chocolates….

We were an hour late getting into Boston – but the weather there was great:

At 10 I left the lounge (where I’d had breakfast and a nap) and headed to Harvard Square to have lunch with Pucci at Toscano (Italian).

I went for the gnocchi:

It was good to spend some “guy time” with him before heading back to the airport (and another nap or two).

At the gate, I was surprise once again with an upgrade on the return to Seattle – that’s three weeks in a row!

Even got my favorite seat! Maybe it does pay to bring chocolates for the counter staff along with the flight attendants.

Bring on the food and booze!

Grilled pear arugula salad with walnuts and blue cheese crumbles…

I opted for the blackened chicken with café au lait sauce, mashed potatoes and creamed spinach…

Finished with a Cupcake Royal mini-cupcake.

Not a bad way to end a mileage run. And for some reason, a bathroom selfie:

Home to bed for tomorrow I’m headed to the Bay Area.


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Feb '17

Trip Report: Los Angeles For A Burger

Yep, a third trip in one week. This one I doing an LA turnaround (coming home on the same plane that brought me) on Virgin America. I haven’t flown them in years so thought I’d try it now that I rack up Alaska miles when I fly with them.

Nothing like getting stuck in traffic on the way to the airport!

But eventually I’m having breakfast in the lounge, then off to the gate:

And into the plane I go…

Yep. Purple/Red mood lighting.

Sadly, I wasn’t in First.

I even got a free drink out of them!

Got off the plane in LA, grabbed a burger from Burger King, and queued up for the return.

With the weather in LA, glad I didn’t book a layover flight. And wing my way home I go.

All in all, it was cool to be able to order drinks from your seatback screen, but I think seatback entertainment is going away in favor of streaming video over wi-fi since most people travel with tablets/smart phones. The mood lighting is cool, but all Alaska’s new jets have color variable lighting.

It was a cheap flight ($100.60 round-trip) so it made it easy to check out. It will be interesting to see how the merger progresses.


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Feb '17

Trip Report: Sacramento

This week’s pleasure travel is to lovely Sacramento – though technically Folsom where Jameson lives. It feels like, “another day, another flight.”

Suddenly, most of my lunches are now looking like this:

With a view like this….

Until I end up on the plane, luckily with an upgrade…

When the view changes to this:

That would be Mt. Rainer. This would be a double:

And someone in the back is making balloon animals for the crew – I just brought them chocolate.

And we get a little snack on the way down …

That would be build it yourself bruschetta.

Landed, got my bag and then rental car hell began. 45 minutes to get a car, ten people in line, one agent. Word to the wise when booking EZ/Advantage Rent A Car. The delay was long enough that Jameson actually got to the house before me.

At least when Jameson and I get together, we drink well:

And eat well:

Those it pains me to pay retail for wine – at least it was on the 50% off rack.

For some reason I didn’t get a picture of us together so you’ll just have to suffer with Jameson doing his back exercises:

Up in the morning early, off to the airport, returned the car which was painless, got home early afternoon for a quite evening.


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Feb '17

Home Report: What I Do On Layovers

On one of the recent layovers from travel and work, it was time to repair the luggage that I depend on. Both of my regular bags are no longer in production so it’s DIY time for maintenance.

Porter Case

This was designed for photographers and came with a square foam lining to fit gear – it was designed as a carry one, and really wasn’t built for being thrown in cargo hulls around the world. The fixes this week were tiedown screws, and putting a couple of rivets in to replace a piece that had failed. My musician buddies sand, varnish, sand, varnish, etc. their pedal steel guitars – I do it to my suitcases because I can’t replace them.

A year ago, Alaska managed to rip the tires off this one (including the axle) and paid a luggage repair place to fix it – they fixed it with standard luggage wheels which didn’t last. I broke apart some Home Depot casters for MUCH better wheels, and a threaded axle with locktite nuts on it:

Meant to hold up to 150 pounds between them, and when this thing turns into a hand truck with a couple of cases of wine on it…

But just like the wheels, the hinge mechanism is starting to fail, so, it’s replace screws (bottom right of the bag):

And re-rivet the handle:

To replace this crappy long rivet:

I’ve still got some random problems when there is a ton of liquor (read Bourbon) in the bag – it stresses out the latch for the handle. That’s another day’s problem. Another annoyance is that it has a TSA approved lock that some really small airports apparently don’t have keys to – I’ve been paged more than once.


Then, there is my other bag – a FlighTable. Combination roll aboard, laptop stand. Here it is in “laptop stand” mode. I’ve had pilots come up to me and salivate.

The table folds down onto the outside of the bag – problem was – after repeatedly checking the bag, some of the plastic internal support broke:

Maybe the piece I bent out of aluminum scrap in the garage (oddly, the right size!) will work after drilling a couple of holes and bending the ends:

It fits as well!

Thankfully, all the fabric zips up over all the infrastructure.

And then when I’m not repairing luggage it’s getting to the shop to box wine club after getting in from a flight at 10:30 the night before.

And making the occasional bacon wrapped veal Italian sausage meatloaf:

No rest for the wicked.

[? ? ?]

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Feb '17

Trip Report: Boston Mileage Run Number Two

Time for Boston Mileage Run Number Two!

Again, no upgrade on the way to Boston (which is supposed to be easier!), though I was the next one in line. Sigh.

BUT – there was another HORSE in the security line – I mean Great Dane…with another service dog barking at it:

Yep, that’s a dog pillow to go with it. Geez!

On arrival, I tried out the other Admiral’s Club at the Boston’s Logan Airport for my morning nap. Bigger, nicer, quieter, and warmer. I’ll have to get a picture on the next run (yes, there is another one).

One of the nice things about flying into Boston is that your first ride on the “T” is free, IF you take the Silver Line to South Station – it dumps you behind the fare booths. Go to where you need to go – no ticket required for exit. I continued onto Park Station to meet Fernando.

Sunny, but cold waiting by the fountain for him to show up.

Heading to lunch had to snap a pic of a local wine shop for my records…Gordons, since 1934 – Madrona Wine Merchants is since 2011.

Off to lunch at the Back Deck – a couple of blocks from the “T” stop… Chicken skewer for Fernando, Rueben for me – and, yes, that is a Manhattan.

Across the street from the restaurant was the Brattle Book Shop – been there forever – indoors AND outdoors unless it’s snowing or raining. Courtney would love this:

Walking back to the station I saw these two post-it notes on an ESL (English As A Second Language) School:

Back at the airport and into the lounge by B30 (the other is byB4), it’s time to get some work (and play) done:

All sorts of vegies, couple of kinds of soup:

And yes, there was work….taxes – going through a ream of statements with a highlighter. And MORE on the plane:

The drinks and table were courtesy of another unexpected upgrade to first on the return home…this time I was NUMBER TEN on the list (out of sixteen First Class seats).

Which meant MORE food:

I went with the Ravioli – having had the Cod last week…

Another week, another mileage run, at least for the next couple of weeks – well, along with some holidays.


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Feb '17

Trip Report: Denver For A Couple Of Days

Another week, another trip or two or three – this week two. Off to see Dan and Lisa – been months since I’ve been there. I did see them for lunch at the end of November on a mileage run with Dancing Bear.

All my trips start with a trip to the Alaska Lounge for a meal – in this case, breakfast:

Should you want pancakes, they have a machine for those….

No upgrade, so I’m stuck drinking out of plastic on the plane:

On the upside – Alaska now stocks four different whiskies (Jack Daniels, Crown Royal, Woodford Reserve, and Dewar’s).

Lisa picked me up at the airport and soon we were in lovely Broomfield (between Denver and Boulder in the sprawl). Nobody wanted to cook, so out we go for sushi. Hello Hana Matsui Sushi! I was surprised by the number of parents with children in the place – kids? Sushi?

How about starting with a Lychee Martini?

Followed by lots of Sushi, oysters, black cod!

A pretty early night for everyone, and a late rising morning for me before running errands and grabbing lunch to go from GQue…

We both went for the pulled pork, and got a small side of the mac and cheese. Pork good, mac/cheese boring.

Odd that they also sell whiskey, but I didn’t see any fixing for anything other than booze and mixer – not things like Sweet Vermouth for a Manhattan. And it always seems odd to be standing in line to order, and ordering a Manhattan to go with your BBQ – I should know, I did it in Charleston a couple of weeks ago.

A quiet evening at home – but we started with some bubbly:

Off to the airport in the morning with a little preflight relaxation in the Admiral’s Club…

My flight home was on one of the retrofitted Alaska planes with three classes of service. First, Premium Class, and Main Cabin – which means that now it’s a two-step upgrade dance as you can see from the “upgrade” screen at the airport:

What this means to me personally is that I’ll now start trying to book 7C instead of 6C now that there are more rows with extra leg room – that way I have a seatback table (rather than in the arm) and a regular seatbelt (rather than one with an airbag in it).

This is row 6 and 7 – notice the extra knee room in 7 (through 12)in Premium:

And it looked to me like they’ve added a couple of inches to the First Class knee room….

And in Premium Class you now get free cocktails (I get one free no matter where I am behind the curtain), and a snack box:

Sadly, you don’t get the quick refills like you do in front of the curtain.

Home in one piece with Roxy picking me up at the airport.

[? ? ?]

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Jan '17

Trip Report: Boston Mileage Run Number One

My business partner just rolls his eyes when I mention mileage runs. Not sure what I’m talking about? CLICK HERE.

This is the first of four mileage runs I have planned this spring – all transcontinental flights, and number one is Boston. The fare was $256.00 roundtrip. That works out to 2,496 each way for a total of 4,992 flight miles, plus another 4,992 Bonus Miles for being an MVP Gold, so basically you have 10,000 miles (technically 9,984) to redeem which would be a round trip between SFO and LAX, or a little less than half for a roundtrip to Florida. End numbers — .0256 per mile which isn’t bad considering they are valued at 1.9 cents, but the way I use them I get much more value since its business class international flights where I use mile – ticket prices that I’d never pay cash for.

The schedule: Leave SEA at 9:20pm after having drinks, salad and soup in the Alaska Lounge, arrive BOS 5:30 – walk from Terminal C to Terminal B to use the Admiral’s Club, sleep for a couple of hours, get a cocktail:

I was a little surprised at the size of my whiskey/diet, but I was a trooper and finished it.

Nice lounge though…

Jill picked me up at 11 to go have lunch with Pucci at Jose’s Cantina in Cambridge. Great lunch!

After lunch, we went computer hardware shopping before stopping at Jill’s for installation (her), shower (me) before heading back to the airport.

Back at the lounge, the Mexican theme continues – there is a guy making fresh guacamole!

And one of the two soups being served was Chicken Corn Tortilla!

Return flight is at 6:20, and I’m number five on the upgrade list, so it doesn’t look good – but sometimes, miracles happen!

And even my number two favorite seat (favorite is 1C). Now if they’d just shut the back cabin door since it is turning the jetliner into a wind tunnel – I needed those layers!

Of course, I’d stuffed myself in the lounge, but I ate the dinner they served anyway:

I went for the cod…

My seatmate went for the ravioli…

Not much sleep on the way home…and then Roxy showed up, so, not much sleep in the evening as well.

Only three more mileage runs to go!



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Jan '17

Trip Report: Charleston – The Return Home

Wandered over to Toast for sit down breakfast of Eggs Benedict which were OK, nothing special, but Timmy, my server, was way special. Too bad no pics of either!

The morning activity is going back to the Unitarian Church of Charleston since it will be open for tours from 11-1pm. It will be nice to see the inside.

The church itself has been rebuilt several times – from hurricanes, from earthquakes, from neglect. They have done a stunning job.

This is a working church (since 1772), and the docent leading to tour explained several unique things about this church – specifically, the graveyard is overgrown, on purpose, it is sort of a “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” return to nature.

My final stop of the day (before heading to the airport) is Mother Emanuel Methodist Church, the scene of a shooting by a young white man, killing several.

They do refer to Charleston as “The Holly City” because of the number of churches.

Time to grab and Uber and head to the airport — and have a little lunch before my flight since I’ve got plenty of time.

Maybe some pulled pork sliders at the Jack Nicklaus branded restaurant?

And, of course, a Manhattan (or two). Truly, a little too much food since I’ll be having dinner on the flight.

Speaking of which….

Yep – life up front is hard.

Actually landed 50 minutes early so that I’d picked up my bag, hailed an Uber, gotten home and poured a drink by the time the plane was supposed to land.

THAT rarely happens.

[? ? ?]

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Jan '17

Trip Report: Charleston — Thursday

Today is my last full day in Charleston – I’m getting to really like this town.

First up today is…as usual…food. This place looked like Old Charleston…

Until you realize it’s a Greek restaurant – not what I’m in the mood for today. Luckily, PIG (actually, Nick’s BBQ) fit the bill:

What’s that old joke, 69 is good for everyone evolved, but 68….

Sort an odd arrangement – queue up at the counter (they have a lane set up), order your food and take your drinks to any table…luckily, I got a booth (and a Manhattan).

And the Pulled Pork with Cole Slaw…

I was up in this neighborhood because I wanted to see if Karl Karesh Clothing For Men was still around. I knew Billy (William) from Seattle – he’s now one of vets at the Bronx Zoo (he was Seattle Zoo’s vet for a while as well).

Alas – 301 King Street is now an Apple Store:

With a busted out front door….one of the most tasteful pieces of plywood emergency repair I’ve ever seen. And Maybe why the police are there.

Apparently, well, according to his obit, Karl was “Mr. King Street”. Here is the link to the obit. And another link took me to an oral history he recorded: LINK.

Never was able to track down a photo of the old store front. Sad. Would have love to seen an old Haberdasher. When I first met Billy, he did his parlor trick – just by looking at me tell me my weight, shirt size, waist, inseam, jacket size. He grew up working the store. Then, there is the other trivia bit – Hyman’s Seafood, Hyman’s name was Herman Hyman (a relative of Wolf Maier Karesh). Charleston has several hundred years of Jewish history. According to Wikipedia – it is the home of Reform Judaism in the US starting in 1824. The Charleston Synagogue was established in 1749. LINK.

I’d expected to do more museums (well, this was what I put on my list for the trip), but I did swing by the Slave Mart — technically, I thinks it’s call the Slave Museum, but when it was running, it was called the Slave Mart.

No photos allowed inside, but it was interesting to see the chart of how much a slave would cost you. It all depended on age and skill level. They had prison rooms, kitchen, morgue, they were a one-stop slave shop – charging the owners for each of the services needed to get the slaves ready to sail. As many as 40% of the slaves bought into the US passed through Charleston, those imported from Africa, and those born in the US to African slaves.

But there are some round number (just not the chart) at this LINK.

No matter where you turn in Charleston, freakin’ history everywhere:

You could easily spend $50 a day on various museum entrance fees – didn’t look to see if there is a “pass” that gets you into a bunch of them.

Tonight’s Happy Hour quest is back to Hyman’s Seafood, for oysters that are $6.50 a half dozen, $5 appetizers, cheap highballs.

The oysters:

The shrimp:

The fried pickles:

This ends another day of walking miles, walking off the food.


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Jan '17

Trip Report: Charleston — Wednesday

Another lazy start to the day, so the first meal is basically lunch – at 5Church – who wouldn’t want to lunch in church:

With a nice wall of liquor:

And quotes from “The Art of War” on the ceiling…

Time for a Manhattan! And some Conch Soup.

After lunch, it was off to see Fort Sumter…which involves a ferry ride – and luckily, I was uninformed, but on time, for the last of the two daily winter boats.

Nice day for a boat ride….and showing off my Hyman’s Seafood hat to replace the one I lost years ago.

If you are a Civil War buff – this is the place to come. Personally, I’m more of a WWII guy, but it was still a lovely and informative visit – complete with musket rifle demonstration:

Lots of old cannons laying around….

Parade grounds…

Charleston is the upper left skyline, with the bridge to some island mid, just above our boat.

Did I mention that it is unseasonably warm in Charleston –mid to upper 70’s, which is about 10 degrees over normal.

And saw numerous dolphins – this is as close as I got to catching a picture of one, the blackish blog in the middle of the water – one of the few times I miss my 20x zoom Leica Lens Panasonic Camera:

And, of course, birds everywhere…

No need for the 20x zoom on that one! Soon we are headed back – this is the view headed into the dock, with the Aquarium next door looming over the Fort Sumter Visitors Center:

Was feeling a little peckish, so stopped at Queology for some happy hour wings (6 for $3), and a cheap highball – also on special:

Headed back to the room for the news and a little television, but hunger set in about 9:30, and Hyman’s had just closed, so I had to settle for the Rueben next door at Toast (oddly, ones by the same folks as Queology as it turns out) who were mopping the floors already but made me one to go…

And let me sample a little whiskey I’d never heard of (on the house! – the sip, not the sandwich). This corned beef looked to be hand sliced, and it was definitely yummy.

Cask strength and made in Bardstown, so my assumption was it is really a Heaven Hill (Evan Williams, Elijah Craig, etc.) brand, but a little research showed that it is Willet Distilling.

And now I want more whiskey! And maybe a return to Kentucky to revisit the Bourbon Trail.

Another fun day in Charleston, with more to come!

[? ? ?]

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Jan '17

Trip Report: Charleston — Tuesday

After yesterday’s long day, it was a sleep-in day. Probably got out of the room about noon and ended up at The Brown Dog for food. Just a random pick – but a good one!

I went with the Pig N’Fig —

And it didn’t disappoint.

Next up on the agenda is to track down the Unitarian Church which is in the same neighborhood…..

Wow, from 1772!

Even the meeting hall (Gage Hall) is lovely.

And being Unitarians, there was the monument to the slaves who built the original church.

For being in the middle of the city – I was amazed at the amount of space they had in their cemetery:

While I was wandering around.

There is even a pathway connecting the graveyard and church to King Street, one block over:

More wandering around town followed…not sure why there is a Napa Valley Education Center in Charleston, a coast away:

And there are tourist buggies all around…

Outside the Charleston Museum (longest continually operating museum in the US) there is a model of a Civil War era steel sailor powered submarine:

Found these outside the aquarium…to stop skateboarders from doing tricks on the edge of the bench – great design!

Tonight’s dinner spot is Hyman’s Seafood – where the Colonels took me to lunch years ago when I visited them on Edisto Island. Still as good as I remember:

Definitely “old school”…

Right down to the plaques on the tables.

I’m OK with Itzak Perlman and Neil Diamond, not so sure about Hulk Hogan and one of his wrestling buddies…

Let’s start off with some drinks! Well, one of them is a $1.50 oyster shooter:

To be fair – they give you everything in the Manhattan shaker, even if it doesn’t fit in the glass, but let’s talk food!

Appetizers, or the full Glatt Kosher Dinner:

Which, oddly enough is just under the “two pork chops, fried or grilled”. I went for appetizers – which, apparently, I didn’t take pictures of – anyway, I went with the She Crap Soup and the Shrimp and Pups.

Yum – and it was enough to send me to sweet dreamy land.

More tomorrow.


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Jan '17

Trip Report: Charleston Bound

When I booked this trip – it was to provide comfort for my buddy Sean who had moved to South Carolina shortly after I visited him in Saigon. I was out here last October (if you click on Sean, it should come up) and even before I’d gotten out here then, I found another good fare – and the chance to use a couple of Alaska Gold Guest Upgrades, though, now they are just called Guest Upgrades. To get them you have to pay a few dollars more for your ticket, but you are guaranteed First Class, which is what I did.

Which means for my “butt early” flight, not only do I have a bagel and a hardboiled egg in the Alaska Lounge, once on board, there was breakfast:

The flight is close to five hours, so I get the DigiPlayer and watch AbFab (Absolutely Fabulous) The Movie. Took a while to get into it, but in the end was laughing.

Next up TV reruns….

Yes, it’s a Windows Tablet. Brought my noise cancelling headphones (the Bose for longer flights, the in-ear for shorter flights)

We were supposed to be (according to the Flight Attendants) catered snack trays for later in the flight, but instead, we got a hot lunch as well! Not complaining:

And I even ate the jalapeño slices (which they should have sliced THINNER) – it was some sort of chicken baguette thingee, complete with fresh cilantro.

Alas – Sean who I was planning on visiting was the same Sean who I shipped back to Saigon a couple of weeks ago, which also solved the other dilemma – that of picking up a rental car after being five hours in first class, which generally means drinking them dry of all the bourbon on the plane. If I don’t need to drive to Orangeburg after flying – cancel the rental car and take a $20 Uber to the hotel, which is in Old Charleston.

In spite of the early departure, I DO love the SEA-CHS-SEA schedule – you arrive around 4pm so you have time to get settled…

Before heading down the street for dinner at Sticky Fingers, which was recommended by one of the wine shop patrons.

With cheap drinks — $8 for drinks with Bulleit Bourbon!

And the food is really good as well – this is the “Lunch Sampler” at dinner, with sides of collards and slaw to go with the ribs, wings, and pulled pork.

With your choice of several good sauces….

Bed calls after a little teletime (as in time in front of the television).

Tomorrow is a new day that requires sleeping in.


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Jan '17

Trip Report: Vancouver & Victoria

Well, the travel season has begun again – starting off with a road trip with my old college roommate, MB.

Left my place at noon headed for CanadaLand…with a couple of stops on the way:

Since we were going into a “crown county”, we thought we’d gets our crowns on early.

First stop is a WorldMark that I hadn’t tried yet – actually a trade with Vacation Internationale or something like that – Rosedale on Robson – warning, I didn’t take this picture:

But it gives you an idea. We were in a one-bedroom unit with a sofa bed in the living room…

Good day and night views…

Not as nice as the WorldMark at the Canadian in the heart of downtown – especially considering valet parking is $30 a night at the Robson on Rosedale. However, it does have a decent restaurant ion the ground floor – Original Joes – were we had cocktails and dinner:

MaryBeth had the Brambleberry, I went for the Royal Buffalo (Buffalo Trace Bourbon and Chambord Liqueur)

My haddock and mixed chips – biggest piece of fish and chips fish I’ve ever seen:

MaryBeth went for the noddle/broth dish – both excellent:

Out at eleven to catch our ferry to Vancouver Island, but first breakfast/brunch at the ferry terminal which has a HUGE food/shopping court. No, I did not have the sugarized apples:

And it was a GORGEOUS day for a ferry ride – and we had a front row seat!

Our room was ready when we got there!

MaryBeth ignored the howling breeze and hopped into the tub. Me, I stayed inside and enjoyed the view:

Before it was cocktail time:

Sort of a “faux” Lemon Drop – Citron Vodka with fresh squeezed “orange lime” juice – we found them at the local Thrifty Grocery. These are organic (hence the code starting with “9” – regular limes are 4306):

Looks like a small orange, but has the juice more like a lemon. And we liked them so we made two more runs to the store over the stay to get more.

As is my usual Victoria journeys, people are invited to dinner – including one of the checkers from the Thrifty:

Our first set of guests managed to drain the bar – resulting in this:

This was AFTER the hot tub, which with a 30mph breeze, was more like a lukewarm tub – with heads bobbing barely above the water line to keep from ice forming.

Wednesday is all about PIG – the restaurant called PIG, and one of the cooks at PIG.

Totally forgot to take pictures of our lunch – I went for the pulled pork sandwich, MaryBeth went for the pulled port poutine (fries, cheese curds, gravy, pulled pork) small portion, which was the size of a small child’s head.

Next up was to stock up on provisions….

Great guy working there who I assume was one of the owners – GREAT customer service.

Two bottles of wine, replacement vodka, replacement whiskey, and we are on our way to the fish market for dinner protein:

Love the fact they tell you what boat and where – this is why I shop with these folks (Finest At Sea) – they are a wholesaler who has a tiny retail store a couple of blocks from the condo on a side street behind their offices, and now, a food trailer out front.

So, they translation to US measures/prices – a pound and a third of troll caught salmon for $22USD which works out to $16.36 a pound (thanks to a 30% difference between the $USD and $CAN).

The dinner company is MaryBeth’s daughter’s boyfriend (who is a cook at PIG) and his mother – how’s THAT for an interesting dinner! And I’m making him cook after I do all the prep work – doesn’t it look GREAT?

And he taught me a tip – give it grill marks on the flesh side, then finish cooking on the skin side – I’d change this to a 45-degree angle – or a 45, and then a 90 for cross hatch.

No hot tub action tonight!

When I hang with friends at WorldMark places – even breakfast is “ensuite”:

That is a coil of sausage done on the grill, Caesars (that would be a Bloody Mary made with Clamato), scrambled eggs.

Today we are off to a CASTLE – and not the one that most tourist go to in Victoria – we are driving to Hatley Castle, not his father’s castle Craigdarroch Castle (FYI, his father died before the Castle was complete). Hatley was Royal Road Military College after the family finished the cycle from rags to riches to rags and lost the place, now it the Royal Road University, mostly on-line but offering career transitions. Thank you, MaryBeth, for stopping a person on campus who must have been in the administration for the great boiled-down mission statement.

It’s “shoulder season” so no tours of the Castle since it is a “living building”, i.e. and Administration Building – but still pretty:


And the lobby…

And my favorite lobby sign from its former life:

Even though there wasn’t a tour – there is a small museum in the basement (along with gift shop, and oddly school supply stop):

Back in town, it was time for an afternoon snack – I’d taken the chicken from the first night, turned it into stock, skimmed the fat after an evening in the fridge, add noodles and frozen veg…and a lovely soup!

Got a lot of use out of that chicken! After we’d had our fill, I packed up four small containers (left over from appetizer plates) for the staff – nothing like a little homemade chicken noodle soup. They are VERY understanding of my life – they even got me chocolates for my birthday in September.

Dinner tonight was a friend of mine who connected over social media and his husband – one of those, “stop by for a cocktail” that turns into dinner. Take the two marinated steaks, cube, skewer, grill, add a couple of salads, and we have dinner!

Another day…another castle! This time it’s dad’s castle — Craigdarroch Castle!

Search on Craigdarroch on my blog to see more pictures of the interior – this time I was specifically looking for this one plaque:

Specifically, for this portion of the plaque:

My “faux” nephews Julian and Jameson, apparently names after Julian Jameson (there is a mention HERE).

Love this radiator in the library….

It was a great tour before getting in line for the Coho Ferry to Port Angeles. But first, LUNCH:

And we did have calamari with those drinks. Honest.

In the line:

On the ferry:

Made the last ferry (Bainbridge) with just enough time to line up and be the last car off the ferry.

Home, MaryBeth headed home, I headed to bed after opening one of the bottles of Duty Free and making a cocktail.


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Dec '16

Home Report: xMess Day

Season platitudes one and all as the end of the year is quickly approaching.

As for me, I spent the eve and morning with a friend, his daughter, his daughter’s mother (his ex), daughter’s mother’s brother, an unrelated friend from Portland, and yours truly.

I had forgotten the energy that xMess brings to a seven-year-old. Needless to say, it was I that needed a nap.

My advice to the New Year (in no particular order):

  • Hug your friends more often
  • Read less current events news (but don’t completely shut yourself out, just choose wisely)
  • Travel while you still have your mobility
  • Invite people to dinner and share a bottle of wine
  • Engage in random acts of kindness
  • That piece of cake – eat it (just not the whole thing)
  • Disengage from your electronics at meals
  • Read a book or three
  • Treat other people how you would like to be treated

Doubtful that there will be another post before the end of the year, so,stay warm for those in the North, stay cool for those in the South, and raise a glass of whatever and remember all of our “problems” are first-world problems.

Peace Out (as the kids say),


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Dec '16

Trip Report: Quiet Pre-Christmas In Victoria

Just a quiet little mid-week jaunt to Victoria with DancingBear before the rush of xMess starts at the shop.

If it’s a Victoria Clipper trip, that means it’s time for Red Barons (cranberry juice and sparkling wine):

And a breakfast burrito from the Clipper Café in the terminal.

DancingBear had arranged for a car, so after customs/immigration is was a quick call to Budget for a pickup. Car in hand it was off to Costco for meds that are over-the-counter in Canada but are expensive prescriptions in the US, and steaks, and scallops, and a hot dog – before going across the parking lot to grab a wi-fi router for DB and 11×17 paper for me – the joys of 30% off because of the exchange rate.

On a lark we swung by the WorldMark Victoria to see if the room was ready – and even though it was only 1pm with check-in at 4pm. Yet again, we are in a 2-bedroom Penthouse :

Not a bad view from our room.

Woohoo – must be time for a nap!

Swung by the Thrifty (alas, Royce wasn’t working) for the rest of the supplies for dinner – looks pretty good doesn’t it!

Ribeye steaks off the grill topped with sautéed chanterelle mushrooms, seared scallops topped with fried prosciutto, and a loaded baked potato and a little salad. And here is the chef!

We eat well when we are on the road. No company this trip, so it really is a “quiet” trip.

The next day finds us on a road trip north to Duncan – for no particular reason other than shits, giggles, and snow….

OK – not the best picture of me, and the sun highlights the camera, but it was a pretty overlook on the way to our lunch spot – The Dog House:

I had the Ruben (bit surprise):

DancingBear had the turkey wrap:

We booth took ½ of each of ours home – maybe we should just decide on a meal and split it — neither of us eats the amount of food we used to.

Time to head back to Victoria before darkness (and maybe some snow) falls:

This evening just straight up seared scallops, risotto, salad and wine.

We do eat well – even the breakfasts are stunning:

Rare view of both the Victoria Clipper (coming in from Seattle) and the Coho (headed to Port Angeles):

Our final day in Victoria we did something I’d never done in all the times I’ve visited Victoria – Craigdarroch Castle. Considering there is a 25% off coupon at the front desk, odd none of us had done it. Will definitely go back in January with MaryBeth. Pretty, and amazing:

Looking up the staircase to the top floor:

And at the top – this nice carving:

All the rooms are decorated for the holiday – making it even more festive:

Looking back down the staircase:

Then there was the purpose-built billiards room:

Let’s not forget the bathrooms:

All-in-all, a lovely little sightseeing adventure before heading back to turn in the rental car. I must say, with regard to the rental car company (Budget), I haven’t been very impressed with their efficiency in this location over several visits.

Checked in the luggage and headed across the street to Belleville’s for a spot of lunch. I had the seafood chowder,

DancingBear had the BLAT (Bacon, Lettuce, Avocado, Tomato).

The fries where excellent – some of the best I’ve had. Crunchy on the outside soft on the inside. Yum – as was the Margarita Double that was on special, and even the Highball for $5 once it turned to happy hour.

An amazingly relaxed trip – no dinner parties, no stress. Just lovely.

Can’t wait to go back in a couple of weeks.


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