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Oct '17

Trip Report: Post Birthday Kansas City

Without fail, the weeks around my birthday always involve travel. Not that it’s much different from the rest of the year. This week is a couple of nights in Kansas City.

It ain’t first, but it comes with sugar coated Smurfs!

And free booze…

Didn’t get into KC until almost 6pm. Drop my bags and head for BBQ!

Yes, you can get a Manhattan in a BBQ Joint (Q39). We got the onion straws (above), and split a Triple Threat (sausage, pulled pork, pork belly, apple coleslaw, zesty BBQ sauce, toasted bun).

It was the perfect amount of food (for once!) You can’t see from the photos, but you couldn’t swing a rib without hitting a manbun in this place.

Back to the condo for a little work (for Paul) before heading out for the 10:40pm show (yes, me) at the Green Lady Lounge…via Kansas City’s FREE Light Rail (the residents within half a mile of the track pay for it to the tune of $200 a year).

And hot guys doing tricks on the car:

Into the lounge we go!

Chocolate Martini and Manhattan!

Here is a clip from the first night….

It was 1:30AM when we took Uber back to the condo, luckily $6.35 down the same road:

After a late night, it WAS NOT an early morning. Paul rousted me at 11:30 so that we could leave for Lawrence (Kansas) at noon (which turned out to be 12:30) for lunch with Wendy.

We are at Genovese, which is an Italian place. With a full bar!

The food was good, too!

I napped in the car while Paul drove us back to Kansas City for drinks and dinner with Gail – starting at a distillery.

Next up is dinner at the Grand Street– which sounds sidewalk, but is definitely upscale:

And really great food…my pork chop:

Gail’s pasta:

Paul’s salmon:

And the schedule repeats itself after Gail heads back to their country place to take care of the cat they removed from the condo for my visit. I “sort” of feel sorry, but it’s nice to not have to huff pink pills to breath.

Back to the condo so Paul can work a bit, before we hit the jazz club again – this time Ubering since it’s raining.

Different B-3 Organ Trio tonight…

And a shot of the club itself:

And a little clip from tonight:

Another night up until close to 2AM – at least tonight we got the bed made (last night I just slept in my clothes on the couch):

The morning, shall I say afternoon, found us headed to Gates & Sons for BBQ sauce for the shop (I hit Bryants yesterday):

Sadly, my usual contact, Tina Starr, was still on vacation, but still managed to grab my case.

Luckily, my flight is early evening, so we have enough time to pop by the Nelson-Atkins to see a little Thomas Hart Benton. Thanks to Ace at the front desk, I discover works I’ve never seen before that were hidden in the Atkins Auditorium:

And here is some detail:

And then onto the Benson’s in the rest of the gallery, the most famous:

And my personal favorite:

A wing by the condo to finish packing, and a swing by The Savoy Hotel, being renovated by 21st Century Hotels. I grew up having my birthday dinners in The Savoy Grill, and when I used to come to KC on business, I’d stay at a B&B that was renovating the Savoy Hotel room-by-room with a STUNNING breakfast menu from the Grill. They are doing a complete restoration:

Yes, that says 1888.

Got to the airport, had some sliders at the Boulevard Brewing outlet in the airport….

Endured a non-TSAPre line…

And hopped into my overcrowded “Premium” class seat for the return home:

Thank you, Alaska, for the free DigiPlayer when I told them this was my final flight to make MVP Gold 75K!

And the free cocktails help too.


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Oct '17

Trip Report: Birthday By The Bay

Another weekday, another trip – this one to the Bay Area to visit Mark and Onyx, and celebrate my 61st birthday!

It’s always lots of luggage when I visit – bringing wine to the boys. A lot of stuff for three nights!

Another early morning flight….

And no upgrade to first…

But plenty of room in the overhead!

Onyx was a saint (a hungry saint) and stopped at a small burger stand on the way home.

Pretty good stuff (even if the staff is a little surly).

Got settled in and took a nap before getting rousted for a dinner of take-out Ethiopian which, for some reason, I don’t have a picture of, even though the boys had company over – must have been having too much fun.

Was up late (Mark [the other one] was up until 4am working), so slept late. Hit BevMo in the afternoon for bourbon, rye, and ginger – because at 6pm we are due at Rosenblum Cellars on the Oakland waterfront for the start of my birthday (61) evening:

Devon is a member so the first flight is on the house….

A good time was had!

Even the hipsters who are playing Giant Zynga on the lawn:

We had some little nibbles, but it was off to dinner at Marica, starting with a Beefeater Martini in honor of Pucci:

It was a fine meal…. with free mussels for the birthday party!

Followed by swordfish for several of us:

Meatballs for Devon:

Salad and Calamari for Mark (I thought about those, almost wish I’d ordered them):

A damn fine birthday meal!

Friday was a laid-back day, I took BART into town to hook up with Rache who as on a day trip to the Brazilian embassy for our upcoming trip to Uruguay in November.

Takes about 15 minutes to walk to the station, and 20-30 minutes later, you are in downtown San Francisco. I found Rache in the Ghirardelli chocolate shop having a coffee:

We headed out for an afternoon of drinking, starting at The House of Shields:

Next up is the Pied Piper (which didn’t open until 4pm):

The Pied Piper is the home of this WONDERFUL mural by Maxfield Parish:

Just the three of us having scallops and Brussel sprouts as our dinner.

All the fun came to an end with an early Saturday morning run to the Oakland Airport for my return home. Had enough time for a real breakfast at Chili’s…

Which, as it turns out, sadly I wouldn’t need when I heard my name called:

But really, all I wanted was a place to sleep, not a huge breakfast burrito and a fruit place (though it looked REALLY good).

Next week is Kansas City, and the completion of my quest for Alaska MVP Gold 75K!

[? ? ?]

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Oct '17

Trip Report: Dallas Mileage Run Number Three

I must be growing weary of these mileage runs. Looking more exhausted than usual, taking fewer pictures.

That’s it – for the entire trip. Breakfast in the lounge, exit row with seat next to me open.

When I checked in, they let me move the evening flight to the afternoon flight. We were a few minutes early so I had a chance to shovel down a pulled pork sandwich (which was good for airport food). And back onto the plane I went.

I gave up my evening exit row seat for a middle seat in the Premium section – free snack and booze. And more importantly, home in time for a real dinner.

Getting ever closer to the MVP 75K mark – finish this trip, go to the Bay Area for a couple of days, work a little, head to Kansas City for the final miles.

When the miles post from the return from Kansas City on the 5th, I’ll be “Golden” 75K until the end of 2018 – 15 months’ worth of better upgrade possibilities, 50,000 bonus miles, Lounge Passes (for my friends).

Won’t be long now.

[?? ?]

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Oct '17

Trip Report: Trip Report: New Orleans For Pre-Birthday Celebration – The End

Damn, damn, damn, behind in my reports!

My final day in New Orleans – checked out a few minutes before noon and jumped on the street car headed to Canal Street, looking for a particular piece of tourist glassware for Randy and Kathy’s Christmas Present – I need to outdo last year.

Shockingly, I found it in the third store I went into – though to be honest, the second one I went into was a “head shop” filled with pretty stoner guys.

Didn’t go into this store, but I loved the sign:

Shopping done, it was time for lunch – and why not get fried chicken at a daiquiri place!

That is the “small” daquiri with my chicken, mashed potatoes and roll.

Since my flight isn’t until late in the afternoon, it time to get some more use out of my Jazzy Pass – took the St. Charles streetcar to the end of the line and then back to the condo to grab my luggage. A shot from the adventure:

Grabbed my bag and Uber’d to the airport:

There goes another $33.

Got a snack at the airport bar – crab cakes, which were good, but the presentation was awful.

Poked around the airport, found some interesting local junk food:

Stopped at another small bar for a quick cocktail, got talking to the bartender about wine, my shop, the trade tasting on Wednesday, and before I knew it, she was having me sample one of their more popular ones:

Finally boarded, got settled in my favorite seat (1C), and set about enjoying myself.

I love knowing I’ll be up front with all the toys:

Before I knew it, I was back home, in my own bed.

Off to work in the morning.

[? ? ?]

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Sep '17

Trip Report: Trip Report: New Orleans For Pre-Birthday Celebration – Part Three

Another day, another adventure.

Didn’t feel like walking back to Touks or the Market – opted for The Trolley Stop Café. I wanted a Mimosa, but they were out of bubbles, so, Bloody Mary it was:

I have to say, nice amount of spice (you can SEE the black pepper), olives, pickled okra, TALL.

Not exactly NOLA food here, though they do have some on the extensive menu. After all the seafood over the last couple of days, I needed a Rueben:

That’s actually a really nice photo of the glistening fries and Rueben!

Needless to say, after that I went right back to bed for a nap, only to get up in time for the WorldMark Avenue Plaza “Wine Tasting” – always on the clock, this one.

Our server is from Mr. John’s Steakhouse, which is housed in the building. Two Washington State wines, one Lodi, California Chardonnay.

The wine wasn’t quite up to the quality of the Italians on Wednesday at the Ritz, nor the cheese/fruit/crackers. I took my glass and headed to the second floor balcony at the front of the building.

I can only imagine this during Mardi Gras because several of the parades come down St. Charles.

And there is no one else here, so I put up my feet in the humidity…

… and take in the people watching.

Next event on today’s schedule is at The Ogden Museum of Southern Art, which Rache and I are members from our previous visit. It’s an afterhours jazz trio in the lobby (which has good acoustics). I show up early, as the musicians are setting up, and wander the galleries, drink in hand – yes, they set up a bar, and I’m having Pedicabs:

I knew there was a reason I joined earlier in the year – discounted cocktails!

That would be the inventor of the PediCab. And “The Cab” itself, waiting for the band to set up.

And they also had an interesting food offering from a winner of some television show called: Chopped: Pride of New Orleans:

And here is Ms. Linda herself (and her son):

The dish is basically a New Orleans take on ramen – but using spaghetti noodles. I have the combo beef and pork:

As you can see, the PediCab to the right is in a 16-ounce beer cup.

It was nice to see their collection again – this might be my favorite museum in the US. Their choices art are “edgy” for what I consider “the South”.

It’s not all edgy – there are some oil portraits of influential people connected with Louisiana:

And this amazing quilt…

And the detail:

The band was OK – made better by free entrance (member) and discounted cocktails – and everyone seemed to be having a good time:

Sadly, the top floor of the gallery is cut off from the others, not letting the music carry through the upper galleries.

Caught the street car back to the condo – exhausted – but drink in hand.

Ended up getting fried chicken from the corner store (which is a small convenience store known for their fried chicken). A nice amount of grease to cut the alcohol.

Tomorrow, most of a day awaits me before I head back to the airport.

[? ? ?]

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Sep '17

Trip Report: New Orleans For Pre-Birthday Celebration – Part Two

There are some things that I do to immediately get into The Big Easy groove – first stop, Houstons for cocktails, food, and jazz!

Always start with a Sazerac.

Followed by the Gulf Coast Grouper Sandwich – yes, there is a bun in there someplace:

So much for a light meal.

Then it was off to The Red Zone for supplies:

This is just the initial run to the store – still have to stock the suitcase for the return.

With my initial rituals done, it was off to bed, for I have 10am owner flogging (with free gift – a nice umbrella).

Next regular stop is getting a Three-Day Jazzy Pass for unlimited Streetcar and Bus use — $9.00.

Regular fares are $1.25, or $1.50 with a transfer each way, so $9 is easy and convenient.

Then it’s off to check out Dryades Market and see if my favorite bartender is there – only to find they’ve moved the bar over one stall, and it isn’t open during the day anymore. Guess I’ll have to come back for happy hour sometime. Looks like they don’t open until 4pm.

Guess that leaves Toups South for lunch and cocktails – located in the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.

I opted for the Grilled Gulf Shrimp with Peach Slaw….as delivered:

After eating all but the heads…

There are cool things in the bar…like this mechanical cocktail shaker:

And great signs in the bathroom:

The museum is where I go to buy vintage cookbooks from their collection of extras:

It’s kind of funny that the woman behind the desk now remembers that I’m from Seattle! Scored four this trip – which is always inconvenient because it’s at the beginning of the day, and then I’m carting them around all day.

One is for me, the others for specific people. There was a smoker out back of the museum that my business partner, Jimmy, would love:

Hopped onto the street car and headed to Canal Street where I have a trade tasting at the Ritz Carleton. Walking in I realized I wasn’t on the West Coast anymore – trust me, I was the only one there in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt.

There was food, but I was still full from lunch:

Though I did grab a mini-Tiramisu cupcake on the way out the door.

Funny thing was that one the way in, the sky started to darken up. Within fifteen minutes at the tasting, the sky opened up and started dumping – instantly flooding the streets.

By the time I was done with the tasting – the sun was back out and it was muggy as all get out!

There is a longer version of the wine tasting here: http://blog.unclemarkie.com/2017/09/20/work-report-wine-tastings-even-on-the-road-no-rest-for-the-wicked/

Back onto the street car…

Past Lee (as in Robert E.) Circle, where the statue was removed my last visit here:

Looks kind of odd. Hopefully they will return to the previous name of the circle, which was Tivoli Circle or Place du Tivoli.

Opted for an early happy hour dinner, and not at my usual place (Samuel’s Blind Pelican where the oysters are $3 a dozen), but for the slightly more upscale Poseidon, just across the street from the condo. I actually ordered a little more food than I could eat (leaving leftovers as a late evening snack).

Not bad for $23.72 plus tip (with a couple of cocktails thrown in).

Nice sunset out the window…

And soon, it was time for bed.

For, tomorrow is another day in The Big Easy!

[? ? ?]

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Sep '17

Trip Report: New Orleans For Pre-Birthday Celebration – The Way There

Most years I use my birthday month as an excuse to travel – like I really need one after all these miles. This year is no exception. Off to New Orleans for three nights.

Time to start off with a healthy breakfast in the Alaska Lounge:

Noticed that they are stepping up their game as they expand – it’s a little thing, but nice:

Not sure why men would need cotton balls, but it’s a nice gesture.

My plane:

My seat – used MVP Gold Guest Upgrades to get First both ways:

My food and drink:

Grabbed an Uber from the airport – it’s now flat rate of $33 each way (it used to be $50 into town because you had to use their Black Car service, and $25 to return in a regular Uber). Got checked into my studio unit on the 9th floor:

Not a full kitchen, just a couple of burners, microwave, coffee maker, dishwasher, fridge – certainly enough for me.

Think I’ll wind up this post since I know there will be lots of pictures as I start my visit in The Big Easy.


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Sep '17

Work Report: Wine Tastings, Even On The Road – No Rest For The Wicked

Now that summer is done, ALL the wine distributors we deal with are having trade tastings, mostly on Monday, mid-day. Case in point, this Monday, there were FOUR distributors doing tastings. My own personal limits are about two per day because there are often 100+ bottles open, and even if you spit (which I had to learn how to do), there is residual that you are absorbing. After multiple tastings, I usually come home and take a nap before dealing with dinner.

The two I did this Monday were Vinum and an Independent Self Distributed tasting.


The thing with Vinum is that they put on a great spread.

Upper left is a seafood platter, bottom left, grilled vegetable, back middle chicken satay (replaced by two smoked salmon fillets), front middle, crab dip, upper right, meats and cheeses.

When you are tasting this much wine, you have to refresh your palate (and grab lunch).

Sampled lots of stuff, got a sample of Ginger Beer and Blood Orange Soda to take home – and didn’t even stop at the hard liquor section (since we don’t have a license to sell anything over 20%ABV):

Yes, I turned down free hard liquor – it was like 1:30 in the afternoon!

Next up, a bunch of small wineries that self-distribute, got together and put on a tasting at a micro-distillery a couple of blocks away from the first tasting.

The spread there was more typical of trade tastings:

Though on the bottom right is a huge amount of paté (of which, I was a little piggy).

Good crowds at both:

Being on First Avenue in Seattle, I had to stop at Dick’s Restaurant Supply to check out was on the used/closeout section, picking up some new Old-Fashioned glasses, and some sort of a baking bun tray…

Those are the samples from the first tasting in the background.

Sometimes, I’m even at tastings when I’m on the road. Monday – tastings in Seattle, Wednesday – a tasting in New Orleans.

I’d planned a pre-birthday New Orleans run (post to follow) when I got an invitation from a supplier that they were having an Italian-focused tasting that wasn’t stopping in Seattle. I RSVP’d. Who would turn down something at a Ritz Carlton?

Which is beautiful hotel….

Mind you, this is the shot of the 3rd floor roof:

Hell, even the public bathrooms are nice. Now paper towels at the Ritz.

A bit of a line to get in…

Lots of people, this shot was early. And yes, I was the only one there is a Hawaiian shirt:

Lots of wine:

And some food:

An amusing side note is that, for New Orleans, this is the season when for about a half an hour it dumps rain sometime in the afternoon – shortly after I signed in, this is what it looked like:

You can’t really see it too well (and I wasn’t about to step outside for a better photo), but within minutes there was 6″ of water in the streets – ain’t pumps strong enough to take care of a storm when you are actually located BELOW sea level. By the time I was done an hour or so later – just overcast. Didn’t need the umbrella the condo gave me this morning.

On the way out, I grabbed a Tara Misu Mini Cupcake – just enough sweet for me:

Time to take the St. Charles Streetcar (3-day Pass = $9)back to the condo for a nap!

Life is hard in the Big Easy (New Orleans)! And in the Emerald City (Seattle).

[? ? ?]

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  1. UMTravels » Blog Archive » Trip Report: New Orleans For Pre-Birthday Celebration – Part Two Says:

    […] There is a longer version of the wine tasting here: http://blog.unclemarkie.com/2017/09/20/work-report-wine-tastings-even-on-the-road-no-rest-for-the-wi… […]

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Sep '17

Trip Report: Dallas Mileage Run Number Two

In my quest for Alaska Airlines MVP Gold 75K status – I’m back on a crowded plane to Dallas for a day turn.

Downside is that it’s a 7:25am flight, which means that I only have time for a glass of rosé bubbles since the bar doesn’t open until 6am in the lounge. And the lounge itself doesn’t open til 5am as you can see from all the people waiting for the doors to open.

No upgrade to even Premium on the morning run to Dallas. Exit row, but middle seat occupied, sadly, meaning everything had to fit on just my tray table…

Since I have several hours in Dallas, decided to take light rail into town to see the Dallas Museum of Art. Funny that this show that starts in October is currently at Seattle’s Art Museum:

But first I need a quick bite:

I have to say that I wasn’t terribly impressed by the Museum Café food – or the damn Chihuly Glass looming over my late lunch.

Spent half an hour wandering around asking about a painting in their permanent collection that I saw 25 years ago. Max Liebermann’s Swimmers Im Schwimmb.

Sadly, the painting was out of rotation and stored in the basement. Years ago I ordered a slide of the piece and had it blown up and printed ¾ size ending up with a 4 foot by 5 foot framed piece for my back bedroom at the Capital Hill House. Last time I checked, it now hangs in at Bizzaro’s Italian Café in Wallingford.

But there was one fun exhibit at the museum…

The downside of my day’s plan was the feeling of being rushed. 15-20 minutes on the shuttle to get to light rail, 50 minutes to get downtown, 10 minute walk to the museum…and then the return. That’s basically 2 and a half hours transit time, ASSUMING you don’t have to wait around for the shuttle/train to show up. Didn’t leave much time for the museum.

Back at the airport, settled into the Admirals Club for food before the flight and a drink or three:

Headed to the gate – in the only Dallas Concourse that doesn’t have an Admirals Club (but has a Delta Sky Club and United Lounge) to find this at my gate:

Four response vehicles on the tarmac, two more out in front of the terminal.

Three paramedics were attending to three flight attendants from the inbound flight suffering from “air quality issues”, and two firefighters in full turn out gear boarding the airplane with air quality measurement devices. It took them a couple of hours (of us all waiting around) for them to finally cancel the flight, meaning a massive queue for rebooking and hotel/food vouchers. Luckily I was close to the desk when the call went out so it was only twenty minutes in line. Called the MVP Gold reservations line and got booked on tomorrow afternoons flight – but still had to wait to hotel/food vouchers. When I got to the head of the line, there were no rooms available yet. The gate agent suggested I book a room myself and contact Customer Care for reimbursement, so it was back on the phone again to find out what my budget was. After getting an agent, it was still another ten minutes while she conferred with her supervisor to come up with the answer of, “you should be fine if you don’t go over $200 a night for the room.”

Armed with that information, took the shuttle to the Grand Hyatt in D Concourse to see if I could get a room.

Put on my sad dog face, explained to the two clerks at the desk of my flight cancellation and lack of airline supplied hotel room. They must have liked my comment, “I’d sleep in a broom closet if it had a shower.” They said regular rate was $229 a night, but that they had a Studio Queen at $179. SOLD.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the door to this!

So impressed that I shot a video of it!

They even had all the toiletries complimentary since I’d just planned a day trip and had nothing!

Basically dropped my bag, grabbed my newspapers and headed to the lounge before they closed.

Nice to have a Manhattan (or three) after the crazy day – and the Ahi Tuna Poké appetizer was amazing!

Ran into a couple who I was in line with, so they joined me at the bar. She also had the Poké, he went with the Chicken Caesar Wrap.

In the background are their hotel and food vouchers (they were a couple of people behind me in line), that are totally worthless to them since they opted for the Grand Hyatt as well (though their room was $229 minus a little for an AAA Discount). After we finished food, I had to show off the room – they were blown away (and annoyed that mine was cheaper).

Stayed up way too late geeking out on the room:

Late morning it was back to lounge for breakfast – apparently just missed the custom omelet stand. Oh well.

Thankfully my return flight was on-time, and they had upgraded me last night to a Premium Class seat, but in the middle:

Shortly before closing the door, the gate agent boarded the plane and handed the guy in the aisle seat and upgrade to First. Woohoo! I took his seat and spread out for the three and a half hour return flight.

Did I mention the $300 in future flight credit because the cancellation was mechanical! With $75 from last week’s Dallas run, the flights have almost been free – paid $216 r/t for each of them, meaning I’m $57 out of pocket for two mileage runs.

Not a bad little pre-birthday slush fund.


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Sep '17

Trip Report: Road Trip to Eastern Washington

In an incredibly busy work week for my consulting business, but the trip to the Tri-Cities had been planned for months.

Brought two laptops so I could keep up with the work.

We picked a smoky week to travel with the top down…

We stopped in Cle Elem for gas and a BQ Pulled Pork:

Needed more BBQ sauce, but not bad for a chain. Even stopped in at a sausage company – which if we have time, we’ll stop at on the way home. No way to keep sausage from rotting in a black car in the heat of Eastern Washington.

Sadly, the Telephone Museum across the street wasn’t open either. Off through the smoke, to Kennewick we go!

Saw this sign at a rest stop….

Guess they are trying to stop “Trucker Bombs”. But the ragtop looks good…even in the smoke.

Made it to Kennewick and got checked into the Days Inn.

Rache went out for beer, he came back with a cocktail glass for me (I’d bitched about the paper cups in the room)!

And I got the “workstation” set up…

Since I write reviews for Trip Advisor, decided to use them to find us a spot – Barley’s BrewHub:

I had the special – which was a DAMNED FINE Rueben:

Rache had a burger and rings (rings GOOD):

Not a full bar, so I’m ordering off the cider menu:

I tried the Huckleberry and the Cider Green Apple. OK – but not a Manhattan.

Rache sensibly went out for breakfast – I went for the in-house cold biscuits and gravy, and got another hour of work in before we need to check out and head out to the real reason for this road trip:

Yep, that’s the visitor center for one of the three branches of the Manhattan Project National Park, the others are in Los Alamos, NM, and Oak Ridge, TN.

We board a HUGE bus for the six people on the tour – the early tour (8:30am) was worthy of the big bus. Ours had a lot of “smoke related” cancellations. The tour starts with a 12-minute film, which I saw most of after having to step out for a client call. I turned in the project — think 7ft tall by 10ft tradeshow backdrop and more artwork for the case that turns into a podium. This is the bottom 1/3 of the backdrop…

But back to the tour – it’s 30-45 minutes on the bus to the Hanford Nuclear Reactor B site. We get more information on the bus:

Some (including me) would say that I’ve never met a geeky tour I didn’t want to take. Guilty.

If it wasn’t so smoky, you could see more of the complex. In the distance, you can see Reactor D (twice the size of B), which has been cocooned (in concrete):

And other various sites:

But back to Reactor B (there is no A, no C, no E) and the tour:

The face of the reactor

And a early robot used to pull fuel rods:

The control panel for the reactor:

The picture below shows the inspection plates removed. The Russians come once a year to inspect this reactor as part of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty.

You can’t run a reactor without lots of water…but really, the it probably just a boondoggle by the inspectors to get a trip to The States. And below, the backup water supply to shut the reactor safely without power:

And more pictures!

And the intercom system. Uncle Markie wants!

And a final look at the core of 1500+ rods:

Outside is the one of the trains used to move nuclear materials (including waste) around the site. When they were constructing this place, there were 45,000 workers on site. WOW.

Another 45 minutes back to the visitor’s center, which is in a complex where there are three breweries, a winery, and a distillery. Guess which one we did first! Solar Spirits:

After the tasting (four tiny pours out of the six they make), I took two of the cups out to the trunk and poured some of my hooch – which got a favorable nod from the mater distiller, who then gave us a private tour.

And because Rache is a craft beer fan, we stopped at Shrub Steppes Smokehouse Brewery. Rache enjoyed the beer, we both found the BBQ a little on the dry side – we both had the meat platter.

After our early dinner, it was back in the car for the three hour twenty five minute return trip, using the 4-lane route which is mileage-wise longer, and probably 30 minutes quicker.

Home by 9PM!


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Sep '17

Trip Report: Four Lounges In Twelve Hours

Yep, that means its Fall Mileage Run time!

Out on the red-eye to Dallas, back on the morning flight.

But things are never simple – I had a client email this morning for a job. It wasn’t until we were on the conference call that the original job was moved to a slightly less hot burner, because they needed a trade show designed and to the printer THIS WEEK. And it’s Tuesday afternoon.

Got the Podium designed and sent off for proof of concept for their booth before I headed to the airport for red-eye flight to Dallas.

Lounge Number One: Alaska Lounge between C & D Concourses at Sea-Tac:

Lounge Number Two: The newest Alaska Lounge at the end of C Concourse:

Lounge Number Three: The interim Alaska Lounge at the North Concourse:

From the lounges I grabbed some of the individual chocolates they have out in candy bowls – these are for the flight attendants on my flights. When I board, it’s my little gift to them – and usually results in extra drinks (it did this time) and a free DigiPlayer Entertainment System. It did. Didn’t even get bumped up to Premium (let alone First Class), so it was a nice perk.

Completely packed flight – at least I was in the Exit Row that reclines – and the cute guy next to me slept the whole flight – me, I might have gotten a half-hour nap.

Lounge Number Four: The Admirals Club at Dallas/Ft. Worth:

Sadly, I thought I had to rush back to the gate for my return flight. Grabbed half a bagel (since I’m upgraded to first on the way home) and some newspapers, got back on the inter-terminal train, only to find this:

When asked, it was “we are waiting for crew.” Meaning that I needed to stick around the boarding gate since they could show up at any time. Odd, there were NO TEXT MESSAGES to my phone about the delay. Alaska is usually on top of that.

At least there are interesting shops in this terminal.

And what a GREAT idea – putting an actual convenience store in an airport!

After we finally boarded, I learned the truth of our delay – Crew Time-Out. They had arrived two hours late the night before and they couldn’t legally report for duty until the new departure time, meaning I could have stayed in the lounge for another hour and a half rather than my initial 15 minute visit. Yes, I’m annoyed by the ground staff at DFW which reminded me of American Airlines front-facing staff (lame). Yes, I will be writing them a little note.

With my tight schedule this week of work and play, those two hours would have been nice to have back.

But, like I said earlier, at least I’m sitting up front on the way home – and I have flown with this particular flight attendant before – total “old-school”. Cranberry & Vodka means one of the minis in the drink with the cranberry, and two on the side with an extra small glass of cran.

Got home at 11am rather than 9am – and went straight to bed for two hours, worked an hour went to my dentist in Redmond for an hour of nitrous (and teeth cleaning), then it was back to work until 2am working on the initial draft of the Trade Show Backdrop. OY!

It’s going to be a LOOOOOOONG week.


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Sep '17

Home Report: Hospital Time

Many of you know my aversion to hospitals – and my one week in town has me visiting TWO friends in the hospital and or in-patient rehab for long periods of time.

My long-time friend and travel-buddy Bliss fell off a 22-foot ladder, found by his neighbor at his Hood Canal cabin, MedEvac’d from the beach by float plane (no place to land a helicopter). Coma for a week and a half. He won’t even be able to put any weight on his left leg until the 9th of October. Cracked pelvis, 3 broken ribs, screwed up left wrist. It’s going to be awhile before he is back at home, longer to get back to teaching. Lots of Physical and Occupational Therapy. Oddly enough, he’s in a Kosher care center, his room has a beautiful view of Lake Washington, and he’s 15 minutes door-to-door from my house (closer than his apartment!).

One visit — it was Physical Therapy time (which is a couple of times a day).

When I was there last – he was finally in own clothes.

As for Dwight, another long-term friend and occasional travel-buddy, after a week plus, he is still in the hospital with a quarter of his bowels missing (which, by the way is VERY serious). Downside for me visiting (which I did last Friday) is that he’s in Olympia, an hour away.

Lots of tubes and hoses – at least today, he got the nose tube out.

What is sobering is that these guys are 4- and 8-years my junior. Oy!

Please keep them in your thoughts.

[221.4] Not really happy with that.

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Aug '17

Trip Report: Mid-Week Getaway To Birch Bay

Apparently, I can’t really stay at home, but we all new that.    

Booked a couple of nights at the WorldMark Birch Bay, next to the WorldMark Blaine (which I like better, it’s smaller).

Packed up the ragtop, headed out for lunch with my buddy Seth, who works at the Nuclear Reactor Machine Shop at UW (technically, it the Center for Experimental Nuclear Physics and Astrophysics (CENPA)). Went out for a nice lunch at a local chain of three restaurants, Ba Bar.

Seth’s combo Pho bowl thingee….

And my duck breast, which the ever-skinny Seth helped me finish…

After lunch, I actually found one of the four free spots near UW Surplus, which is only open on Tuesdays from 12-5. I once bought a station wagon there!

Didn’t find anything that made me want to stand in line to pay – and headed off north to the condo.

Not a bad unit, one-bedroom, handicapped.

Guess I’ll have for find some company for the shower!

And I have to say, that I spent a lot of time in this position….

The views were scenic…

And made some nice meals…

Had some fun with an old friend (seven years now). Packed up, came home.

Just a couple of nights across the street from the water.


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Aug '17

Trip Report: Day Four On Kauai – Winding It Up.

Today is a driving tour day…have to be out of the condo at noon, plane leaves at 10pm. Went back to the meadery, and finally there was no crowd. Sampled five that they had on offer…none of them tasty enough to bring back to Onyx, who makes mead in Berkeley.

Headed up the North Coast.

And some great reuse of TEU’s (Twenty Foot Equivalent Units) for stores in a village of little houses:

Kept driving, further and further north, over a dozen one lane bridges, and fording a creek, before I gave up and turned around, and headed back to Hanalie for lunch at Bouchans. Just wanted a little something to tide me over (well, and a cocktail). Cheese burger is was (not the Kobe Gourmet):

And some views on the way back to Kapaa…

Where I explored some falls outside Kapaa (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%27Opaeka%27a_Falls)…

And the river park below the falls:

Once past Kapaa, investigated options for gasoline before I return the car, and tried to find a bar that we went to back in 1990 – The Club Jetty, it was so run down at that point the sign said lub Jetty. Didn’t find it – and some research yielded that it was it was destroyed in a hurricane in 1992.

There is a great history of the club and the harbor here: http://imagesofoldhawaii.com/club-jetty/ Seems that it was a hangout for the likes of John Wayne and Lee Marvin at one time.

But, I did find a Princess Cruise Line pulling out…

Here is my driving tour of Kauai today:

I was on the road so long today, I actually put the top up for a couple of the mid-day hours – I was baking!

A quick stop (they were closing) at the Salvation Army – picked up a small duffle bag to hold all the SPAM (there are 17 varieties, many hard to find on the mainland) and shirts I’d bought, got some gas, headed to the airport to check-in when they opened. Three days a week, Alaska runs an evening flight to/from Kaui, so the ticket counter opens in the morning for the early flight, closes, opens again a 7pm for the evening flight.

Although I’m in First Class on the return, red-eye flights generally don’t have much in the way of food. So, it’s off to the sit-down restaurant in the airport, where you can get a “real” drink:

They were out of the kalua pork sliders, so I opted for the kalua pork nachos…

We loaded the plane early, after I’d had a lovely conversation with a fellow traveler, hopefully he’ll show up at the wine shop!

This is the look on Uncle Markie’s face when he discovers two pre-5 children in rows 1 and 2 (when he is in row 1).

Thankfully, they crashed out early, it being a red-eye, leaving me time to not sleep, play solitaire, and drink.

This would be the “food” on the flight, in addition to the nuts.

It was about a five-and-a-half-hour flight. I got maybe an hour of sleep, got home at 7:15, set the alarm, and went to bed, only to get up at 9:30am, to open up the shop at 11 and work a full shift.

Maybe I should have taken Sunday off, as well as Saturday.

Live and learn.

[? ? ?]



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Aug '17

Trip Report: Day Three On Kauai – More Thrifting

No particular plan for today. Tried visiting the meadery across the road, but each time I went there were like 15 people crammed into a small apace – maybe tomorrow.

My walk also discovered this small place – aloha Hawaii!

And this great decal on one of the cars in the parking lot…

Through people who are in my life still from my Microsoft days, I tracked down the condo complex that I stayed at in 1990 – to my memory, it was four women and myself in a 1-bedroom condo. Turns out it was TWO DOORS DOWN from where I’m staying!

Went into Lihue (again), hit another thrift store (Humane Society), found another shirt (Quick Silver embroidered – $4), and another Tommy Bahama ($6) at the Hospital Thrift Store.

The two items on the right of today’s haul are two three-packs of Brita Water Filter knockoffs at 50% off, from the Safeway across from the condo, which REALLY needs more checkers:

I’d seen these the day before, and finally found them again in the store:

They were surprisingly good! I actually managed to save some to take home for Jonathan.

It was a lazy evening for me, just laying around in the heat.

[? ? ?]

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Aug '17

Trip Report: Day Two On Kauai – Fabric and Booze

Another morning of up early – so VERY odd. Well, early for me. Nine.

Another morning of an “odd” breakfast. Today it was Ahi Poké. Yep, raw fish for breakfast.

First stop of the day was Vicki’s Fabric in “downtown” Kapaa – well, old-town Kapaa. Got some 50% off fabric:

Not what I was expecting, got four yards for less than $20. More than enough for a shirt or whatever. Saw some other Japanese/Hawaiian prints that were interesting, not enough to pull the trigger.

Where I parked to get the fabric store really tells you about the “rental car culture” of the island – it’s rag tops and Jeeps – rag top in my case. Mine is in the middle with the top down:

If you notice that cloud to the left – I should have put up the top. I got back to a wet car after 15 minutes of shopping.

Next stop was a little train ride:

This is the Kilohana Plantation railroad – a narrow gauge track on 108 acres of demonstration fields of various plants.

They actually have three of these small diesel locomotives. The one pulling this train, one in the shed for rehabilitation and this one:

Looks like they need to put same gravel down on those new tracks! Some detail shots:

Off we go!

And soon, we get to stop and fed the pigs, asses, cocks, and goats.

Located on the same grounds is The Koloa Rum Company:

Where I signed up for the 2pm rum tasting, where we mixed our own Mai Tai’s:

Along with several other samples, finishing with a little rum cake!

And there is a house to tour, which also has a restaurant (I’d like to try their Ruben).

On the way back to the condo, another fabric store (nothing I wanted to pay retail for), but there was a great old theatre across the road…

Got back to the condo, took a nap, took a picture of a flower….

And made dinner:

Yep, recycled last night’s dinner!

Another rough day in Paradise. OK – it’s nice, but it isn’t paradise to me. Nice to visit – wouldn’t want to live here.

[? ? ?]

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Aug '17

Trip Report: Day One On Kauai – Thrifting and Supplies

As anyone who travels with me knows that I’m not an “early to bed, early to rise” kinda guy – but that was the case last night.

My admission is that my “breakfast” was the last half of last night’s Double Quarter Pounder – I’d ordered the Quarter Pounder Deluxe because it had more salad on it, but took what I got – and got two meals out of it.

Before I go further – let me show you where I’m staying, which would be the WorldMark Kapaa Shores on Kauai. The view:

The interior, already messy!

Today’s mission is hitting a couple of thrift stores, and stocking up the condo. Found two thrift stores in the Kauai town of Kapaa where I’m staying.

It took a little looking to find the first since I looked it up on the web and didn’t bother to actually use the GPS on my phone…but what a score it was!

I was happy to give them my money – even happier when they said that if I gave a donation of $1, I’d get 50% off on everything!

Five shirts later (including TWO Tommy Bahama) I was out the door for $32 and some change. WOW.

Next up was one that was actually closed, but found another one just back up the road next to where I had lunch.

I got the “shrimp tacos”, which oddly, came with chips and salsa (which I took home) at The Shrimp Station…

The tacos (good, but messy) are hiding under the chips.

Don’t know the name of the thrift store – but picked up another TWO Tommy Bahama shirts, including an EMBROIDERED one for $9 each. I was so excited by all the shirts (which is what I came for), that I forgot to check for cargo shorts that don’t come below my knees.

Here are some shots of the shirts:

Embroidered on the upper left. Bottom two are going to people who better fit the size… and the whole stash!

Yep, got another couple of “Cocktail Hawaiians”! Here is a closeup of the embroidered one:

The embroidery would make its original cost in the $200+ range (not bad for $9). Downside, it’s thin fabric, and is a small amount of fraying around the upper lettering. I’ll still take it!

Here are a couple of shots of the “ride” that Dollar gave me instead of the Corolla:

Hit Safeway for groceries for the condo, once again hitting the bargain sections….

And who would have thought Finish Butter would be the cheapest “real” butter when you don’t need a pound:

After all the shopping, I grabbed some more shots of the grounds of the condo…

And this charming plate on a tree:

And then there was dinner….

But then, there is the computer setup to keep in touch.

And a sunset.

Life isn’t too shabby.

[? ? ?]

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Aug '17

Trip Report: Kauai Bound

The plan was to just hang out for a couple of days travelling solo – and then it sort of started to become a different trip, with more photo ops…so much for one post for the trip!

Got to the airport WAY early – but it was a free ride. A buddy who is not parked in my front yard is flying to Iceland and Greenland for work, so they paid for the Uber.

And the Alaska Lounge is now serving Yakima Valley’s Travari Rosé Bubbles – no need for me to order bubbles with a splash of cranberry.

Worked out well for both of us – free ride for me, free access to the lounge for Whitaker.

Here is a shot of the new lounge at the end of the C Concourse, directly above my gate of C9.

I even had enough time to call T-Mobile and change my plan to their new “Old Far Two-line Plan”….

Which has a nice view of the tarmac, even a 747-400 freighter with a livery that reminds me of a Red Bull can.

A bit of chaos at the gate – totally full flight, TONS of small children, oddly, no wheelchairs.

But I’m in seat 1D (but swapped reluctantly to 1F so a family could sit together) and they even gave me Kid’s Wings…high quality metal with two pin holders…

As we were queued up to take off, saw one of the Amazon Prime Air 767’s takeoff!

Drinks, then hot nuts, then the salad course (Icelandair, you could learn something from Alaska and their service up front):

Then the main:

Then dessert:

Then a Mai Tai that was mostly vodka (at my request, because the mix they use is WAY too sweet):

Arrived fifteen minutes early, got my luggage, got to Dollar to pick up my Toyota Corolla (or similar mid-size car), only to discover this is what they gave me the keys to!

Off to bed, it’s been a long day, and I’m settled into the condo for the next four nights.



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Aug '17

Trip Report: Final Trip To Whistler This Summer

Managed to score some additional nights in lovely Whistler this August – one might in Creekside (where we spent two nights in two different rooms last trip), and three nights at Cascade Lodge, where we parked the last trip.

Lunch stop just after the border in Cloverdale. Boston Pizza was the choice – last time I was here was with CaddyDaddy when he was alive:

Steak strip French Dip, tasty, as was the salad…

You might have heard that there are wildfires burning in British Columbia – the smoke getting as far as Seattle and beyond. Here is the first example of the smoke. First photo is from previous drive up:

This photo is from the trip’s drive up:

I’ll post later about pictures of the mountain valleys, earlier in the summer, later in the summer.

Shopped for our veg and eggs in Squamish (cheaper than Whistler, and we brought all our protein) and some wine – but the grocery store in this hippy/hiking/biking/snowboarding/skiing town has a dispenser for growlers of Kombucha:

About our first night’s lodging, I love the BBQ and room size at Creekside, HATE the stairs. No way to avoid them, and we were on the first floor which is actually the basement floor, reception is on three. And it was the first night, so coolers, all the food, drink had to go down (and back up) lots of stairs.

That said, it was a nice place…

Living room above, second bedroom below…

And the SECOND bath:

And we had a nice meal….

In the morning, we repacked and headed to Whistler Village.

And up to the mountain we go!

Here is Mags playing with his tools!

I contrast these photos to late July’s photos of what the air was like:

And back to the present…

Talked Mags into appetizers and drinks at Christine’s – which wasn’t open my last two trips up this summer:

Great time around the mountain… one day we went to Pemberton, and a museum!

Our adventure done, back to the condo, with me going up the hill for lunch, and a wine flight:

And when we leave Whistler – it ramps up for Red Bull’s Crankworx. They are already assembling the video platforms.

No wonder rooms are tight for the next week!

Up to the top, across the Peak-2-Peak, and back into the welcoming arms of Dan, the bartender.

Who after he poured by BC VQA tasting flight….

Arranged for a little “amuse bouche”:

That is a lovely slice of paté on that crostini courtesy of Chef. Soon to be followed by the Vietnamese Pork Burger….

As you can see, the rosé vanished quickly.

Look at these photos – serious smoke in the air. Once again, my hiking has been thwarted.

Compared to late June….

Crazy wild difference.

Tonight’s dinner was leftovers, cleaning out the fridge – then out of the house a little after ten in the morning with a stop at the mining museum (too cheap to actually buy a ticket):

So, in the parking lot of the museum, there was this beautiful car camping hack – a 4″ black pipe mounted to the roof rack with a fill nozzle and a spigot to attach a shower to. In the sun, the black tube heats the water, and you get at least a warm shower in the afternoon. Brilliant!

Got into Vancouver around 1PM and Mags dropped me at Steamworks Brewery to meet up with Solus+. Got there early – ordered a Manhattan. What else!

And with Solus+…

And we both had the same meal – seafood chowder in a sourdough bowl with a small Caesar:

Wonderful meal, but it’s off to the train station to catch the 5:30pm to Seattle…didn’t know they had a Nexus line! I was business, so I would have gotten the same expedited service, but it’s nice to know:

Being the first one in line, the lady (turned out to be the Business Car attendant) gave me the best seat on the run – 1A, window, wheelchair blocked 1B.

Some nice views on the way home, and more than a few drinks….

Sadly, the train was running 45 minutes late into Seattle, AND I arrive at the station in the middle of a Mariners baseball game letting out. Total chaos. How far do I have to walk before I find a Lyft/Uber with non-premium pricing!

Made it home, made it to bed, for tomorrow, it’s off to work.


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Aug '17

Home Report: Oysters And Art

Three cheers to my dear friend Anne for the opportunity to see the “hard to get tickets” exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum: Yayoi Kusama – Infinity Mirrors.

Anne was already a member of the Seattle Art Museum (as I was, years ago), and LOTS of people are joining JUST to get tickets for members nights which they have added twice a week due to demand.

Today was a work day for me…in theory until 5pm, but there is always the last minute, “oh shit, they close in five minutes”, of our customers (and we love them). Tonight, is was two last minute customers (one who bought a miscellaneous case of wine, the other, the $10 white we were sampling) engaged in a political discussion about our recent mayoral election, and how it would shake out. One is a political pundit, the other works for a business journal – and it was a seriously interesting take on current affairs. If people are buying (or even chatting), our doors are open. We are Merchants, after all.

Was a tad late getting out of the shop, but got downtown, circled a bit, found “princess” parking across from the museum and half a block from my favorite (but expensive) restaurant downtown, The Brooklyn.

I got there 20 minutes before the end of happy hour and I ordered like a madman. Happy Hour $7 Manhattan (Evan Williams was the Bourbon), and mini-crab cakes, followed by a half dozen Daybob Bay oysters:

And I had another half dozen oysters and another Manhattan before Anne showed up. I’d preordered a Manhattan and crab cakes for her since she would arrive shortly after happy hour ended (6PM). And, apparently, in 45 minutes I can drop $80 at happy hour prices.

But this evening is really about the art – Anne and I in front of the Seattle Art Museum!

Those are the legs of “The Hammering Man” to the left of us.

Anne grabbed four tickets, so we MUST have a group shot!

So, about the exhibit…timed tickets. Smaller numbers for member nights, but still lots of people.

Seven installations, most of which you get 20 or 30 SECONDS to immerse yourself (and two other people) in. You are shown in, your time, the door opens back up and you leave, to stand in line another 15+ minutes for the next installation room.

Lots of static art scattered between the installation rooms….

And then, there are the rooms… Phall’s Field, which reminded me of an Alice in Wonderland trip:

And remember – 20-30 seconds in the room, and then a lineup for the next…

Next up is Anne (and mine’s) favorite – Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity, which I realized there was a video mode on my phone:

We popped out of the LARGE line to go see Dots Obsession…

And rejoined the line ten people behind Anne’s friends who didn’t bug out, to see Infinity Mirrored Room – All The Eternal Love I Have For The Pumpkin, which no photography is allowed and only two people (and a security guard) are allowed in for their 20 seconds. This is a shot from the brochure – so SOMEBODY had to be in there photographing!

Next up were a couple of porthole exhibits with much shorter lines. First up, Love Forever:

If you look close, you can see me in the mirror image.

And the cousin to Dots Obsession, The Macrocosm Within – Portal View:

This will give you a feel of that chunk of the gallery space:

Then, to the final room – The Obliteration Room where you were given a sheet of stickers to apply at random. I zeroed in on the Princess Phone.

Can you find the Princess Phone in this photo?

Fun exhibit – wish the rest of the museum was open for this after-hours event – but there is interesting art in the lobby…

I begged off of more cocktails and food with the gang to come home (safely), make dinner, pack, and post.

For, tomorrow is another adventure.


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