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Uncle Markie out and about.

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Tue
22
Nov '16

Trip Report: ABQ-SEA On The Train

At least once a year or so I take this trip – a couple of days with the remaining relatives (and now The Colonels) in Santa Fe, and then the long ride home on the train. Fly in, train home.

As I was saying goodbye and hugging my sis-in-law (my eldest brother’s widow), to paraphrase, she basically said, “It just seems weird that Eileen isn’t here.” It’s been a year and a half since she passed, and I’ve been back to Santa Fe a couple of times since, but YES, it is weird that neither of my parents are around for my visits to Santa Fe. My parents moved back to New Mexico, settling in Santa Fe after I graduated from high school – so my entire adulthood Santa Fe has equaled parents.

I’m hoping what her (my sis-in-law) husband said about me, “He’ll outlive us all.” About ME! Geez, I hope not. I’m hoping it’s just worry over their recent health issues. But enough about family – I’m on an adventure starting this afternoon!

Before I get on the train, time to have lunch with Michelle – sis-in-law’s best friend, law school buddy…

Oddly, at Pueblo Harvest Café, we both had the same thing – the Chicken Nambe Relleno with Christmas sauce (both red and green chili) and the Calabacitas (mixed vegetables). Not used to the zucchini being so large in the mix, but not overcooked.

Got the car returned after lunch…

And Uber’d to the train station. I could have (in theory) taken the shuttle back to the airport, then taken the shuttle to the train station – it seemed easier to just pay Uber $9.01. Nice day – no need for the hoody:

I had a little time to kill at the station, but soon enough, the train (The Southwest Chief) was here:

And my sleeping car:

Didn’t take long to settle in, and get a bucket of ice for the room, and relax:

The nice thing about the train (even with a transfer in LA to The Coast Starlight with Lounge access) you can just stare out at the changing landscape of light and beauty…

And the occasion Vandenberg Air Force Base with soldiers on patrol:

Nice thing about the sleepers is that you have places to hang stuff:

And places to shower:

And, for the last 6-months, WI-FI! Granted, it’s cell phone-based…

Sadly, they don’t block streaming services such as NetFlix. A woman in my car complained that her movies would cease up. Duh, you are on a wireless connection, shared with other people.

Platform shot Santa Barbara:

At Eugene:

The new Amtrak is even trying to convince younger folk to travel – with this poster in my car:

I’d share a cabin with him….but before I know it, I’m back in Seattle, 2.5 days later, Uber’d home, and on my couch with a cocktail:

Home for a week or so…

[215.2]

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Wed
16
Nov '16

Trip Report: Santa Fe

Part one of my trip is getting to (and staying for a couple of days) Santa Fe.

I booked long enough in advance that I used an Alaska Gold MVP Guest Upgrade for a few more dollars – turns out it was a good idea as there were 34 people on the upgrade list (guessing I wouldn’t have gotten one). My favorite seat (1C):

Sadly, someone showed up for 1A – it was a TOTALLY packed flight. But there was food and drink:

I was a little shocked to see luggage coming down the carousel even though I was first off the plane and only stopped to be on the way to baggage claim. Sadly, the rental car counter was much more disappointing. One person behind the counter, five people in line behind a woman who wanted all her options. I even had time to leave my back in line and go to the next counter over to inquire if they had cars available and would match the rate. $150 a day for the cheapest car – I’ll continue standing in line for my $25 a day let them choose anything for me over a compact – it’s always amusing to see what I’ll be driving – one time I ended up in a Fiat 500 from the same airport. This time, if there is the exact opposite of a Fiat, it would be this:

Yep, Dodge Ram Crew Cab 1500 4×4 with tow package and 23,000 miles on it.

Don’t think about the gas mileage, the display said it was averaging 16mpg. Makes me wish I had somebody who needed something moved!

Santa Fe is a little over an hour north of Albuquerque, where I flew into. Add a stop at Albertsons for supplies (read that as Evan Williams and Vernors) I was at the condo a little after six – and checked into my little retreat:

And the “compact or bigger” looks great in front of the unit:

Even got the table set up for The Colonels who showed up with Blake’s Lotaburger Green Chile Cheeseburgers – welcome to Santa Fe!

Yep, the place even comes with a gas fireplace.

Wonderful easy meal, wonderful chatting, too long since I’ve them. It was an early night for everyone, even for me, took a sleeping pill and got ten hours of sleep to make up for the night before the flight.

Lunch Tuesday was my sis (technically, my ex-sister-in-law, former wife of my dead brother). She’s family – think she said we met in 1986 which would make it 30 years of family ties.

GREAT restaurant – Artisco Café & Bar (sister restaurant to Tomasita’s which ALWAYS has a line to get in) – that can even pull off a Manhattan in the land of Margaritas. I ordered a Manhattan in honor of my departed mother.

Jen’s comment was – “I haven’t smelled that smell since Eileen passed,” Guess it was a meal of memories as I ordered the Chile Rellenos (which my mother used to make growing up and she did like the ones at Atriscos):

That led to an afternoon nap which was interrupted repeatedly by workers ripping the roof off my unit, playing Banda music (OK, that wasn’t bad), giggling, and dropping pipes by my window. I did get a bit of a nap as they clocked out at 3:30.

A bit of texting back and forth, but dinner with The Colonels, Jen, Kennan, me was at La Choza– yet another restaurant I hadn’t tried. I started with the Smoke and Fire Margarita — you have to have at least one Margarita while in New Mexico, and you should make sure they squeeze their own limes rather than using mix. The fire part was Jalapeno, a little juice in the glass, slice on the rim. THAT, I forgot to get a picture of, but I did get a picture of my crisp tacos with a picture of the Margarita in the background:

This time I actually got a picture of the guests!

Too bad I didn’t get a picture of our waiter. Smokin’ Hot. I understand now that The Donald is headed to the White House it’s OK to objectify men as well.

Speaking of that, I’ll close this post with the book that I liberated from the laundry room of the complex on the take one/leave one pile:

A 1996 New York Bestseller called Dixie Rising. It will be interesting to compare the vision of Dixie Rising twenty years ago to the 2016 version of dixie risen.

Maybe I’ll have some time on the next leg of my journey home – or maybe I’ll add it to the top of the pile and plow through it.

[218.2]

 

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Sun
13
Nov '16

Trip Report: Phoenix

I headed to Phoenix at the invitation of friends for a celebration – that, sadly, turned into a funeral. Yes, I was flying on Election Day.

Breakfast in The Board Room since I’m in coach for both legs (SEA-SFO and SFO-PHX):

Lunch in the United section of SFO – I’ve always loved The Fillmore from Klein’s Deli:

That would be the pastrami, Swiss, sauerkraut, Klein’s special sauce on rye.

The United section of SFO has been seriously upgraded over the last year or two, so it was just fine to have a long layover without lounge access:

Totally PACKED flight from SFO to PHX – I even turned down a $500 flight voucher to take the later (3 hours) flight, but I wanted to be with friends for the election results.

As it turns out – I should have taken the money and the delay – we put quite a dent in the mixer drawer in my host’s refrigerator:

Alas – the celebration bottle of bubbles was consumed with brunch the next day:

Might as well make the best of a bad situation – time to go liquor shopping! Did a little online comparison, and also noted Safeway’s prices:

BevMo was $19.99 for the 1.75 (no quantity discount), but Total Wine and Spirts was a shockingly low $14.99 a bottle. I stocked up –4 of the 1.75’s and 2 750’s of other bourbon/rye for the liquor cabinet. Had to check a second bag as the FAA says no more than 5 liters of under 120 proof hard liquor per bag:

A VERY EARLY flight out on Thursday – before the hosts were even out of bed – luckily I got upgraded on Alaska to first so after my reciprocal lounge access to the United Club, I had a full breakfast.

Got home before noon and went back to bed for a long time.

I’m just glad my mother didn’t live long enough to see what happened this year – it would have killed her being the life-long League of Woman’s Voter supporter.

[217.2]

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Sun
6
Nov '16

Trip Report: South Carolina

So, last time I saw Sean we were both in Washington, DC by the airport. He was on a layover; I was on a mileage run to see a museum while I was at it.

More memorable was Vietnam in January. He was teaching English in the small town of Saigon (OK, that’s a joke – Saigon, a.k.a. is a huge city) to students ranging from 6 to 60. These days in South Carolina he is teaching high school juniors and seniors – a tad bit of a change, and all the more reason to pay him a visit.

But first I have to get there – and the United Gods smiled on me by granting me an upgrade on a mileage award ticket on my red-eye from Seattle, to DC.

Sadly, I didn’t get to use the new Delta Sky Club:

I hear from friends it is truly spectacular. Alas, I just had the Alaska Board Room before boarding the red-eye with my freebie (used miles AND got upgraded) seat:

And there was a snack on the flight….

Because there is free booze in First Class – on a five plus hour flight I might have gotten an hour of sleep.

Before sleep, I did learn the reason that there are still ashtrays in airplane bathroom doors – even on the newest planes. Mandated by the FAA as a place to put out a forbidden cigarette. New planes now have just “stub out” devices:

My layover in DC was an hour or so…and look – they even still have these analog devices!

Sadly, the next plane was of the “cramped” variety:

At least I’m in the single of 1-2 seating.

By the time I landed in Columbia, South Carolina, picked up my car and got to Orangeburg, I was an exhausted mess. I needed a nap – and felt bad because Sean had taken the day off — had I known I would have drank less and slept more.

But we did get in lunch …I went for the pulled pork sliders, cole slaw rather than fries:

Sean went for seriously flied, as is the South Carolina tradition:

And a visit to the visitor’s center at Fort Sumter:

We were too late for the last ferry to the island, but we poked around the visitor’s centers, and the neighborhood.

Time to move onto old downtown Charleston

Had to make a stop on the way back to Orangeburg for cheap booze:

Didn’t realize how cheap it was until I check the prices here (in Orangeburg):

Total was $17.99+tax for the 1.75 liter of Evan Williams Black – 4-Way was $27.99. WOW!

A couple of weeks before my visit, South Carolina had a hurricane blow through, and some of the damage was still evident…

Which just added to the rather depressed economy of this city:

Lots of shuttered shops in downtown Orangeburg, along with a huge number of auto parts stores and car title loan establishments. Surprised they weren’t in the same business. And there was the Democrat headquarters:

Orangeburg is actually home to two colleges, one is a historically black college called Claflin. I (as was Sean) was expecting a more vibrant “college town” atmosphere in Orangeburg, but apparently the student body is very campus-based. No Starbucks (except 5 miles away at the freeway), no coffee shops, places to hang out – I did find a bar that has music Friday/Saturday (sadly, I leave Friday):

One of the items I arrived with was a housewarming present of a small BBQ:

Yes, I checked a BBQ as luggage!

And picked up accessories:

I really need to go back and buy the rest of the pink pig corn on the cob holders for gifts!

But it does make for a nice little set-up —

All by the back door, and with chairs to tend the fire…which we didn’t use when we BBQ’d pork chops and vegetable (VERY Vietnamese):

My final full day in Orangeburg was a day of change for Sean’s place…when I arrived this was the place:

The spare bedroom is the workout room (a.k.a the second bedroom):

With the addition of a couch, arm chair, dining table and chairs – it’s much less dorm room flophouse, and more home:

Still needs artwork – LARGE artwork. And it has had its result….

Our final meal together of the visit was at Antley’s BBQ:

Including a takeout window:

Which is South Carolina seems to mean buffet:

I was amused by this sign on the Men’s room door…

But apparently, they are slacking…

So much for my checking out the Carolina BBQ scene. I’d hoped to check out Maurice’s BBQ (no link – I don’t reward bad behavior) which has good reviews for the food, until I found out the owner is responsible for this Orangeburg “monument”:

Turns out the people who rent the restaurant don’t rent the corner triangle with the Confederate flag post and tombstone.

And oddly, I thought Halloween wasn’t a thing in the south, but apparently, I’m wrong. Thought it was a whole Satanist thing.

I must say that my favorite memory was spending after dinner time two nights helping Sean grade mid-term US History exams. For the students – they should count themselves LUCKY to be graded on “a curve”.

Time to warp up this visit – off to the airport for the reverse flight home.

Got to the airport so early (to avoid extra hours on the rental car) that check-in at United wasn’t even open. Killed an hour in a decent airport amenity wise. The shop had a t-shirt I’d love for tacky t-shirt lady, but they didn’t have it in her size:

As it turns out, once I was through security, I found one (sadly, not on sale) without South Carolina, and a bigger logo, and more sparkle. SCORE!

I ended up spending five hours in this airport – seems ALL flights out of Columbia, South Carolina were oversold for Friday afternoon. Yes, I can be bought for $500 in future travel and a guarantee of bulkhead aisle seats on the rebooked flights through Houston.

I used some of the money for food/drink:

I just wanted the dog – but apparently, EVERYTHING in South Carolina comes with something fried on the side – I thought onion rings were a better choice than fries:

My layover in Houston had just enough time to use my last United Club access coupon (I get free access on itineraries that include international):

Three cocktails, three bowls of soup, one salad, all in an hour.

Back on another plane headed home….

AND had the whole row to myself, so I moved to the middle:

Another trip down – I’ll be back in South Carolina in January for another “pep visit”.

[219.6]

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Sun
30
Oct '16

Trip Report: Bay Area For A Couple Of Nights

It was February the last time that I was in the Bay Area – I travel so much I had to look it up!

This trip I have one night in the city and two nights with The Boys (Lunetta and Onyx).

Overcast, but a nice day to fly – not my plane, but a recent delivery in the Boeing 100th anniversary livery:

Got the lucky upgrade to first on the way down – not aisle, but bulkhead:

Which means food…

And views:

This is Point Reyes coming into SFO:

The first night I’m staying just off Union Square and connecting with my buddy, Moody, who I haven’t see in a year.

This is the place that Salamander has booked for his birthday in the spring – though I booked him on the top floor which doesn’t have elevator access – you have to walk the last flight at the back of the building:

These are two places I’m sure he’ll want to check out since he’s a writer:

But he’ll probably spend all his time here:

Or Chinatown:

All are mere blocks from the condo.

Had dinner with Moody at Cesario Brasserie which had a 10% off discount from the condo. Oddly, they didn’t have a full bar, but they did have a Sochu (24% alcohol by volume Korean) Martini. Yes, a Korean-based drink in an Italian Restaurant. I’m a little surprised that two of the restaurants we looked at going to didn’t have a full bar (neither did the Saloon from my last visit).

Moody had the Lasagna, which was massive and “food coma” worthy – I went with the starter of mussels, sopping up all the juice with the bread. Oddly, no food pictures. Guess we were too engaged to get out phones.

He had an early morning, so alas, no sleepover which meant I stayed up late knowing I could sleep in

Got out of the unit just before noon and headed to my usual lunch spot, Maru Sushi:

And my lunch Bento:

Having left my bags at the front desk, my destination after lunch was a KLM pop-up store front…apparently they have just started SFO-AMS direct service – they even had a babe on the corner with signal lights:

And free coffee drinks (and water, and key chains):

And a working business class demonstration – though no entertainment system:

.

A fun way to kill some time before heading back to the condo, picking up the bags and heading to Berkeley on BART.

Tonight’s dinner is a duck/mushroom soup (yum) with a little white wine…nothing fancy, just tasty:

And Lunetta even made me a cruise ship bed:

Today’s agenda involves checking our one of our distributors (North Berkeley Imports), picking up a bottle of bubbles while there.

We actually have a customer that calls and picks up her Wine Club curbside – didn’t know other folks did that as well. Nor have I ever seen such a specific time amount on a parking sign:

Then off to The Berkeley Bowl for tonight’s meal – marinated black cod, salad, bread joined by Devon and Alicia.

But first, the rosé bubbles that I brought.

Luckily the black cod is rich enough to stand up the 2007 Château Nuef du Pape that Devon brought! So much for the magnum of Bonny Doon Vin Gris rosé I’d brought with me.

It was a fun evening – and sadly I have to head to the airport in the morning.

No upgrade to First Class on the way home, I’m 7th down the list – but I do have access to the Singapore Business Class Lounge – I chose my flight specifically to be in the lounge when the noodle bar is open:

Hard not to love this lounge. But alas, I have to fly away – only had an hour to stuff myself before snuggling into Seat 6D.

Maybe next time I’ll get lucky – though the mid-day flight is ALWAYS packed.

[220.4]

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Fri
28
Oct '16

City Report: Excitement At The Shop

There was a little excitement at the shop for my “once a month” Friday shift…lots of police, a mess of traffic, lots of people.

Turns out Hilary was half a block away at the Washington State Democratic headquarters.

Locked up and went to watch the show….and got a quick video of the motorcade pulling out:

Next week, the Bay Area.

[? ? ?]

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Thu
27
Oct '16

Trip Report: Saskatoon, Headed Home

Gentle Reader: no, I am not still in Saskatoon, I’m just tardy posting my progress. But here it is, however delayed like many of my flights….

We arrived into Saskatoon an hour and a half late – something I’d anticipated when I booked a late afternoon return flight to Seattle via Minneapolis. Personally, I’d have rather slept in.

The first thing that struck me about the Saskatoon ViaRail station was the stark Soviet-era Brutalist architecture. Wikipedia claims that the 1964 station was built in “The International Style“, looks pretty Brutalist to me.

When I mentioned this to Rache – his comment was, “I was just thinking that.”

At least the cab was modern:

 

Our driver was a laid off millwright reduced to driving cabs to put some food on the table.

Our next problem was getting into the town from the prairie-side station – a 20-minute delay for the world’s longest grain train:

The plan was to go to the 9-Mile Legacy Brewery and find a breakfast place until they opened. More brutalist architecture – but at least we found ourselves in Saskatoon’s hipster neighborhood – I was surprised there was meat on the menu. This would be Drift Sidewalk Cafe. The interesting thing about doing the research for these posts is when you start looking into the history of the neighborhoods you are visiting, in this case, one of Saskatoon’s historically poorest neighborhoods – hence, where artists can afford to live. More information here: http://thewalrus.ca/reviving-riversdale/. It’s actually a well written article about the city, it’s politics, it’s aboriginal legacy issues…but back to the Drift. Decent sized menu, all a little on the “odd” side, often filled crepes:

Look at that sexy ManBun!

I had The Hero (prosciutto, aged cheddar, dill pickles, maple aioli):

Rache had the B-E-A-T Crepe (tomato bacon jam, scrambled eggs, arugula, aged cheddar) with a cup of broccoli soup:

By the time we were done, it was time for the 9 Mile Legacy Brewery – and their friendly crew:

I should point out that at this point, 9-Mile had only been able to serve flights or pints for TWO DAYS. Apparently (according to the locals), Saskatchewan is the Utah of Canada. And I scored another sticker for my bag!

While Rache did his beer thing (so NOT me), I went next door to an Archie McPhee like place called Glitch – and they DO get some of their stuff from Accoutrements, which is the wholesale arm of Archie McPhee. I have a friend who used to work at Archies – and would occasionally model some of their products:

Sadly, these are no longer available, but if you want a tattoo – check out Jeff at Project Tattoo.

After our breakfast, our beers, our novelties it was time for another cab rib – this time to the airport, which was surprisingly NOT Brutalist, including the lines:

And desks to work at – oddly with no power outlets.

With an amazing flight display of real-time what planes are coming and what planes are going:

We are on a Embraer 175 from Saskatoon to Minneapolis:

With 2-1 seating – we took the two bulkheads on the wide side:

No food on the flight – but drinks…

And blankets, with Rache trailed into the bathroom like toilet paper stuck to your shoe….

And sunsets….

In Minneapolis we BREEZED through Immigration and Customs – me with my Global Entry, but Rache wasn’t far behind – they have gone paperless in Minneapolis – scan your passport, answer the questions, it spits out a receipt, take the receipt to the desk, get it stamped, go pick up your luggage.

We were so quick through the border check (and the plane was a little early) that we had time to see if because we were paid First Class whether we could use Delta’s Sky Club – the answer was yes because we were on an INTERNATIONAL Business Class ticket (though on the site they called it First Class). Nice lounge:

And we grabbed some snacks – OK, a little more than a snack:

OK – that is for BOTH of us. The free food in US lounges is getting soooooo much better, and they were pouring Evan Williams Black (my daily bourbon drinker) as the house pour!

Back on the plane, back in the bulkheads for our last leg home to Seattle:

This was a cool addition to the overhead storage bin – a light to tell you when Wi-Fi is available. It was a 737-900 with the Boeing Sky Interior:

Notice that the No Smoking “light” is now just printed on.

More food on this flight – does it NEVER end!

I know that cream sauce is going to give me indigestion… but I hate turning down free (with the price of a First Class ticket) food.

It was a QUICK trip – but one that yielded three posts. Not bad for leaving Seattle on Tuesday morning and returning Thursday night – in time for me to work tomorrow.

[216.0

 

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Wed
19
Oct '16

Trip Report: Saskatoon Bound, On The Train!

After our day of wandering around town, it was time to grab our bags from storage at the station, and move to the Panorama Lounge – which is the lounge for all Sleeping Car passengers.

The lounge isn’t really anything to talk about – not enough chairs inside (the heaters were on outside), free coffee, tea, cookies, crackers – they should have had the wine and canapes here, rather than once we boarded…but I’m getting ahead of myself – here is a shot of the final car in the “consist” – that’s what a train is composed of, and ours is 24 pieces (two engines and twenty-two rail cars).

Before long we were settling in our “across the aisle” Sleeper Plus: Cabin for 1. I just checked, and for fall/winter/spring, they have close-in savings every day of the week, rather than just Tuesday – too bad it’s just for trips 30 days or less. It drops the price from $1857.00 CAD to $1261.50 CAD (the latter would be $962.58 USD) for between Toronto and Vancouver (or reverse). You can find the fare page here: http://www.viarail.ca/en/deals/

But back to our rooms. Mine – which comes with booze and mixer:

The bed comes out of here – yes, it has an oddly shaped mattress:

Our car attendant actually tracked down a TABLE for me – there are like ONE of these per car!

Raches….

We went to the lounge car for the sendoff party – bad pink bubbles and uninspired canapes, but great views:

Since we didn’t leave until 8:30, not long after we both headed back to our rooms, with Rache heading to bed….

And me to get a little work done before we lose phone/internet connections:

And finally – even I turned in…

The morning finds us doing breakfast separately, well, that was the plan – but then I arrived and was directed to the seat next to Rache, who was finishing his breakfast – this one was mine (and Rache had the same which is why I knew about the Rye bread toast):

Yes, I got up at 7:30 for breakfast – and promptly went back to bed until 11 (with lunch at 12:30).

At this point we are heading into the mountains and its time to pull out the cameras!

ViaRail has an amazing collection of “bubble dome” cars, which have all been lovingly restored:

Even the kitchens, which they don’t use (all the meals are in one of the two dining rooms on this train):

Speaking of meals – it’s time for LUNCH, and maybe some wine to go with it:

We opted for a glass of the Union White and the Pillitteri whites (both from Ontario) – Rache found the touch of sweetness in the Union White a bit much so I drank that one with my tomato bisque followed by a fried chicken sandwich:

Why, yes, the food is included in the ticket price – and it’s several notches above what is served on the Amtrak long-distance trains.

Here is a little overview and behind the scenes in the dining cars:

After lunch I returned to the room to do a little more work, but mostly stare out the window at the view…

We were a little late getting into Jasper – one of my favorite stop on this trip as it is right downtown, and you have an hour to explore.

Time for Uncle Markie to do a little work – checking out as many of the wine shops in Jasper as I can:

Cute little town….

Anchored by the train station…

And inside the station, an A-Board showing the layout of our train:

FYI – we were in Franklin Manor, which has a layout like this:

We were in the second rooms in, right hand side. Rache in the bottom of the drawing, me at the top.

After our hour in Jasper, back aboard the train for some new scenery:

And some new food dinner food – RACK OF LAMB!

The reds for tonight were the Sandhill Estates Cab/Merlot from BC, and the Konzelmann Estate Winery Baco Noir from Ontario.

And the dining staff knew that it was our table mate’s 25th wedding anniversary, so when desert was brought out, it was signed:

The aspect ratio is a little off since I took that from our side of the table and flipped the image.

Breakfast in the morning was a bit of a bust – Continental Breakfast starting at 6:30, Brunch starting at 9:30 – we are scheduled to get off the train at 8am in Saskatoon – and the reason for the truncated breakfast schedule. Had a crappy croissant, a cup of coffee, a shower, and since we were running late, a “sitting up” nap, getting off the train at 9:30 – had I known, I’d have slept in.

I’ll save the return to Seattle for another post.

[216.0]

1 Comment »

One Response to “Trip Report: Saskatoon Bound, On The Train!”

  1. Billy Russo Says:

    Nice.

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Wed
12
Oct '16

Trip Report: Saskatoon Bound, First Stop Vancouver

Who doesn’t want to go to Saskatoon for a couple of hours! It’s really just about the journey, not the destination. Rache and I are going on a train ride! Actually TWO train rides, one short (to Vancouver), one long (Vancouver to Saskatoon). You might ask why not Edmonton (would require a hotel room either two or from because of when the trains arrive/leave), or Winnipeg (same reason), or Toronto (it arrives Saturday, and this week I’m also working Friday). The train from Vancouver arrives at 8am in the morning (assuming it’s on time), and we have a 3:20pm flight to MSP, then SEA. Enough said.

I really wish Amtrak’s Cascade Service had a mid-day train. Our only choice was the 7:30 departure which gets us in at noon, and our ViaRail connection isn’t until 10:45.

Don’t I look happy on the train:

It’s a little better once we are on the train and I have a little food in me, but…

Lovely fall colours (since I’m headed to CanadaLand I’ll get a head start on the spelling):

Here is a shot of the Vancouver train station. Sorry for the lighting…j

We need food, so we head in the direction of China Town which I’d never really explored – found this piece of street art made more sinister by the shadow of my hand – I’m seeing a theme here!

We walked, and walked – what we were looking for was a sit-down, service, bar, nice lunch. It wasn’t in China Town, but there were enough street junkies and people shooting up, hanging out, offering us drugs, that I was glad it was noon on a sunny day with lots of cops around.

An hour and a half later – stumbled into Per Se Social Corner and settled in for a cocktail for me, and a beer for Rache:

Before settling into our shrimp and vegetable linguini with flatbread and salad:

Wonderful presentation – and on the lunch menu the food was $14 CAD each, my drink was $12 CAD – and the booth was comfortable and the bathrooms clean.

After our leisurely lunch, MORE WALKING – YES, ME. Passed by the Law Courts, spied the WorldMark Vancouver, passed three JapaDog stands, ended up at the Waterfront near the Cruise Terminal.

Random Vancouver tourist pictures….

Decided to take a ride to North Vancouver on the ferry. Neither of us had ever been, and at $4, seemed like a great way to kill time even though the transit was under 15 minutes. Man, they have loading and unloading down to science!

Since it was after three at this point in the day – HAPPY HOUR – and we found one in the Harbour (those crazy CanadaLand spellings) at the Tap and Barrel:

It was a HUGE space – look at the Keg Room!

And the bar area (dining area is at the far end, upstairs to the right are private function areas):

And it really is about wine and beer (but with a full bar). The barrels are the wine taps, the stainless steel, the beer:

I ordered a Happy Hour highball (Rye and Diet Coke) for $4 (CAD) for the 1oz shot (they are a little skimpy with hard liquor in CanadaLand), Rache went for the $10.50 beer sampler:

And who can say no to deep-fried pickles (well, Roxy could – he hates pickles and anything else sour, except for me):

It was easy to kill time in the only two cushy club chairs in the place – right in front of the non-running fireplace.

And the two random photos from the dock area of North Vancouver – two signs:

As for the upper one, self-explanatory, the one below, just because it’s a sign for a Green Market with a planter of dead plants, both of these The Tacky T-Shirt Lady would love.

Here was our wondering journey this afternoon – if you look closely you can see the miles and steps on the map (dashed line = public transit):

What, were we (NOT) thinking!

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Sun
9
Oct '16

City Report: Lunch At Loretta’s and The Space Needle

In the city for a week – and company is in town! Now where to go – for guests who used to live here. Can’t believe we had dinner Sunday night and I don’t have pictures.

But Tuesday, we headed for a quick lunch we headed to Loretta’s Northwesterner for lunch for me, soup for Gail (which came with my Lunch Special), coffee for Paul:

The soup was a Cream of Broccoli which wasn’t overly thickened had lots of celery, and I had the panko-breaded chicken cutlet burger. Both GREAT!

Wednesday lunch was the Prime Event – Paul said they wanted to have lunch on their last day in town, “somewhere with a water view.”

I made a reservation at the Space Needle Restaurant. Great views (and it turned out to be a sunny day), and while the ride to the observation level is $22, for a $25 minimum lunch spend at the restaurant, you get a free ride up, AND access to the observation deck AND a free digital photo from your meal. This would be ours:

For those of you who don’t know, the Space Needle was built for the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle, and these days looks like this:

The lower section is an event space.

Did I mention that it rotates? Here are some lunch shots:

And views….North – the horseshoe buildings are the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation buildings with Lake Union to the top.

East towards Bellevue with downtown Seattle to the right (more like Southeast):

South to downtown – cloud cover over Mount Rainier:

Southwest over Puget Sound:

49 minutes to rotate – but first we need drinks!

We DID NOT order the Millionaire Martini at $250! I started with the Seattle Sazerac (Paul and I), and then after dinner the Woodinville Manhattan for me:

We all spent WAY over the $25 – but think of it like a $22 off coupon! Round one for me – Razor Clam Chowder, salads for Paul and Gail:

Round two – Penn Cove Mussels with Chorizo – I was feeling the need for seafood, the Dungeness Crab Melt for Paul, and Gail had the Roasted Cauliflower Flatbread:

Paul got a little Vanilla Ice Cream for dessert, not on the list, but provided (and shared by all) while I had my Manhattan:

What I realized when we went up one floor to the observation deck is that every view had wire, rather than windows:

Finally, it was time to go down to ground level:

Since the $25 minimum includes food AND drinks – literally, you could sit at the table, nurse two cocktails for two hours (the maximum dining time allowed) during lunch hours, and meet the minimum. As Gail said, “well, lunch was less than our insurance deductible for the rental car that we scratched and we were expecting to pay for – but they said it was nothing.”

Fun in the city.

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Sat
8
Oct '16

Trip Report: Birthday Ramble 2016, Part Two – Canada Loop

Nothing like flying in, working for two days, and then leaving again. Hit town Sunday night, did a trade tasting Monday, followed by a private event at the shop Monday night (and baking bread in the afternoon for said event), and boxing wine club Tuesday before heading to Blaine for Tuesday night.

Seaside Boy flaked out, but Rache was in tow, and Surf Betty came up from Bellingham for dinner in the 3-bedroom, 3-bath Penthouse at the WorldMark Birch Bay.

Not a bad unit – and then there is the sunset!

And it comes with presents!

Oddly, no photos of dinner or Surf Betty – who slept over but was gone before dawn headed to Seattle for a work week.

In the morning we were off for CanadaLand, with not much of a wait at the border after hitting Duty Free – and we had a reservation, so no worries:

And it’s a comfortable 90-minute run to Swartz Bay…

With lots of WONDERFUL scenery along the way – this is one of the nicest ferry runs in the Northwest:

We were an hour early for check-in – but the place was ready, though being on the ground floor by the pool was a bit confined:

Especially with the new balcony furniture – the old stuff was better sized:

I had to chuck one of the chairs past the BBQ to be able to cook! But the views are great:

Made a run to the grocery store for dinner for four – all of my usual Victoria dining buddies couldn’t make it (dissertation, cabaret, on a plane to NYC) but one of them sent emissaries!

And we feasted well!

What a WONDERFUL way to turn the BIG 60 – old friend, new friends!

Birthday Ramble Part Two is just three single overnights – so we are one the road again in the morning – but first breakfast:

With a ManMosa (so they call it):

We tried to have a cocktail at the Bengal Lounge at The Empress – but alas, since my last trip, it’s no longer a bar, but a banquet facility. Bad Empress, no links!:

For the pictures of when it was actually a bar, with a WONDERFUL Chinese bartender, CLICK HERE. It’s a LONG post, one that Rache found VERY amusing for so how my nerves where frayed that visit. I miss the that lounge – even with the Curry Buffet that wafted through the space.

We opted to put the car in the ferry line and get a MUCH cheaper cocktail at the Days Inn across from the ferry terminal:

When we hit the lot to load – there was a SERIOULSY cool Land Cruiser-like vehicle – turns out it’s a Bandeirante – a Brazilian manufactured Toyota Land Cruiser.

 

Nice views from the harbor (harbour if you are Canadian):

And of our boat coming in:

We loaded, had some snacks, didn’t take any pictures and suddenly we are off the boat, through immigration, and checked into our final night on Discovery Bay – in a2-bedroom loft – spread across FIVE split-level floors with the master on the lowest floor with a Jacuzzi IN THE BEDROOM.https://www.worldmarkbywyndham.com/resorts/db/

It was nice:

And the views were good:

And we had a nice steak dinner off the grill:

Only a small hiccup on the way home – the Hood Canal Bridge was open and we were 1.5 miles in a backup. Towards the bridge:

Behind us:

And a pretty day for a boat ride….

Home safe and sound.

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Wed
5
Oct '16

Trip Report: Birthday Ramble 2016, Part One – Cabo San Lucas

The annual tradition continues – the multiple week Birthday Ramble. This year week one is in Cabo San Lucas. Total of three of us.

Salamander and I are travelling together with Roxy taking an earlier flight, but arriving in Cabo at the same time. Roxy misses out on The Board Room with his earlier flight, but with the size of Salamander’s machine-made pancake, maybe he isn’t missing anything:

That’s a lot of butter for that mini-pancake.

UncleMarkie’s breakfast on the other hand…(with Salamander’s in the background):

I got us upgrades on the way down, so we are comfortably in 1A (Salamander) and 1C (UncleMarkie):

And it doesn’t take Salamander long to look like this:

Maybe it was the cocktail – but he did wake up for breakfast number two:

A little too much starch and sugar in the encrusted waffle (maybe I shouldn’t have applied the corn syrup packet), but tasty.

Turns out we have a stop in San Diego, where there is no duty free shopping – good thing I put a “handle” of Evan Williams in my checked bag!

Back on the plane after the security pass – I had to snap this pic just before the door closed. Had we been in the back we would have had a TON of seats to ourselves:

And soon it was time for lunch…

Ah, the joys of travelling up front!

Roxy met us after immigration (quick) at baggage claim – he’s flying with just carry on, and we are out the front to find our driver – and before you know it, on the road with a pretty full van of other people headed to Coral Baja:

After a hellishly long check in process (made better my free watered down margaritas) we are off to the 3-bedroom penthouse, our home for the next two nights:

And then, there is the view… this doesn’t suck!

Dinner night one was room service from the on-site restaurant – we were all beat up from the early morning.

Did I mention that we had our own private hot tub…

And that you can order a full moon from room service?

The night hot tub view!

Terrible admission – there were no groceries in the unit so we headed out to the former MegaMart, now a LaComer after the hurricane a couple of years ago – but I was hungry – hungry for hot red head!

But shop we did…

Mixers, booze, refrigerator (we passed on that), eggs, fresh tortillas…. And next to the sex shop next to the market, a wine shop!

I did stop in, but I’m running with a cocktail crowd this week.

Hopefully we won’t end up like El Gordo (the fat one), who died between the store and the condo:

To be honest, it was 90+ degrees out and we had the A/C cranked, and were mostly running around in robes. Me, I have my Bernie doo on.

I’d been hoping to find the TackyT-ShirtPrincess a shirt from the market on the highway outside the condo:

This place used to have a ton of stuff – a deli, fresh pico de gaia, the works, since the hurricane, it’s now lame, though I did buy some Mexican Brandy the last night of the trip as we’d exhausted all booze in the condo. I was hoping to find a t-shirt in a women’s medium for her to match the one I bought years ago and had to dig up and take a photo of:

Alas – nothing close to it, and the shirts they had were $20USD. Sigh.

After two nights, we “downgraded” to the 2-bedroom penthouse, which I found larger and I loved the rooftop hot tub and tanning deck area – see what you think.

And then the spiral stairs to our private roof top deck:

If you want the walking tour of the place, here it is:

Did I mention the brand new looks like never used BBQ?

And we used it!

Rib eyes and onions on the grill!

And now just some random photos of how we spent our week doing nothing, I say NOTHING:

OK – we did a little more than lay around! There is drinking and tanning to do.

Why leave to penthouse when you can watch them releasing baby sea turtles into the high surf:

And eavesdropping on a wedding!

And there was eating as well….pupu platter…

Scratch-made chicken tortilla soup:

And because you need things you didn’t bring, you improvise. Hot chili sauce made from four packets of ketchup from the first nights room service, combined with the red chili flakes and some garlic powder in the spice rack:

Need breading for fried fish? Crunch up the crackers that came with my octopus ceviché afternoon snack (yes, we did eat out twice in the week):

Crumble those crackers! And no, we aren’t talking about the upcoming election.

Whip an egg, batter the fish, and fry!

I could blame it on the heat, but we didn’t do ANYTHING tourist related. No walk into San José del Cabo, no bus ride to check out Cabo San Lucas, we only did grocery store runs for more supplies – and in the end we were taking the cab (100 pesos, basically $5 USD each way) to the store.

I barely finished a book, Roxy only got one more chapter done in the book he started when we were at Whistler two summers ago. Yep, slugs.

Sunday we headed home on different shuttles – Salamander and I early, Roxy later.

Did spot the cool American Airlines Piedmont Airlines livery at the Cabo San Lucas airport – sorry the shot isn’t better:

Salamander and I managed (after a Wi-Fi call to the US – got to LOVE T-Mobile!) to get upgraded to First on the Cabo to Los Angeles leg, which included a chicken (never found it) and rice lunch:

No upgrade on the LAX-SEA leg, but we had lounge access for more free food and drink:

And before we knew it, Salamander had his bag and headed for Light Rail, I was waiting to see if my hard-side came out on the regular belt or the “oversize” (because it looks like an OtterCase filled with expensive equipment).

Stay tuned for Part Two of the Birthday Ramble, but first I have to work a couple of days.

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Fri
16
Sep '16

City Report: Two Tours Not Open To The Public

Being in town the week – I know, how unusual – got to keep busy. I set up these two tours a month or so ago for when Jonathan is out of school (and not working).

Tour Number One:

Not open to the public, it just happens that my buddy Seth is one of three machinists at the, part of UW’s Nuclear Program.

What you need to understand is that Jonathan is an engineering student at South Seattle – so this is cooler for him than me, that and I’ve been here before to meet Seth for lunch.

Here is the overview of the place – a view I HADN’T seen before:

And some of the individual machines….

Most of the equipment is World War II vintage – but as you can see, has be upgraded to the modern world. I wouldn’t want to help move ANY of these machines.

One of my favorites of this shop is how they recycle stuff that has served its original purpose, but is now “upcycled” into other useful things:

Nice reworking of Lucite shipping mounts.

Tour Number Two:

This tour WILL be open to the public in about a year and a half – it’s of the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Kent, Washington. Turns out that I know the guy that is in charge of all the center tours in the US – like the one that I had booked in Indiana for October 4th, that I cancelled when I got a much better option called, no airfare, hotel, rental car, just ugly traffic.

The downside, blogging wise, is that it’s a photography prohibited area, so, you get the outside…

And the lobby signage:

And the secure nature of the faculty – badge coming in, metal detector coming out – my buddy has a plastic belt buckle and a wooden watch (I kid you not, CLICK HERE for Wooden Watches on Amazon) to speed the process (and the watch is cool!)

But it was an amazing tour – it was an incredibly efficient Rube Goldberg Device of pick, pack, robots, multiple sorting, dump it on a truck. Our hosts quest is to eventually make this the “gold star” tour of fulfillment centers in the US, to couple with the tour of Amazon Headquarters that Mags and I did in August. CLICK HERE for ink to that post.

If you’d like a list of Amazon Fulfillment Centers that are currently open for public tours, CLICK HERE. Mind you, they are popular and book up quickly.

So, that’s how I spend my non-travelling weeks, exploring the odd bits of my region.

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Mon
12
Sep '16

Trip Report: Round Two At Whistler With Roxy

In July Roxy and I purchased season passes to Whistlers Peak-2-Peak Gondola – this would be the second year for us doing this, my third year running for going to Whistler a couple of times a summer:

Interesting that they just pulled last year’s picture off the server – so If I go next year, the same picture.

So, the pass is $40 USD for the day, or $58 for the season (Mid-May to Mid-September) plus taxes/fees. Roxy and I were trying to get the most value out of our season pass so we came back up to get the most bang for our bucks. I think we are down to less than $1 per ride.

But first, we have to get there, and I’ve booked us into a Studio Unit at the WorldMark Birch Bay:

A word to the wise – avoid the Studio Units, though I hear the handicapped units have a better configuration – this is with the bed lowered:

Yep – really easy to get to the bathroom or kitchen from the couch.

I declined the “owner update” in favor of sleeping in – and we were actually out of the place around 10:30, and 20 minutes later (after Duty Free), this:

Now if Roxy would get a Nexus Card – though in all honesty, the lines at the borders weren’t bad in either direction.

Here is a shot on the Sea To Sky Highway which skirts Howe Sound:

And a VERY disturbing selfie of Roxy:

We got to the WorldMark Cascade Lodge in Whistler a little after 1pm, expecting to not be able to check in until 4pm. Surprise!

The sort of original plan was to go up the mountain while we waited to check in…we got lazy, we went out for a snack instead – we split a Charbroiled Kobe Beef Burger at The Beacon Pub. You can just barely catch the rim of my Manhattan ($11.95 CAD) – nicely made from Bullitt Rye (which seems to be the “house rye” in Whistler), Cinzano Vermouth, Orange Bitters, and THREE Luxardo cherries!

And I’m a dipping sauce kinda guy, which is why we got the “Royal” sauce on the side, and I order a little tartar sauce as well. Roxy is NOT a sauce kinda guy.

And it was a little gray and drizzly out:

After that “snack” dinner was late – post 9PM. Pork loin and roasted potatoes and a salad:

Lots of left overs to go with the eggs in the morning!

We actually were out of the condo before noon and headed for the mountain!

Overcast and drizzly, but not bad at the top:

Even with the overcast we are up to our usual hijinks on the gondola:

Yep – reading – Roxy is still working on the same book from our last trip. Back and forth we go until we work up an appetite for a late lunch at Christine’s On Blackcomb – our guilty, expensive, pleasure. The view is a little socked in, but you can see the lake in the valley:

Went with the “house” Manhattan which was Crown Royal ($14 CAD) – good, not as good as yesterdays.

Roxy went for the Vietnamese Pork Burger (I had a taste – YUM!):

I went for the lighter Scallop Ceviché:

A most interesting presentation – but damn tasty.

Time to go back and forth, and forth before heading back down to the village:

Dinner was rib eye steaks…oddly, no pictures. Just an evening in watching TV and surfing the web.

Turns out the next day on the mountain was even worse, weather wise – more time for reading!

On the upside – less people, no line to get the photograph on the rings:

Or to disturb the wildlife – like this black bear (the only black bears in British Columbia populate Whistler/Blackcomb):

Or the Hoary Marmot:

Popped into the theatre (first time in my three years of going to Whistler) for a 15-minute video which I wish had more about the building of the gondola….

But soon it was time to go back to Christine’s – this time splitting an entree so we don’t ruin dinner. And a Manhattan with the Bullitt Rye (same price as the Crown Royal – wish I’d known!):

That would be the Frittata – a second breakfast!

We ran into the General Manager of Nester’s Liquor Store on the Gondola – turns out there is a trade wine tasting in another part of the restaurant this afternoon – I could have made it a “work” trip!

Maybe we should have ordered from the Kid’s Menu – they have a HOT DOG!

I’m a little surprise to see both Salmon and Falafel on the Kid’s Menu – those crazy Canadians.

Yep – more reading in the drippy weather before we finally bail on the mountain:

Did I mention that there is EXCELLENT 4G LTE service on the mountain – and Wi-Fi at both mountain tops.

Met lots of fun people just going round and round on the gondola – who thought we were “odd”, especially the Australian ladies.

Back in the condo, it’s time for a cocktail and dinner… not the fanciest, but I had sausage on the mind.

We were actually on the road at 9:30 in the morning – yes, ME. And the weather cleared up at bit for the drive home:

Another adventure down – more to come.

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Fri
9
Sep '16

Trip Report: Calgary For Lunch (And More) – Day Three, Headed Home

This morning is was in-room coffee maker coffee that I slept through and had to no nuke. No real rush to get out the door other than hunger.

Checked out and drove half a block to Phil’s (since 1956!)– which could be a Denny’s north of the border. They have five locations in the Calgary area.

Rache went for the eggs/bacon/hash browns, I went for the eggs benedict with the whitest Benedict I’ve ever seen:

Fueled up, off we go to explore Calgary since our flight isn’t until early evening.

Once again I’m passing the “writing baton” to Rache as he did all the homework, so why should I redo it! I’ll just add my pictures (and those pesky links) and VIOLA!

You know you’ve reached a very obscure museum when the curator greets you with, “May I help you?” instead of “Welcome!” Markie masterfully replied, “Believe it or not, we are actually here to visit the museum.” The Grain Academy Museum in Calgary is not only obscure but well hidden. It’s located in the BMO Centre on the Plus 15 Level in Stampede Park. No outside signs were visible. Even Siri was a bit perplexed, getting us close but we finally just had to enter what appeared to be a closed building. 


After the curator’s initial surprise of actually having visitors, he escorted us to a little theater. Metal tractor seats offered most sitting options but the two of us did find a couple cushioned chairs. The video “The Way it Was” depicted how the Canadian prairies were settled and the difficult work that was required before motorized machinery. Oh, just as the video started, a mother of four (one in a carriage) entered the showing. The curator must’ve been completely surprised at having so many people, but he was on a roll and asked if we would like to see another shorter video about modern life on a farm. We took the bait and he showed a YouTube video called “Farmer Style” which is a parody on “Gangnam Style.” What a hoot. I’m sure the Peterson brothers paid their way through Kansas State University with this video which has over 16.5 million views. I’ll attempt to share a link for more about the video and the Peterson family (http://www.cnbc.com/id/100310964). Other displays include everything from barbed wire types to wheat straw weaving, pioneer farm tools and various models of farm implements. There is also a sizable model train display on the movement of grain from the prairie to the terminals at Vancouver. When I say ‘sizable,’ we’re talking two room’s worth. The multiple trains really fascinated the three young boys the mom brought in.





I gotta tell you, this museum is a gem. The videos, displays, and the delightful curator (who asked Markie and me if we were farmers) actually made the effort to find the place well worth it.  And it’s free!  And since nothing was going on at Stampede Park, there wasn’t even a parking fee. 

Next we navigated towards the airport but before that, we checked out the Aero Space Museum of Calgary. It’s immediately south of the airport. The museum was founded in 1975 by aviation enthusiasts and former World War II pilots. Aircraft displayed include a Douglas DC-3 which was the very first aircraft Buffalo Airways ever owned [Uncle Markie flew in one of their “current” DC-3’s between Hay River and Yellowknife], a Sopwith Triplane, a de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter, and several other planes and helicopters, plus 58 aeronautical engines. Additionally, historical documents, including letters from a WWII prisoner of wars are on display. The exhibits are in two large hanger-type buildings. There was no interaction with a curator like at the grain museum (other than to take our money), but the displays spoke for themselves and information was displayed for many of the craft. 








After that, we filled up the rental car with petrol and returned to the airport. On the way, we passed a Hyundai dealership which was having a “Hail Damage Sale.” Prior to our arrival, Calgary was hit with severe hail storms. Our rental had several dents as well. Our Canadian prairie adventure was coming to a close. This trip turned out to be much, much more than merely eating lunch in a restored Pullman car. This short jaunt offered quirky museums, an amazing server at the restaurant near our hotel, and Heritage Park was absolutely remarkable. This turned out to be one of the more delightfully surprising trips. I’m so, so glad to have experienced this. 

Thanks again Rache for the narrative!

But we aren’t home yet…we have to navigate the seriously under construction Calgary International Terminal – where they only let you in a little bit (two hours) before your flight.

That’s barely enough time for duty-free shopping and grabbing real food before the flight – so, this is my version of “real food”:

Actually I just got the regular Chicago Dog (and a couple of double Jack and diets):

Because this is what “dinner” on the plane was:

Yes, I’m mixing diet, Crown Royal, red wine, chocolate and pretzels — though not all together.

Speaking of duty free – they let me by four (the legal limit is one)…the lady said, “Buy as many as you want, you’ve already passed customs and immigration – during the holidays people are walking out with cases.” I guess pre-clearance in Canada has its perks!

In our defense, I did make us small chef’s salads once we got home.

I’ll agree with Rache – what an amazing trip for being just two nights.

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Thu
8
Sep '16

Trip Report: Calgary For Lunch (And More) – Day Two, There

As usual Rache was up earlier than I, working away on his updates, and just as important, tracking down coffee for the grumpy morning one (that would be me). We have to be out of the hotel earlier than I’d like as our Lunch Date with the restored 1929 Pullman Dining Car is at 11:30.

I can’t really improve on Rache’s commentary of the day, I just going to lift it and add my own photos. THANKS RACHE!

“You are about to embark on an incredible journey through Western Canada: from a timeless First Nations’ encampment to a rustic settlement, from a bustling young prairie town to a mid-20th Century urban square.”

That’s how Heritage Park is introduced in the guide/map. This 127-acre park is on the banks of Glenmore Reservoir and is Canada’s largest living history museum. Exhibits span from the 1860s to the 1950s. Staff dress in historic attire and antique autos and horse-drawn vehicles service the site.  The park opened July 1, 1964.


So now I have to confess something. The reason Markie and I came to Calgary was to go to lunch. Thankfully the park offered a much better reason to come to Calgary. But lunch on the restored River Forth Pullman dining car is what motived our trip. This car is a restored 1929 observation car purchased in 2011 by the park from the Canadian Pacific Railway for $1. What a bargain! Heritage Park restored the rusty, rundown mess, taking it from the brink of scrap metal and turning into a 36-seat moving restaurant.





We climbed the few steep steps onto the car and navigated past the kitchen and proceeded down the narrow aisle to Table 2, table for two. The first course was a pear and fig salad with prosciutto and balsamic drizzle served with a white wine from Okanogan Valley. The salad was a nice balance of salt and sweet. Markie and I ordered each of the main courses. I started with the pan seared B.C. Steelhead Trout that was served with potato rosti, charred summer vegetable ragu, and French vinaigrette. Prepared perfectly. At mid-meal, we exchanged plates and I dined on the Filet Mignon Lyonnaise that came with sweet pea purée, potato pave, puttered patty pan squash and spring carrots. Lovely as well. Served with the red wine from Okanogan Valley. Dessert was vanilla and toasted almond creme brûlée with seasonal berries and lemon sugar cookie. Yum! Before dessert, Markie and I exchanged seats so we could each get the experience of viewing the scenery going forwards and backwards.





The meal was worth the trip, but the park was so inviting that we decided that instead of dining and dashing, we would spend the day. Smart move. Dining on the train gave us a chance to see then entire park as we circumnavigated the grounds several times.

The Railway Car Shop had several restored cars from bygone days and furnished in period pieces down to the spittoon. The rare and unique passenger cars were remarkable. The wicker seats reminded me of the seats in the old subways that were displayed at the Transit Museum in Brooklyn where I visited in May. It was at this stop that we first met Riley. More on him in a bit, but as Bill P. and Steve R. can attest, he was one of the types of people I just gravitate to.





Next, we boarded the S.S. Moyie. This is a paddle steamer sternwheeler that worked Kootenay Lake in British Columbia from 1898 until 1957. Well the original did all that and is the world’s oldest intact passenger sternwheeler that you can see on display in Kaslo, B.C. But this replica gave us an idea of what it was like way back when. We plied the waters of the reservoir and dodged a bunch of little tykes running around. To his credit, Markie did not attempt to grab one of them and toss him overboard. Honestly, the trip was a delight as we toured the boat as the boat gave us a tour.





Next we moseyed over to Hudson’s Bay Company Fur Trading Fort, circa 1860. The rustic digs were manned by two capable young lads who were full of knowledge. One greeted us at the nearby Our Lady of Peace Mission (1885). In one display, I noticed that a large cast iron pot had 13 tally marks on it. Our young guide reminded us that since the traders and First Nation folk didn’t speak a common language, the marks were an indication of how many beaver pelts it would take to buy the pot. Love this stuff.






BTW, navigating the park was easy as there were plenty of railroad stations where the train stopped so one could board and you were on to your next destination. It was during one of these boardings where I got to sit next to Riley. Riley is one of these special guys who would probably fit somewhere on the autistic spectrum. He remembered us from the Railway Shop and remembered that we had dined on the train and what we ate. He anticipated every ring of the bell, every “All Aboard” and apologized that he had not yet mastered the whistle of Engine #24 (which was pulling the train) but only Engine #23. When I asked if he lived in Calgary, he not only gave the neighborhood but also the amount of shade. His ambition is to be an engineer and he was thrilled when I told him Markie had operated an engine at the train museum in Boulder City. Riley is just one of those wonderfully quirky guys that some people are unsettled by but is absolutely delightful. He alone would’ve made the price of admission a bargain.


We strolled through Village Centre and walked through Wainwright Hotel and Bar Room. Again, the furnishings were period pieces — many original. Our amble led us to the Antique Midway. Honestly, who needs Disneyland? The old rides, from the Caterpillar to the small Ferris Wheel were amazing. But our ride of choice was the one where I can’t remember the name. You sit in a little seat dangling from chains as the ride spins around and you sway out. Sort of like a dangling carrousel. Ahead of us was a little girl in a princess dress and a young lad you turned around and exclaimed to his mom, “This is awesome!”  And it was. Markie and I had a blast as well.








We were tiring so we walked over to the Shepard Station and rode over to Midnapore Station, the closest to the park entrance. We quickly guided ourselves through the Gasoline Alley Museum before heading back ‘home.’







Heritage Park is also wonderful in that the main attraction is history and “Sell, sell, sell!” One could buy things but the focus on this particular park was to experience the park. And it was almost delightful experience to be sure.

Now that Rache has had his say – Jesus, Mary, Mother of God the strollers in the park. There were dedicated “Stroller Parking Areas” at every attraction and train station. That said, if I lived in Calgary I’d probably have a season pass, it was that good.

We both had a bit of a rest before checking out a couple of other restaurants before settling back into the Big T BBQ for dinner. Just a couple of appetizers after the lunch we had! Well, there was booze and eye candy in addition to the food:

Seems the price hasn’t changed since our favorite waitress is on shift again. These are the brisket, fried green tomato, and pulled pork sliders with onion rings and coleslaw.

And the eye candy.

Our flight isn’t until the late afternoon tomorrow, so we get to wake when we feel like it. Yahoo!

[218.0] And that was late afternoon!

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Wed
7
Sep '16

Trip Report: Calgary For Lunch (And More) – Day One, Getting There

It was originally about lunch – fine dining on the restored Pullman Dining Car River Forth – but the trip turned into much more. And better yet, our hour and a half flight left in the middle of the afternoon. It felt weird to be able to sleep in as long as I wanted – on a flight day.

Our Q400 painted in the University of Idaho Vandals colors

My brother Karl was a Vandal (in more ways than one). And it was a great day to fly…

And it being Horizon – free wine for me, and free beer for Rache, but as an MVP Gold I get chocolate (along with pretzels) and a cocktail as well. Didn’t know that the first free drink had moved to Horizon from Alaska. Either way, I’ll take it, but it did make the tray table a little crowded on a little plane.

Turns out we are staying in a “Motel Village” next to the University of Alberta Stadium. Travelodge (ours), trendy hotels, no-name places.

And right around to corner we find BBQ at Big T’s BBQ with an attitude judging by the shirts the staff are wearing:

I Like My Butt Rubbed            Terrorizing Vegetarians Since 2004

It’s All About The Meat            I Like By Butt Rubbed

Butt (as it says on the shirt “I Love My Butt Rubbed”) the food is pretty good as well as the visuals it being near campus:

And Monday night is Old Fashion night – 2oz. drinks for $8.50 and they are using Knob Creek with is 108 proof! Not back for CanadaLand! Needless to say, I had several, and our server was POURING FREELY, another Canadian anomaly.

If I remember, I only got charge $8.00 per since it was just booze, ice, and a cherry! And we start with an appetizer of the fried dill pickles:

Followed by splitting the Half Rack of the Memphis Baby Back Ribs – which came with an assortment of sides. We opted for the Fried Green Tomatoes, and Cole Slaw as cornbread is included in all the platters.

One of the interesting sauces (they had many) was the Carolina-style mustard sauce, which, of course I had to try.

A little less yellow than some I’ve had, but tasty. We sort of killed the platter.

Did I mention the eye-candy crowd in this place?

And they all seem to be sucked into their devices….

We headed back to the Motel to settle in with the telly for the evening. Can’t believe I didn’t take any interior shots, but it was clean and came with a fridge and a microwave.

Tomorrow we are off to lunch!

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Sat
3
Sep '16

Trip Report: ROAD TRIP!

What happens when there are no cheap flights during the summer? ROAD TRIP!

Though I didn’t realize it at the time, it turns out to be a parade of visits to friends that I’ve known for years:

  • Cathy = 46 years (stop 2)
  • Dwight = 31 years (stop 3)
  • Peppermint = 22 years (stop 6)
  • Yusaf = 19 years (stop 6)
  • Rache = 21 years (stop 7)
  • Bliss = 24 years (stop 8)

And the weather was stunning – probably got more sun than I should have.

First stop was to see Cathy – and drop off some cookware from my mother’s estate. She had many dinners at my parent’s table and reveled in the fact that my mother had nice things – and used them everyday. I passed on a Dansk 60’s turquoise double boiler and a Le Creuset orange saucepan with lid.

It was good to catch up in person with here rather than email/Facebook.

Next up – Dwight. My overnight stop. The photo from Dwights:

He does stock the bar for me! There was also a “handle” of Evan Williams Black. Dinner tonight was lovely Steak Fajitas delivered in (by a cute delivery guy). I got the “blow-up” queen-size bed in the spare room. We don’t get to see enough of each other – one of the reasons is that he has cats. I just doubled up on the antihistamines!

Morning found me early out of the house – Portland bound. I’ve got to hook up with Peppermint at his shop and head to a food show in SE Portland. Somehow I didn’t get a picture of Sunnyside Espresso.

I did get a couple of pictures from the food show – spread over two floors:

And this is a serious “cold press” coffee machine – using ice water:

On the way to my evenings lodging I passed the corner that was a block from where Jimmy and I lived in Northwest Portland – which was a corner market/butcher shop – now it’s a Mcmenamins Bottle Shop.

Tonight’s lodging is with Yusaf and Peppermint – who have also rolled out the red carpet! Here is the “Love Shack” that is my home for the night:

Complete with turquoise appliances!

And power!

They sacrificed an animal for the grill in my honor:

I brought a couple of bottles of a 2005 Bordeaux that we have at the shop – was $25, now $14 – and drinking GREAT!

There where even vintage “gay” magazines in the “love shack”!

They are from 1974 – when I was a senior in high school. I had to borrow them to scan and return. The T-Shirt Princess will love the images.

Slept in late, knowing that “breakfast” will be at Burgerville – my weakness in burger places – and the St. John’s one had a full parking lot and a drive through line that stretched onto the street:

After the “Devil’s Burger” it’s on the road to Long Beach (Washington, not California!) for an overnight with Rache.

It’s odd to pass through Seaside and not visit Seaside Boy – who actually is in Blaine these days:

Tried to find some new cargo shorts – after four stops, found some Ralph Lauren “not cargo” shorts, but they had a nice feel and were new at $10.

Stunning lamb dinner of the grill with Rache:

Again, my host is out of the house before me – and I’m on the road for the longest leg of the trip. But the top is down, and all is fine in my world.

Until I hit a backup – only 15 minutes:

And a blog update stop in a roadside rest stop:

The last stop of the trip is an overnight with Bliss. And the Cowboy Bed!

And the view isn’t bad:

Little did I know what was planned for my visit – a whirlwind of cocktails, boating, oysters and dinner! Bliss making scratch thermos’ full of Piña Coladas for the boat.

Bliss’ contractor has a boat and friends…I have a Speedo!

And even I went swimming in Hood Canal:

We did a little motoring around before heading to Union for beer, and as it turns out, oyster samples:

After a little ass-grabbing (NOT on my part, well, the ass was, not the grabbing) it was time for a sunset dinner with the guys – what a lovely end to the evening!

Not a bad road trip. Got stuck in a little traffic around Tacoma on the way home, but it was nice to sleep in my own bed.

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Fri
2
Sep '16

Trip Report: New Orleans For The Miles – Part Two

I left off mid-way through one day because the post got too big, so here we go with Part Two (Part One Here!).

I tried to get to the New Orleans Museum of Art after the Ogden – and there were streetcar delays and I was having a food meltdown – as in I needed food NOW. And look what I stumbled across!

Nice raw bar – extensive menu, light on the “décor”.

I opted for the Bevi Gumbo – just what I needed!

This is in the Mid-City neighborhood of New Orleans – which I’m guessing was originally Italian judging from the number of pizza/pasta places, along with a Spumoni place:

And while we are showing city scenes, here is Canal Street from the trolley tracks:

Tonight’s dinner was markedly “down-scale” – I went next door and grabbed a burger to go from Igor’s Bar/Laundromat/Library/Pool Hall:

Which has a Fireball Dispenser

No, I didn’t have any vending machine Fireball.

That would be a crappy “Whiskey & Diet” – and because it’s New Orleans, everything is served in a plastic “to-go” glass.

In the morning it’s off again, and in my neighborhood in NOLA – these are the parking signs:

Destination is the New Orleans Museum of Art – and LUNCH! Here is what greats you:

I reminds me of the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City for the entrance….but the food place here, is well, New Orleans quality:

And the brisket sliders stunning!

That looks like a Sazerac as well – I’m working my way through the city – and its art. Here are some of my favorites – note, there are many fewer than from the Ogden:

Again – more Southern Art, but then some Classical:

This happy boy has appeared in a number of New Orleans posts – Boy With Twinkie!

So far, I’d been lucky to only get caught in a few bits of rain – often just having another drink and waiting it out. This is what the streetcar ride back from the Museum looked like!

It was SERIOUSLY dumping rain.

By the time I hit Canal Street it had stopped. And speaking of stops – stopped by The Red Zone again. This time to stock up the suitcase for the way home:

A couple of those (the rye and the single-barrel) aren’t available in Seattle, and even if they were, they’d be at least 35% more expensive.

It being my last full day in New Orleans, time to print out the boarding pass for tomorrow – and have a little free wine as well:

So I headed downstairs with a cocktail in hand, just in case the wine was bad.

For the last night in The Big Easy – I picked a new restaurant – which turned out to be a winner since I was there for happy hour, and I was already a little happy from the wine tasting. Poseidon is just across the street from the resort. Here is the Happy Hour menu:

And some of the wonderful food and drink I ordered:

WAY too much food for one, but I managed it. And the bill wasn’t that bad:

Returned to find this “Roller” parked in front of the condo – guessing it belongs to the lawyer’s office next door:

Off to the airport for a mid-day flight that was delayed by….wait for it…..weather. More rain dumping down on New Orleans and Houston – ground stops in both locations. Lots of people missed connection, luckily I had a three-hour layover planned, so no problem. This should give you an idea about the rain:

One the upside – I managed to have three cocktails and snacks before we ever left the gate. The Captain wanted us out of there and first in line when the weather permitted.

Just enough time for a quick cocktail in the lounge (courtesy of my seatmate who brought me in so I didn’t have to use my last pass) before heading to the Seattle flight.

My final airplane meal of this trip:

Home again safe and sound.

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Thu
1
Sep '16

Trip Report: New Orleans For The Miles – Part One

It was a trip for the miles – the final flights to hit $1,500 in United Airline tickets excluding taxes – I just squeaked over the spend at $1.506. And what did I get? 25,000 bonus miles on top of the miles that I earned. Since all 5 segments were booked in paid First Class (which has class bonuses), that brings the total miles earned to 37,048. Basically 5 cents a mile on a cost basis. It would have been cheaper to just wait for a United Bonus Miles sale (like they are having now) and pick up the miles for a little more than 2 cents a mile – but then again, I wouldn’t have gotten to go to both New Orleans and Puerto Vallarta (my two mileage runs).

That said, under United’s OLD mileage plan (two years ago) my Gold status and class of service bonus would have earned me 37,884 miles into my account, under the CURRENT mileage plan, my Gold status and the class of service bonus got me 12,048 miles – basically a THIRD of the miles. And you wonder why I prefer Alaska Airlines and their mileage-based program.

In reality – I made a decision to go for more miles. I just redeemed 20,000 of those miles for a reduced award round-trip ticket to Columbia, South Carolina in late October. This, by the way, is the best use of miles – tickets to out-of-the-way places that NEVER go on sale. And trust me, Columbia, South Carolina is one of those destinations – and I even got a one-stop (DC) in both directions, and “oddly” United offers “status” upgrades even on mileage redeemed tickets – mind you, you are the LAST of those upgraded. No first on the DC-Columbia legs, and can’t imagine getting an upgrade on a flight between Seattle and DC.

Now that you’ve suffered through my “mileage whore” section of the post – let’s talk New Orleans.

It seems I’m now going a couple of times each year, which means that I’m developing “habits”. New to the mix is paying the $50 UberXL fee for a private ride from the airport to the condo. And considering the storms on the way in, waiting for the bus was out.

Got to the condo, and for once – NO ONE was in the check-in line (it’s a big place). Threw the bags down, went out for Bourbon and mixer, fixed a cocktail, and basically chilled out. I have to say – HELLA view from this unit, best I’ve had here!

I got a one-bedroom, so there is room:

The rest of the pictures of the unit are from later in the trip when the place really looked “lived in”.

Here is the outside – not sure I like the new paint job:

The Bourbon and mixer – Basil Hayden for $30 a bottle – freakin’ cheap by Seattle standards:

My habit on the first night in NOLA seems to be a visit to Houston’s – a small national chain that adapts each cities menu. In this case, it includes jazz starting at 8.

And good food/booze – in this case, because it’s NOLA – that would be a Sazerac:

And an $18 burger:

I love the haystack fries, even though I shouldn’t have them.

My plan for the first day was to return to Purloo for an early lunch – only to find that they are no longer there, and that the Southern Food and Beverage Museum is closed on Tuesdays so that meant no shopping for odd southern cookbooks.

You can find the link to both those places on my February New Orleans post (http://blog.unclemarkie.com/2016/03/02/trip-report-arts-run-to-new-orleans/)

Had to come up with a new plan for lunch so I kept walking down Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. until I stumbled across Dryades Public Market, which is in what looks like an old schoolhouse. Got a Cuban from one stall and a Sazerac from the bar and called it lunch:

And I thought the bartender at Purloo!

Attempted to go back to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art – but guess what? Closed on Tuesdays. After a little shopping for Kathy (Princess of Tacky T-Shirts), caught the street car back to condo, futzed a bit, then headed out to Samuel’s Blind Pelican for an early dinner/late afternoon snack of oysters. Ended up getting a dozen of the raw on the half shell for $3 a dozen – and YES you read that correct – during Happy Hour which is 4-8pm, must purchase an “adult beverage” to qualify for the cheap price. No problem here.

Then moved onto the Charbroiled at $8.50 a dozen (and another “adult beverage”.

Even the dogs were eating oysters – this one trained to grab them from the edge of the bar!

Not sure how THESE guys who are on their feet for hours shucking oysters feel about them being dog food….

And this is one of the most amusing repurposing of door knobs – to hang you coat/purse on!

They go through a TON of oysters so they have their own truck:

And let’s not forget the Shrimp Boil and BBQ!

Whew! Real dinner later in the night was at Pho Orchid, starting with Vegetable Spring Rolls (well, after a Manhattan):

And then the combo fried rice – which I didn’t finish – but which made a great breakfast in the morning!

The following day brought me back to The Ogden Museum of Southern Art:

Here are some of my favorite pieces like this “quilts” from their invitational show:

The major show was works on paper from their collection, including two by Michael Meads – the artist that I came to specifically see in February:

Some other favorites:

And from the basement History of Graffiti in New Orleans:

Of my favorite museums, this one ranks in the top ten – maybe because they take chances and have more “adult-themed” exhibits rather than “general audience” exhibitions.

We’ve reached the end of this post – longer and it chokes in the machine. Stay tuned for Part Two!

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One Response to “Trip Report: New Orleans For The Miles – Part One”

  1. UMTravels » Blog Archive » Trip Report: New Orleans For The Miles – Part Two Says:

    […] I left off mid-way through one day because the post got too big, so here we go with Part Two (Part One Here!). […]

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