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Uncle Markie out and about.

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Sun
17
Dec '17

Future Report: Upcoming Travel

It’s not even the end of the year, and 2018 is stacking up to be a busy travel year. I should hit Alaska MVP Gold by the first week of March. Last year it was regular MVP by the first week of April. Looks like I’ll be Alaska MVP Gold 75K for 2019!

Here’s what’s on the books, though I might cancel the Cabo San Lucas trip for my birthday…

Yes, a lot of those are mileage runs (JFK/RDU). And two of the trips are blacked out because I’m keeping the destination a secret from my travelling companion. He just knows we are going someplace cold and someplace warm.

May you all be surrounded by friends and family this season.

[? ? ?]

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Sat
16
Dec '17

Trip Report: The Train Home

Thanks to an extra car at the house, I was able to drive myself to the train station in Lamy (LMY), and just lock the keys in the truck. VERY convenient.

Lamy used to have a great restaurant, sadly, closed, since Lamy is in the middle of nowhere.

I always show up early – an hour early. But the train is on time!

And soon, I was onboard:

I’m on the lower level in a roomette for the trip to Los Angeles…

Next stop is Albuquerque – where we had about 45 minutes…and time for me to get a hot dog!

Settled in, it’s just watching the countryside rolling by…..

And then it was time for dinner!

I went for the Land and Sea. That would be a steak and a seafood cake:

I always get my dessert to go, because the meals are so big – but about 9PM I need a snack…

The whipped cream looked better an hour ago…then it’s on to cocktails…

Life is hard on the train – especially if you need a smoke break, which I don’t. But nice to have a cocktail on the platform at Flagstaff.

Off to bed as it’s up at 5AM for breakfast and then back to bed before we pull into LA.

And that’s when it all went to shit. Nothing like an email from Amtrak saying…

Our records indicate that you are scheduled to depart on Amtrak train number 14 from Los Angeles, California at 10:10AM on Thursday December 7 and arriving in Seattle (King St. Station), Washington.

That schedule has been cancelled due to a service disruption. There is no alternate service available. To speak to a customer service representative about travel options such as selecting another date or destination call us at 877-231-9448 at your earliest convenience.

We apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for being a valued Amtrak customer.

I love the phrase, “There is no alternate service available.”

My response was to go the Sleeping Car Lounge on the second floor of the LA train station – where there is a real person, with real powers. And more importantly, answers.

And the answer was – yes, we will get you there. Bus to Bakersfield, San Joaquin to Emeryville, meet the Coast Starlight and actually get into my bedroom.

Here is a map to show you the route:

Up the middle was my route…not the coastal route to the left. I did get to see the Central Valley – the vegetable basket of America.

But it was on a bus…

Which they actually provided water, chips, snack box, and even a 6-inch sandwich from Subway:

Managed to get an hour or two of sleep before we hooked up with the San Joaquin:

If there is a silver lining to this “service disruption”, it’s that I have a 2+ hour layover in Emeryville which means I have time to have dinner with Mark and Onyx at Los Molés restaurant in Emeryville:

It was an unexpected pleasure – I’ll see the boys in a week or so in Seattle, but always nice for a random visit.

Before I knew it, it was back to the station:

And into my bedroom unit. It was late when I boarded, so the Car Attendant had already made up both beds. I usually go for just the upper, but it was nice to have a four-foot-wide bed to roll around in. And yes, he brought me a bucket of ice:

It’s a little crowded with both beds down.

Much more comfortable with the bed up:

Nothing like a sunrise in the Cascades…

Again, it was up at 6:30, eat breakfast, back to bed. Hard to turn down free meals. But I was up for lunch, where I took a chance on the steamed mussels:

I was pleasantly surprised. I would have used coconut milk, ginger, and lemon root, but for being on a train, it was good. Yes, I’m drinking Merlot with the mussels!

Just before Portland is Oregon Falls, site of an old paper mill I visited in my Microsoft days….

Dinner was even better (though a tad early for me – 5:30, because of our arrival time). On the Coast Starlight, you can dine solo in the Parlour Car (though this one was actually a bi-level café car since the Parlour Car was in the shop). I would have gone back for the steak, but the Braised Lamb Shank is the STAR of this route.

Train arrived early – I was home by 8:30.

Time to relax, and start the process of trying to get some of the points back for the bedroom that I didn’t have for 24 hours.

  • Call One – to the number on the “you are screwed” notice. Sorry, you completed the trip, and since it was on points, you need to contact Amtrak Guest Rewards.
  • Call Two – Amtrak Guest Rewards, you need to contact Customer Relations, which is only open Monday-Friday 6am to 9pm Monday to Friday, and no, there isn’t a direct line. Call 1-800-USA-RAIL, punch 0 a couple of times, ask the agent to transfer you.
  • Call Three – wait for Monday to roll around, get through to Guest Relations, file a claim to which they say they will email off. NO direct resolution.

At least they were quick – the next day 7,000 points were back in my account – which I think is a little shy of what I’m deserves for 1/3 of time in a sleeper that cost me 33,776 points. Might need to bitch some more.

That said, the “service disruption” was serious – it was the California wild fires that shut down the coastal route. I actually found a video clip shot from the tracks that the train runs – and the flames are close, and days later, I figured out how to embed the video from USA Today:

That’s it for this adventure – only one more for the year, but I’ll do a yearly travel update before the end of the year.

[223.4]

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Wed
6
Dec '17

Trip Report: New Mexico For A Couple Of Nights

Plane landed early, so The Colonels were still in route by the time I’d gotten my two checked bags. Suitcase and box of wine/cinnamon brandy.

Our plan for the afternoon is to hit the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History which used to be on the Air Force base, but after 911 and heightened security was moved to much larger facilities, eventually landing where they have space for extensive outdoor exhibits.

By the time we left we were starving – and a quick internet search turned up one of The Colonels favorite quick bit places.

fr

We all ordered the same Green Chile Cheeseburger with 100% Hatch Green Chilis. The Colonels opting for Chocolate Shakes, myself a Diet Dr. Pepper.

Stopped by their timeshare in downtown Santa Fe to have cocktails (me), wine (Madam Colonel), and nothing (Mister Colonel, who is the driver tonight).

Off to dinner at my sister and brother-in-law—a fabulous meal of pulled beef that we devoured (so much for leftovers for lunches)! Oddly, no group photo. Apparently, we were having too much fun.

No true for the dinner the next night – though it was only my sis (technically, my dead brother’s widow) and I – Kennan was off at some training where they were feeding him. Too bad, since he missed this:

Yep, those would be Gruet Rose bubbles – perfect with a three-pound bone-in pork loin.

I had them find a smaller one – should have bought the 4.5 pounder and just cooked it all up to have lots of leftovers…we put a serious dent in it. Now I know!

After dinner it was time to get out the atlas and talk about whether the Cape Verde Islands are African. I claim that they are African (definitely politically), The Colonels don’t, meaning we can’t claim that we’ve all been to all the continents together – I met them on a cruise to Antarctica, which started in Lisbon.

Tomorrow its off to Lamy to pick up the train to Los Angeles, and then onto Seattle.

[? ? ?]

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Tue
5
Dec '17

Flight Report: Probably The BEST Flight I’ve Ever Taken

Quite often I go to New Mexico to visit my sister and her husband (technically, my brother’s widow and her new husband), and then take the train back to Seattle. Amtrak schedules don’t really allow for going in the other direction if you actually want to make your connection.

Poked around the Alaska Airlines site and found a First-Class ticket for $230 – and I had a $75 coupon so that brought it to $155. Not bad for a three-hour flight in a comfy seat. Then there is the mileage accrual. Actual miles, plus a 100% bonus for class of service, plus a 125% bonus because I’m Alaska MVP Gold 75K. And the class of service bonus actually applies to lifetime flight miles – might dump me over the half million mark on Alaska, not that I get an award or anything. 1,179 + 1,179 = 2358 flight miles, plus the 125% bonus makes it 3,832 miles to spend on flights. That about 50% over what I’ll be getting from my cheapee flight from Seattle to Auckland, New Zealand – and for a three-hour flight, not almost 15,000 flight miles.

7:10am departure…which means up at 4am, to the airport at 5am to have my usual bagel/cream cheese and hard-boiled egg breakfast, wait for the lounge bar to open at 6am so I can have a glass of rose bubbles before we start boarding at 6:30am.

When I checked into the Lounge, this was the receptionist that answered the question, is there food in First on this flight, and what is it, so I know how much to stuff myself in the Lounge. And now she is pouring me bubbles (no, not Michael Jackson’s chimp – he’s in a Florida chip rescue retirement home)!

Alaska now has two nonstop flights between Seattle and Albuquerque – the morning flight is operated by Horizon in their new Embraer E175 jets, the afternoon in a 737 that doesn’t get in until a little after 9PM, and I’m not seeing the second flight on the schedule for January.

Yes, as is my usual Christmas tradition I’ve got my puss print Santa (or is that Satan) hat on. Starts the first of December, gets retired on the 25th.

So, here is the configuration of Horizon’s E175:

As you can see, the 12 First Class seats are in a 1-2 configuration – and I chose Seat 1A:

It’s nice to not have a neighbor – you get both a window AND an aisle seat. Soon, we were taxiing, which is when I realized I might be getting some good pictures out of this trip:

And the view kept getting better and better:

What a lovely day to fly! Especially when cocktails start showing up!

And breakfast:

Fresh fruit, a very chunky potato salad with greens, and a lovely little tiny quiche. With these views….

Though I should give you a little perspective:

We are far enough into the flight you can see the Front Range of the Rockies where the clouds start stacking up against the mountains and the farm land is all squares and circles:

Until the snow peters out…

And you are left with brown…

And then civilization…

I was truly sad to see the end of this flight – and this from someone who spends a good chunk of his life on airplanes.

I shot this little 30-second video while I was on the people-mover headed to Baggage Claim.

Enjoy.

[? ? ?]

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Sat
2
Dec '17

Travel Steal: Auckland for $410 Roundtrip

You hear about “mistake fares”, but I’d never heard soon enough to score one, and I scored two (though cancelled one within the 24-hour free period.

Got this mail from Scott’s Cheap Flights at 12:30am:

An incredible late-night mistake fare to New Zealand. These fares are downright erotic.

Book ASAP if you’re interested, these may not last long. Apologies for the late-night send, but can’t say for sure they’ll still be around in the morning and wanted to make sure night owls got a crack before they disappear 🙂

Also the cheapest fares are to Auckland but super cheap tickets also available elsewhere in New Zealand.

Remember that because these fares are likely mistake fares, there’s always a chance it won’t get honored. Wait a week or so before making any non-refundable plans. For more info, read our Mistake Fares FAQ.

And they were from LOTS of cities, too many to list, but basically everyplace that United flies from in the US.

So, for my $409.96, I get a roundtrip ticket to Auckland. Which is a steal. And I get better seating as a Star Alliance Gold. What I don’t get is many miles now that United Airlines has switched to a dollar spend model.

MileagePlus earnings

1.

MARKSTEPHEN SOUDER

Award miles

PQM

PQS

PQD

 

Premier® Gold member

2,304

14,388

4

$288

 

SEA – SFO

112

678

1

$14

 

SFO – AKL

Operated By Air New Zealand

1,040

6,516

1

$130

 

AKL – SFO

Operated By Air New Zealand

1,040

6,516

1

$130

 

SFO – SEA

112

678

1

$14

 

Total:

2,304

14,388

4

$288

MileagePlus earning information

Award miles shown are the miles that can be earned for this flight. Mileage accrued will vary depending on the terms and conditions of your frequent flyer program. United MileagePlus mileage accrual and other benefits of MileagePlus associated with air travel are subject to the rules of the MileagePlus program.

So, for sitting in an airplane seat for a little over 14,000 flight miles, I get 2,304 Frequent Flyer miles – 8 miles per dollar spent (none elite flyers get 5 miles per dollar). But it’s a ticket at a third the normal price.

Now, I just have to figure out what to do for ten days in New Zealand.

Years ago, I spent an overnight in in Rotorua on a flight from Sydney to Melbourne (freebie stopover), but it was sort of rushed. And New Zealand is home to lots of good wine. And I can use miles for interisland flights. Was thinking Christchurch, but my doctor who did some of his studies in NZ was recommending flying to Wellington and taking the ferry to Blenheim, and doing Marlborough wine country from there for whites, or fly to Queenstown for reds.

It’s not until June, but still amazed that I actually snagged such a cheap fare – usually about $1300 roundtrip.

[? ? ?]

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One Response to “Travel Steal: Auckland for $410 Roundtrip”

  1. Mick Westrick Says:

    Wow!

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Sun
26
Nov '17

Home Report: Fun With Cars

So, about nine months ago I bid on a former Seattle Public Utilities Ford Escapé at a local auction house…got outbid at the last minute. Oh well, another week, another auction, or maybe I don’t need a four-door car that bad.

Out of sight, out of mind.

Until a week and a half later when the auction house called to say that the high bidder didn’t ever make arrangements, and would was I still interested. It would be for the final bid (a few dollars higher than mine). Couldn’t make it my bid because of their contract with the state to sell it to the highest bidder.

What the hell – I’d just picked up a new marketing/design client – and it was a little under $5,000 (a little over $5,000 with taxes/fees/etc.).

Here is what I picked up:

And yes, I left on the “Frequent Stops” decal, but took off the fleet number.

It even came with chains (good, because it’s not four-wheel-drive), and a place to strap in a fire extinguisher.

I’d noticed this on the top of the car but assumed it was a cap that covered the light bar wiring hole…

It being a Seattle Public Utilities car, it came with some interesting accessories:

The particularly amusing thing about the laptop mount is that it’s a RAMounts product – produced less than a block away from my house.

In cleaning up the interior of the car (after I’d gotten the leftover residue from various other stickers they’d removed from the outside), I discovered THIS under the front seat:

It looked live, so I grabbed a laptop and tried it out!

Sure enough, it was live, with no firewall, but not the greatest speed at 3G, but FREE Internet in my car. WooHoo!

Next up was to swap this (which the backlight didn’t work):

For this. Less than $100 with all the mounting hardware/trim at Crutchfield – CDs, BlueTooth, USB, SD Card, AUX:

And add this because we all need 110AC and USB Charging in our road cars:

And that is how the car sat until last night when I popped this onto the network hub in the car:

What I think is the world’s smallest Wi-Fi router/bridge/extender. Under $20!

Now, when the ignition is on, my Escapé is a Wi-Fi hot spot.

Road Trip!

[220.2]

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Mon
20
Nov '17

Trip Report: Boston For A Buddy

It’s going to be a quick trip, but a friend is about to turn 60…on Thanksgiving Day. I can’t be there for the holiday (I open the shop on Thanksgiving Day from 11-3), or for the party on Saturday (also working), so I thought I’d pop out for a couple of nights to hand deliver a birthday present (which I’d show you a picture of, but he might be one of those stealth blog readers and it would ruin the surprise).

I’d gotten upgraded for the return leg, but a few hours after I checked in for the outbound I got an upgrade notice for the flight to Boston. Woohoo! Rarely happens on the Boston/Seattle run since there are lots of business travelers on the route – maybe that 75K Gold status is paying dividends. The flight, booked just two weeks in advance, was $320 – and I had a $300 future flight coupon that I cashed in, so $20 for First Class roundtrip across the country.

Sadly, it’s a red-eye to Boston and an early morning flight home. Headed to the airport early to have a little dinner before the flight since I’m guessing it will just be a snack even up front.

The Alaska Lounge now has their pancake machine turned on all day – and some people are fascinated by how it works:

I’m not much of a pancake guy, so this was my meal in D concourse lounge:

Followed by a different soup in the new C concourse lounge:

Seat 1A on the way out…

And the aforementioned snack…

Can’t overdrink on the plane because I’m picking up a rental car in Boston. Sad, I know. In retrospect, I would have done this differently.

Got to Pucci’s place about 8am, and promptly went back to bed to get more than the couple of hours of sleep I got on the plane.

By the time I got up, it was time for lunch…

There was one convenience of having a car…a run to the liquor store for supplies. Pucci wants me to teach him my mother’s recipe for Manhattans. I brought orange bitters, decent cherries, vermouth, and some of my hooch, but mom always liked rye in hers if she was making them fancy.

The downside of the timing of my visit is that it’s just two nights (Monday and Tuesday) because I had company coming into town starting Wednesday, at least I did when I booked the trip. Both Monday and Tuesday are days that Pucci teaches from 3-9pm so we’ll just get lunches and drinks after work this trip.

And drink, we did, staying up to 3am Monday night. The damage:

Oh, and the one on the left is a liter bottle. Needless to say, Pucci didn’t make it to the gym in the morning. We barely had time to go out for Mexican food at Jose’s, and we were so hungry, I didn’t even get a photo of the “before”, just the “after”:

My dinner plans tonight are with Dan and Lisa from Denver. Dan works from home for a Boston-based company, and happens to be in town for a couple of weeks for work, and to see his Grandmother who evacuated Florida during the hurricane. The plan was:

  • Uber to the Alewife T Station
  • T to Government Crossing
  • Meet up with Dan and Lisa
  • Lyft to the restaurant

There was a mix up in times, and for me to be on-time (actually, 15 minutes early), I just took Uber all the way to the restaurant.

Half the time, and only $17.25! Guess how I got home.

Dinner is at Hojoko, located it The Verb Hotel. I started off with a cocktail and some edamame…

That would be the Relaxing Time Highball – a nod to Lost in Translation that I watched on my return flight from Montevideo.

Nice restaurant – with a view of the hotel pool:

We were a party of six, including one six-year-old or so…

At this point, I’d switched to the Lil’ Ume, there take on a Manhattan…

No, we didn’t get into any of the “drink buckets”…

And then the food started coming…

Above, halibut collar, below, Brains on Crack (calf sweetbreads).

Plus, lots of sashimi, tempura mushrooms, some sort of roll, and more. We did not go hungry.

We started so early that I was home via Uber before Pucci got back from teaching!

More cocktails this evening, but there was a conscious decision on both our parts to wrap it up by midnight since I have to get up at 4am to get the barely used rental car back to the airport and get checked in.

Grabbed a Croisantwich on the way to the gate – sometime to tide be over until a real breakfast on the plane…this time in seat 1F.

And said breakfast:

Not sure about the one piece of asparagus and the grilled Roma tomato, but ate the rest of it.

Got home around 1pm, and you guessed it, went back to bed for a nap.

A quick trip, but I managed to squeeze a lot in.

[222.4]

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Sun
12
Nov '17

Trip Report: Uruguay – Day Four

My final day in Uruguay and I’m sleeping in again, waking to go get breakfast before they stop serving, and then go back to bed for another hour or so. Today is going to be a long day that stretches into tomorrow. Missed a market with Rache – but figured I needed the sleep more.

After he returned, we headed out to Tres Cruces to pick up tickets for the 1st Class airport bus:

We picked a restaurant close by, one that I’d passed the first day in town assuming it was only pizza. El Refugio. Unlike Monday’s restaurant, no Visa excepted here – guess I shouldn’t have bought the bus tickets with cash!

We ordered a bottle of Tannat and sparkling water to go with lunch, only to find out they had no Tannat. We settled for Merlot.

Today, it’s my order that turns out to be something other than I’d expected (which was grilled octopus and a salad):

Rache got what he expected…chicken and rice:

Lovely meal, lots of people watching…

But soon, it was time to grab the bus to the airport – Rache is sweetly going with me, which in retrospect, now seems silly, but it was nice. It was $6.50 to the airport, and he caught a local bus back for $2:

The bus made a couple of quick stops, but we got to the airport in less than 45 minutes:

Wasn’t long to get through security and immigration, and off to explore what’s on offer in the airport – apparently more wine if I’d like it, and I saw seats and a bar, so I’m guessing they do glass pours…

After a little snack and a cocktail or two, boarded to plane and hung my headphones and phone holder on the brochure holder. Tips and tricks of travelling a lot. Only once have I been asked to hold them during takeoff/landing:

The rest of the post is all about the return flights home. Red-eye to Miami, then to Dallas, finally to Seattle.

On the upside – ALL the legs of my return were in Main Cabin Extra, ALL with an open seat next to me (which is rare these days).

On the downside – the 767-300ER on the Montevideo route, while more recent than the one on the way down, still had some mechanical issues. Yes, the reading lights worked. Yes, the audio worked. Sadly, what didn’t work was the heat. It being a red-eye flight, we had pillows and blankets – which weren’t enough to be comfortable when only half the heat sources on the airplane were working. It was so cold that even the cabin crew was saying it was ridiculous and stripped down the crew beds once they were done with their naps and distributed the thicker blankets to those who looked in distress (myself being one of them). I’d packed my jacket in my checked bag – and even having a spare blanket from the empty seat next to me. I was VERY thankful to get one of the thicker ones. EVERYONE on the plane was bundled up in whatever they had.

Got to Miami half an hour early, happy to be in a warmer environment, even if it was having to trek a half mile to immigration and customs, which was quick because of Global Entry. First stop – the Admiral’s Club for a long hot shower to get my body temperature back to normal. The breakfast snack was also welcome. Too early to actually get a cocktail though.

Got four newspapers read before grabbing my flight to Dallas/Ft. Worth on a MUCH newer A321S, complete with USB charging, free in-flight entertainment system with LOTS of movies, I opted for “Classic” titles like Lost In Translation.

Arrived in A terminal in Dallas/Ft. Worth, the terminal with the Admirals Club under renovation, and a tight connection with just enough time to grab a wrap at 7-11 (yes, there is a convenience store in the terminal – wish ALL airports had them).

Another A321S, another open seat next to me, all was good, though the memory of shivering the night before still fresh in my memory. Guessing there will be a letter to American about the equipment they use on their South America routes.

Grabbed an Uber home, dumped luggage, drove to the Post Office for a “must sign for” couple of small packages, came home, took a nap, made fresh chicken noodle soup (OK, the noodles, the vegetables, the bone-picked chicken, and the stock were all in the freezer) to make sure I didn’t get sick from all the people I’d been around.

Work the next two days, and leave again after work on day two. Boston, here I come!

[224.4]

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Sat
11
Nov '17

Trip Report: Uruguay – Day Three

I should mention that our hotel rate includes breakfast – and it’s not a bad breakfast:

And, as it turns out, there is also a convenience store – and since they use the restaurant’s credit card machine, so it’s 22% off snacks, sodas, etc. The ice (Helio in Spanish, pronounced Yellow), they will give you for free.

Wednesday in Montevideo – another day, another adventure. Calgon, bring me an Uber. And off we go…with Rache providing most of the commentary, and me adding my [ ] comments and pictures.

First of all, I use Uber. Call me cheap, but getting across this city of 1.3 million folk for less than $6.00 instead of 3,4, even 5 times that amount via cab, I can somewhat justify providing the Uber drivers something instead of nothing. Having the Skyroam Personal Wi-Fi device [$8 a day, plus hardware – and it’s more reliable than my 2G free T-Mobile connection] makes accessing the Uber app just as easy as in the States. 

Markie’s and my first stop was the Castillo Pittamiglio. The castle was designed by a guy who was an architect and alchemist. The visual reflects both. Alas, the tour wasn’t until 5 PM so we just saw the exterior and the entrance. 

We opted to walk on the Rambla for a while but a squall (no, a SQUALL!!) sent us to shelter.

We summoned a driver and he delivered us to Mercado del Puerto. About the only thing that stands serve there is meat and more meat. This place I had seen on Anthony Bourdain and we found the “Estancia del Puerto,” stall, and basically sat where Bourdain sat.

We opted for the BBQ for two and included beef, pork, lamb, and chicken, plus blood sausage, white sausage, kidney, sweetbreads, intestines, and perhaps more. Instead of a platter, a metal pan is filled with hot embers, then a metal top piled with meat is placed on top. Everything stays hot.

We chose a Tannat and mineral water to wash things down.

The BBQ for 2 could easily feed 3 or 4 and what we left behind certainly reflects that. This meat event is high on things to do in Montevideo, but I must tell you, it’s more about quantity rather than quality. Bodega Bouza focuses on quality. I’m glad we did it. [We also spent a little bit of time looking at the half dozen shops that sold tourist goods rather than hunks of grilled meat.]

The rains had stopped and so had our energy. We summoned a ride to the hotel for a needed nap before our concert [and a little deck time with chairs I liberated from the supply closet and cocktails].

Prior to the concert, Markie and stopped in at Cerveza Patagonia, an Argentinian company with several locations. The server there was so into beer and gave me the name and address of a craft brewer here in Montevideo. I’ll perhaps check it out today or tomorrow. The kid was really into beer and he was delighted with the North Jetty stickers I gave him. He immediately stuck one to his phone. Lots of enthusiasm and definitely an IPA fan. It would be fun to get him up to North Jetty Brewing. [And I love the repurposed kegs into bar stools and the Seattle-based Elysian posters in the bathroom.]

Teatro Solis opened in 1856. The interior is amazing. Tiers of boxes and fabulous seats throughout. Mario Laginha and Pedro Burmester, a piano duo, dazzled with technicality and artistry, if not always jazz. Still, it was a great event.

Our lunch was fading, so even though the concert started at 9PM, we are at 11PM looking for meal and ended up at Praga Restaurant y Café just off Plaza Indepencia. Again, we keep ordering two dishes each! Even with the bread and salmon spread as a freebie.

Ceviché starter for me:

Salad starter for Rache (and he actually got a real salad this time):

Tempura Shrimp for my main:

Risotto for Rache:

Back into an Uber, back into the beds, for tomorrow is an abbreviated last day.

[223.6]

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Sat
11
Nov '17

Trip Report: Uruguay – Day Two

One of the reasons that Rache and I travel together so well is that I sleep in (and stay up late) and he goes out and explores (and goes to bed earlier). So far, no notes by the coffeemaker – we don’t have a coffee maker (two-burner range, microwave, and an electric kettle).

On this trip, Rache has been doing all the planning so I just make myself available, knowing he spent months working out the details. My requests were a winery or two and a concert in the Teatro Solis. Today we are being picked up at 1pm to go to the Bodega Bouza winery, which, unbeknownst to Rache, we carried their 2011 Unoaked Tannat at the shop.

Rache says it all better in his email post of the day…I’ll pick it up later. My comments are in brackets [ ], and the pictures are mine:

Markie and I have a very workable routine. He is a night owl, I’m a morning person. I often get up, get breakfast, showered and out the door for my morning urban walk. We have a good 8-10 hours of together time during the day. Then we give each other our quiet alone time. It works really well.

Our hotel is not in a very pretty part of town [but if you want bus or need a hospital, got plenty of both]. Still, it is very convenient to my transportation needs so it’s perfect. And Uber is so inexpensive here. Love it. My plan today is to haul Markie’s ass all around today. Anyway, there aren’t too many photos of the city so far. Hopefully today. Still, got over 9,000 steps in before Markie was up and ready to go.

Back on September 18, I tried to make a reservation online to the winery. Somehow, I was unable to complete the form and send. So, I found an email address and wrote my dilemma. The response was, “We’ll be glad to have you here. To complete your reservation, we need you to tell us the name of the hotel in which you’ll be staying.” I did. The response was, “Our van will pick you up around 1 PM.” That was it. It seemed so informal and incomplete. I also sent an email day before yesterday with no response, I was wondering…

1:00 came and went, 1:05, 1:10, 1:15 and my concern grew more. But at 1:20, the Bouza Bodega van arrived.

Markie and I joined a young couple from Brazil. And off we went. In about a half hour, we were at our destination. Amazingly [on the grounds waiting for the tour], Markie ran into the young man he had met on his flight from Seattle to Miami, [and then again on the Miami -Montevideo flight a day later] along with two of his friends. They had just completed their winery tour and lunch and assured us we were in for a treat. Small world. 

Before long, Pablo, dressed in a pinstriped suit [looking very much like an undertaker], said the tour was about to begin. We started the tour in front of some Tannat vines. Pablo was masterful because he had folks who spoke Portuguese, Spanish, and English. He explained things thoroughly to each group.

After the vines, we went into the winery, where the winemaking process begins. Huge stainless steel and French oak fermenting vats (5,300 liters) were there along with some epoxy lined concrete chambers used for the same purpose. The grapes also arrive and were squeezed in this room. The methods for squeezing grapes for red wine and white wine are different. 

From the fermenting room, we descended into the chilly cellar where barrels and bottles were stored. Bouza uses French and American Oak. They use the barrels only three times before they are replaced. Each year, a third of the barrels are sold to other wineries, beer makers, and distillers. 

Below the cellar one could see a special room where each year 42 bottles of each [vintage] are aged [to be evaluated as to how they are holding up, when to drink them, etc.]. There is a glass floor revealing this room. Pablo has been in this lower chamber but once.

Back in September, I had requested that we have the total Bouza Experience. That included transportation to and from the winery, the tour, a tasting and lunch. So, after the tour, we were escorted to the onsite restaurant. And sure enough, my name was on the roster for the complete package. Our table was ready, right next to 23 festive Brazilian women [out of 27 travelling together] who were obviously in celebratory mode. They were a riot, at one point gathering all together for group photos with a server being the photographer. Anyway, our tastings consisted of an Albariño, followed by Merlot, Monte Vide Eu (blend), and the Uruguayan national wine, Tannat. Markie and I both loved the big-ass red of the Tannat so we ordered that to accompany our main course. 

I started off with grilled octopus [I went for the paté]. While just as tender as the tentacle I had in José Ignacio, it wasn’t quite as flavorful. Still, it was amazing and the Albariño went well with that. “Bouza Baby Beef” was my choice for a main. There was a special of “Arm of Lamb” that Markie chose. The steak was perfectly rare and combined flawlessly with the big ass Tannat! Yum. Markie’s lamb shank was also delicious! For dessert, I opted for the classic Créme Brûlée while Markie had the Martin Fierro Soufflé that was inspired by Stella. Markie and followed it all with a coffee and a Tannat grappa. 

So, if one pays with a foreign credit card [at least in restaurants], the 22% value added tax (VAT) is deducted [from the credit card slip. This rebate was recently extended to April 2018]. Because of that, I was able to be more than generous with the much-deserved tip. So instead of 6,000 pesos, the bill came back at about 4,900 pesos. When all was said and done, round trip transportation, a tour, a tasting, and a 3-course lunch and tips to the servers and driver came to about $112.14 each. Truly, it was a bargain!

Before boarding the van for the return to the hotel, Markie and I each bought a bottle of grappa plus we got to tour the grounds and gardens afterwards. It was a fabulous experience.

Because lunch started at 3:00, we really had no room for dinner last night. We did a little snacking but seriously, the meal was so satisfying and memorable, we opted to not dine out [but we did go explore the rooftop deck which you access through the gym]. 

Oh, one thing before I go. A Uruguayan soccer team [Club Atlético Torque – part of the Manchester City franchise, as I learned the next morning in the elevator] arrived on our floor last evening. Young men in the early-mid 20s from all appearances. We thought there was going to be mayhem and frolicking all night but at 9:00, it was lights out and everyone in their rooms, uncannily silent. Apparently, a very important match is on tap for today.                                                                                                                                                                

Off to bed without the soccer team being tempted by our open door and displays of whiskey. What a fun day!

[? ? ?]

For more than just this post, check out the whole blog at http://blog.unclemarkie.com

 

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Fri
10
Nov '17

Trip Report: Uruguay – Day One

After my red-eye flight in, it was time to explore the neighborhood (and find some lunch). We are just off a traffic circle that also has a tunnel under it to help through traffic:

Montevideo has its roots in the Colonial Era:

This would be the British Hospital, in the same block with the National Hospital and the Italian Hospital:

I was surprised at how rare cash machines are (but there are cambios seemingly on every block). I found one and got a little cash until I could meet up with Rache – more on the cash situation later.

You’ll see LOTS of places offering pizza (thank or curse the Italians), but I opted for an outside table at La Flama, a bar/tavern/gastro pub a block away from Tres Cruces Mall and Main Bus Terminal (for long distance buses).

Good people watching…

I opted for the Hamburgusa Al Pan Completa with Frites. That would be a cheeseburger stuffed with lettuce, tomatoes, hard-boiled egg, ham, chopped green olives:

It was WAY too much food – or I could blame it on the rare beer (I was thirsty, and that’s really a bad way to rehydrate). It was here that I realized that while in major cities around the world, English is a second language – not so in Montevideo, which to me is interesting because it’s such a middle-class country. Nothing like trying to explain I wanted the leftovers boxed to go – in pantomime.

Headed back to the hotel to just sit on the couch and read until the room was ready, but they surprised me having our room available a couple of hours early. Rache did a GREAT job getting us a two-bedroom with kitchenette for about $85 a night. Well worth it. Rache was about an hour behind me getting to the hotel as he was coming in from the nether regions – he’d arrived a couple of weeks before me. So close to when I got into the room I didn’t even have a chance to get pictures of the pristine room:

We got settled in, and promptly took naps before Rache scouted through Trip Advisor to find us a dinner spot. I’ll turn it over to him:

Using TripAdvisor, we chose a restaurant. The desk clerk called to make sure it was open. I asked if taxi or Uber was better. “Uber is much cheaper.” I was somewhat reluctant after the hassle getting from the airport. However, within three minutes, we were heading across town to Restauran Don Andrés. The reviews were somewhat misleading but still the food was delightful. And we had our first Uruguayan red wine with dinner. Uruguay is famous for “Tannat” wine. The modern wine industry in Uruguay dates back from 1870. Uruguay is the fourth largest wine producer in South America. Tannat grapes were introduced to the country by Don Pascual Harriague, a Basque. (Oh dear, this paragraph is getting out of control) Anyway, I thought I was ordering a Caprese Salad but ended up with ravioli for my first course. Followed by a delicious and rich lasagna about the size of a flying saucer. OMG! Restauran Don Andrés was not what was expected, but it was delish.

I think we were both thinking more Carne than Italian, but the preparation and presentation was wonderful, and the restaurant filled on a Monday with multiple large tables of extended family.

Rache’s “Ensalada Caprese” top, my calamari bottom:

Rache’s lasagna top, my four cheese incrusted fish with mash potatoes (and yes, it was time for another pantomime of “box to go”):

The Uber rides were the equivalent of six bucks each was, and the meal with wine and tip was a little over $45USD. Not bad for dinner for two with wine.

With a short Uber ride, we were back at Mercosur Universitas Apartment/Hotel where we both needed to be horizontal.

[? ? ?]

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Tue
7
Nov '17

Trip Report: Headed South, WAY South

I always post (OK, slightly) happy, happy, stories of lounges and upgrades, but often as not, it’s merely the lounge for some “pre-func” and getting trapped behind the curtain on a completely full plane (or planes). In this case, it was a mileage redemption ticket with two back-to-back red-eye flights.

Snow is predicted, and Alaska has already cancelled 30+ flights out of Sea-Tac on Saturday (after working the day).

I’m sort of amazed that even travelling on American Airlines on a ticket booked nine months ago, my current Alaska MVPGold75K status shows up:

I love the fact that the photo is so blurry that I don’t have to blur out my frequent flyer number!

It looks good in the picture…but then the rest of the row filled up:

And off I go on the red-eye to Miami – where I experienced Daylight Savings Time in the air!

Maybe got an hour or two of sleep, but this is where I really got the sleep:

In the recliner at the Admirals Club in Miami (best $295 a year I spend, right up there with Amazon Prime). It being an international gateway, there are even showers (besides the free food and booze):

Sadly, the shower room wasn’t equipped with an “amenity kit” – you know, things like a razor, toothpaste and brush, but I’d packed a fresh shirt and socks in my laptop bag, which I needed (like a run-on sentence) on the next, also full flight, a mere 13 HOURS later:

This is a 767-300, which the business class section has been upgraded, and there is Main Cabin Extra (where I am), but it’s not been gutted and redone. I just realized I have a picture of Justin, who I saw on leg one of the trip, and chatted up in line for leg two. Seated, in G, with glassed.

Here is what they call “power at the seat” (and only available in Business and Main Cabin Plus). Sorry, I forgot my cigarette lighter adapter!

Seriously, on a plane, where a kid can put his wet orange juice-laden finger in the socket? In Main Cabin Extra (where I was), there were AT LEAST nine children (one of them hacking up phlegm and kicking the back of my seat until he passed out – or was that me).

My review of this particular American Airlines 767-300 is:

  • Useless power jack, thanks for trying
  • Reading lights for the entire plane not functioning
  • No working flight attendant call button
  • No audio to go with the overhead video that they reset twice
  • You had hot food for “dinner” and an interesting “breakfast”
  • There was free wine and beer

So much for getting any work/reading done. I couldn’t even really see my meal:

I should have keep the phones light on, so I could see to cut the “chicken”. They didn’t even turn up the house lights since it was a red-eye flight. But it’s free “food” and “light” booze in the back, with extra legroom (which goes away for Alaska premium flyers for American Airline awards [and regular bookings] after January one).

There is an “odd” upside…I couldn’t read or watch TV, so, on an eight-hour flight, I actually got a couple of hours of sleep – which I usually don’t do on planes (too much stimuli).

Hello, Montevideo!

When I booked the hotel transfer, I didn’t realize how important the $7USD upcharge would be ($45USD rather than $37), to ride into town in a C-Class Benz. I needed it.

My driver (Gonzalo, from bybremises.com) was a little tardy, but that allowed me to stuff my hoodie and two liters of bourbon from duty free in my checked bag. The flight was late, and I was one of the first off the plane so I was a tad worried, even though they’d sent me a confirmation, with his picture, and a reminder the day before I arrived. Kudos to Gonzalo for chatting me up, in enough English, to inquire if it was my first time (to Montevideo – and yes, but it was only four hours off a cruise ship) and if he should take the scenic route along the coast and the Rambla (Republic of Mexico) neighborhood, which bordering the sea, reminded me of the Malecón in Havana, Cuba – but being the very wealthy suburbs rather than in the city center.

Got to the hotel reasonably sober, but way too early for check-in.

Stored the bags and headed out for lunch.

To be continued.

[? ? ?]

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Fri
3
Nov '17

Trip Report: Vegas Baby!

After last week’s quiet trip to Long Beach (Washington), this week is a little more hectic, since it’s VEGAS, BABY!

Salamander stayed the night at my place since it’s an early flight (because we are all cheap, and this was the cheap flight) with DancingBear showing up at 6am for our Uber to the airport.

Bit of a clusterfuck boarding the plane – that or most of the plane was MVPGold and higher – might be since I saw one of the wine shop customers in line (and on the plane in my favorite seat).

DancingBear and I were across the aisle in the Exit Row (nope, not even an upgrade to Premium for me), which Salamander in the back. We were on three different reservation numbers, and the three of us in one row would just be a bad idea.

Picked up the rental car with me as a second driver, and since we were too early to check in, it was off to lunch at the Black Bear Diner (even though they don’t have a bar) for lunch. And not a small lunch. I got the Rueben (very good):

Salamander, the Hot Turkey Mess (I mean Sandwich):

DancingBear got the Turkey Sandwich with avocado and cranberry:

Stocked up at the liquor store for the week and beyond, then headed to the WorldMark Las Vegas Boulevard to see if our room was ready – it only being 1pm, I was pleasantly surprised when it was available.

Here are lots of pool shots which is where we headed after stocking the fridge:

Salamander didn’t spend much time poolside as he prefers to go to the strip to watch people. Fortunately, he tends to make it back home in time for food, which tonight, DancingBear is making Chicken Marsala from scratch:

We eat well while we are on the road – this is breakfast the next morning:

Sadly, I’d eaten half before I got the camera out. Even our lunch outs are fun…

Tuesday was errand day. DancingBear needed sandals, but ended up with sandals, tennis shoes, and a new jumper. I was shopping for cheap cloth napkins since the unit didn’t come with an, and I forgot to pack mine. Almost bought this:

Tonight, we are having guests for dinner. The Colonels are in town from Kentucky, which is why we are here this particular week – got the table set up for the five of us:

Tonight’s dinner:

Our final day in Vegas, Salamander went back to the strip and DancingBear and I headed to Red Rock Canyon National Conversation Area, not far from Vegas. He even had his National Parks pass with him!

I didn’t get the picture stitched together very well, but you get the point:

This park is just a beautiful drive….

Yes, that’s a Bentley ragtop.

A four-wheel-drive Mercedes Sprinter:

And a Polaris Slingshot:

And you can even get a Nevada plate featuring Red Rock Canyon…

After all the activity, it was lunch time.

Not the best lunch food or service wise, so I’d avoid John Cutter. ONE waitress for the entire inside and outside.

Both DancingBear’s wrap and my ½ Philly Cheese Steak came with a side salad – which we boxed and took home for dinner.

And our sunset from the walkway to our unit:

And said dinner:

Not bad for leftovers!

Another early morning finds us back at the airport – at the lounge partner I didn’t know about before this trip, and what a lounge it is!

Yep, it’s morning, no one is quite awake.

At least I got into Premium for the ride home, DancingBear missed it by one row, and Salamander was almost back by the bathrooms. Maybe I should link are reservations next time to see if I can get up all better seats.

Home to work a five-day shift – a rarity.

[225.0]

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Sat
28
Oct '17

Trip Report: Long Beach Staycation

I booked this almost a year ago – figuring that it would be easy to fill four nights in a three-bedroom/three-bath Presidential unit right on the beach in Long Beach…turns out, two of the usual cast of characters are going with me a week later to Vegas, so it’s just Rache (who actually LIVES in Long Beach, Washington) and I in the massive place – we each have our own wings!

Nice day for a drive…

View from the beach:

Ours is the upper left hand top unit, big enough to take a little video of….

And here is the view:

I don’t’ think we will run out of alcohol anytime soon!

And Rache brought some pre-dinner nibbles in the form of bivalves. Luckily, he’s a pro at shucking…

Yum!

Before long, it was time to start work on dinner and get the BBQ fired up:

Grilling as the sun goes down:

Steaks off the grill – and Rache brought navy bean soup to go with it.

Life is hard at the ocean, but then you go to bed and wake up to a scramble of eggs, fresh corn tortillas, and leftover steak:

One of the reasons we brought all the booze was to sample the distiller who is setting up shop across the street from the WorldMark. Nice facility:

With nice equipment:

Fully automated for repeatability.

A little bigger than my rig!

Ran some errands and then headed over to Ilwaco for a little lunch snack at Salt.

And cocktail.

With a view.

The food is good, too! Fish tacos….

I’d forgotten my slippers, so we visited the local clothing/hardware store (Dennis Company) – where I found these FABULOUS rubber slippers marked down from $30 to $10 – I had to take the inserts out to turn the Women’s Size 11 into a 12.

Tonight’s dinner is BBQ Chicken with Grilled Corn-On-The-Cob.

Prep is done:

And Rache shucked another dozen oysters:

Nothing like grilling in your robe:

The aftermath…

With an after dinner hot tub:

Rainy day but we wanted out of the apartment. Met up with a friend of Rache’s who used to dog sit for him across the street at the Pickled Fish, above Adrift (which also owns the distillery). My eggs benedict with Bloody Mary:

The Yoghurt Parfait (which I’d never have ordered, but it looks REALLY good).

And Rache’s light breakfast sides of Grits and Bacon:

Back to the apartment for a bit of storm watching – this is what happened to the hot tub cover:

And a little video:

Serious rain…

We ducked into the Long Beach’s version of Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe in Seattle – Marsh’s Free Museum. Half alligator, half boy….

With a working player piano –

Found a moderately tacky t-shirt for Kathy, but sadly none in her size.

Fortunately, by the end of the day, the storm died down enough that I could actually BBQ again – and try out the rotisserie I found in the water heater closet.

Prep:

Rotisserie mount – not stable – missing pieces:

Meat on the grill:

Dinner:

After dinner hot tub celebration with a Cuban cigar I brought back from Havana:

Fun trip – all sorts of weather. Hustled back to the city on Friday for something that turned into a date.

[? ? ?]

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Wed
25
Oct '17

Home Report: Sometimes I’m Not On The Road Or In The Air

It is true that sometimes I’m not on the road or in the air – then it’s time to get stuff done around the house.

Like fix the luggage that has broken from all the air travel. My hard-side that turns into a hang truck needed some serious re-bolting and a couple of pop rivets…

The other bag – the one that turns into a computer table, just needed one of its wheels glued back together (we’ll see how long that lasts):

And a little shop project. A recycling shed for out by the street:

That is all cardboard from the wine shop where we don’t have garbage/recycle pickup.

And the completed project! Jim called it a “cardboard doghouse”.

And project for the shower, like a self-draining soap dish:

Plus, additions to the showerhead mounted waterpick:

Ran a load of wine into brandy and got it maturing on the back deck:

Picked up another nine and a half cases of bad wine for the next runs. Turns out having the Ford Escape is handy!

Her advice was to check some of the bottles as they might still be drinkable – that would be nice at a buck a bottle. Stay tuned.

Sort of nice to have a week off the road since it seems like I haven’t for the last six.

[? ? ?]

 

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Sun
8
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.

[225.0]

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Fri
6
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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Thu
5
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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Wed
4
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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Fri
29
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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