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Sep '19

Trip Report: Kansas City Quickie

This picture should explain how I felt the morning of this trip:

Apparently, so did the guy in the fourth row.

A quick trip to Kansas City since we are running out of Arthur Bryant’s BBQ Sauce, and they won’t sell and ship to me wholesale, but if I show up at the restaurant they will give me a case discount.

It’s also a good excuse to visit friends.

Went straight from the airport with Paul to Lawrence to have dinner at Merchants with Wendy.

Inside of an old bank building, where the restrooms are in the old safe.

An interesting cocktail to start. In A Pickle was my choice:

Lots of appetizers split three ways:

And a split sandwich…Brussel sprouts and mac & cheese as sides:

And because Paul was there, dessert:

Got back to Kansas City around 9PM to meet up with Gail who had a meeting conflict with dinner…stayed up until 3AM (well, Paul and I) chatting away, catching up from a year between visits.

In the morning, it was coffee before heading to the Nelson-Atkins for lunch and art…

Gail left before Paul and I wandered around a bit, then took off for Arthur Bryants for a case of sauce.

A bit of a panic ensued…my plan was to pick up two cases of their sauce in plastic bottles – which they didn’t have I stock so I had to do glass. With plastic I could just slap a bag tag on it and check it. With glass we had to stop by Office Depot for bubble wrap and an exterior box. Total pain that doesn’t bode well for future purchases.

Not sure why they didn’t have it in plastic – found it in plastic behind security albeit at double the price I paid with the case discount.

A fun, but brief trip. There is the possibility of a March trip as a four night stay with Rache as it’s on his list of places to visit.


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Sep '19

Destination Report: Kamaka Ukulele Factory Tour

I have so many pictures of the Kamaka Ukulele Factory in downtown Honolulu that I thought a separate post would be easier. This was probably my tenth tour of their facility –yes, I drag all my friends and family on this tour, and no one seems to regret the time.

They have been in business for 103 years, and the son (94 years old) still gives the intro part of the tour four days a week at 10:30am. The founder’s grandson (who is now the production manager) give the shop part of the tour.

This visit was with my sis-in-law and her husband


It starts with stacks of Koa wood, which they air dry onsite for 3-4 years.

Past their CNC machine

And soon we are inside the shop…where they use heat to shape the sides:

Then the shaping of the body…

The gluing of the book matched front and back panels…

The application of all the internal supports….

And the assembly of fronts, sides, backs…

And in their last stages…

Thought I’d include their current price list. Currently there is about an 18-month wait list for a new standard model. Longer on custom woods, etc. Got one to repair? That’s only 12 months out.

The last part of this post is for Jonathan since it has to do with dust collection…

Well, that’s it for this post. Headed to Kansas City next week.

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Sep '19

Trip Report: Waikiki With The In-Laws

It feels “odd” to call them “My In-laws”, but there is no blood connection with them, just very strong bonds. Jen is my dead brother Karl’s widow. Kennan is her husband. Jameson and Julian, who you’ve read about in this blog are Kennan’s nephews. In many ways, when they married, we became a three-family unit.

Jen and Kennan got to Hawaii a few days before me to check out the North Shore in a VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner). Sounds like they had a great time, but you’ll have to ask them about that.

Do you think I packed enough for four nights at the beach?

It’s the wine that adds a bit to the packing. Sadly, it being a box and a bag style that usually has tools – it was unloaded with the other boxes. You think I pack a lot? This is just about half of the crates from my flight:

The place wasn’t ready as I arrived at noon for a 4pm check-in –this particular Wyndham has a bad reputation for slow room turnover, even with a mandatory 10am check-out. I headed next door to Giovanni’s with a 10% off coupon from the activities desk:

Nice place, though it feels like it’s the end of its lifespan (as in, it’s ready for a refresh):

Here is a panoramic video from our massive deck:

Tuesday as our big day:

  • Kamaka Ukulele Factory Tour
  • Liliha Bakery Café
  • Salvation Army for Aloha Shirts
  • Waikiki Farmers Market
  • Dinner at the condo

I’ll save the Kamaka Ukulele Factory Tour since that one will have a lot of photos.

So, that takes us to the Liliha Bakery Café, where I really like the fried chicken, which seems to be battered in a fish and chips-style beer batter. We got there a little before noon, and still had to wait to even get a seat at the counter. I blame the table of 20 elderly islanders, probably on their once-a-month lunch outing.

And, in a shocking twist, they now serve wine and beer – though the staff has no idea what “brand” it is. I took a chance with the “red” – which apparently, they store in the refrigerator. Because of that, it wasn’t bad. I assume it was out of a box. Didn’t ask what beer, that, they might have had a clue about (certainly, not on tap).

My chicken. I paid an extra $1.25 for the fried rice, but it also came with corn and a potato/mac salad:

Jen and Kennan split the grilled Mahi Mahi, also with fried rice and corn, but with a green salad.

Next stop was the Salvation Army on Nimitz, which Tuesday is Senior Discount Day with a 25% discount. Trust me, we are all over 55!

Sadly, their selection of Aloha Shirts was a third of what I’ve seen in the past, but at least Kennan found one.

Uber makes it really easy to get around, but all the places we’ve visited are on bus routes for a $5.50-day pass. With three people, it was Uber.

Next was the Waikiki Farmers Market – we came home with cut fruit, chicken curry, jerky, salad stuff – add some leftover rice and corn.

Wednesday was Pearl Harbor for Jen and Kennan – my chore was to find a real grocery store since the one that I have relied on for a decade of visiting Waikiki has been torn down for a new condo. Contrary to the Front Desk, who said there was no grocery store left in Waikiki – the Food Pantry just moved!

Yep – it’s a decent sized grocery store that is MUCH cheaper than the ABC Store and Deli (LARGE for an ABC Store).

I had a late lunch at Tommy Bahama’s Bar (above their store which is a block from the condo):

Blue cheese stuffed olives for their $10 Grey Goose Happy Hour Martini:

And the $10 2 for $10 Mahi Mahi Tacos…

They even brought a breadbasket with cinnamon butter!

But what caught my eye was this promotion that they were running – add $5 to your tab and get a $20 gift card valid next month (when I happen to be returning). Sign me up! Great cause, feeding hungry kids.

But going back to the in-condo cooking, the Food Pantry has everything from rice (for our rice cooker):

To Spam, panko flakes (for our last night’s dinner), whiskey, wine, you name it.

The one thing Food Pantry doesn’t have is Trump Memorabilia, which the ABC Store has a huge section:

We made some great meals in the condo!

On our last day, I got Kennan and Jen to come back to Tommy Bahama with me for an afternoon Happy Hour dessert….

As you can tell, I drank my dessert, just like my mother!

Friday, and we were all headed home, me a little later, and with time to grab breakfast in the combination AA/JAL lounge:

Yes, ramen and miso soup for breakfast.

I really like the Honolulu Airport because of the outdoor garden in the center of it (outside), but there are also the performances:

And next to the lounge, a public bathroom tucked away with bidet seats!

And a shot of the new ANA A380 that is dedicated to the Tokyo/Honolulu route (it’s a double decker):

Got upgraded to First Class (though via Portland) for the way home which meant a nice dinner on the plane.

It was a great trip with great company.


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Sep '19

Trip Report: PDX Mileage Run

In my quest to get to Alaska MVP Gold 75K faster than December, I decided to take a little day hop down to Portland. Even booked it in First (only a few dollars more since they are such short flights) so that I could have my favorite seat on an E175 – which is 1A, which is both a window and an aisle, and for the return, bulkhead aisle in one of the last Virgin America planes (they were bought by Alaska a couple of years ago) that hasn’t been renovated. They are much more comfortable than Alaskas, though their new First-Class seats are a step in that direction.

Here is what the numbers look like:


Flight 1901 PDX SEA






Flight 2662 SEA PDX





Last three columns are: Actual Miles, Bonus Miles, Total Miles Credited

The reason for some many bonus miles is that the minimum credit is 500 miles, and as an Alaska Gold MVP 75K I get a 125% bonus on top of that, and since I purchased the ticket in First Class (rather than upgraded), I get another 100% bonus. Whew.

Started the day in the C Concourse Lounge for a bagel-cream cheese and a hard-boiled egg (and some bubbles).

Then onto the plane:

Got settled into Seat 1A – and they came by to take drink orders for the quick flight:

One of the night reasons for getting 1A is that it is both a window and an aisle seat – and it’s on the mountain side of the flight path, though it was socked in today:

Got to Portland where to docked us at the FAR FAR end of the Horizon gates…got my steps in! And they’ve remodeled the Portland Lounge over the summer. Still no full bar, but there is now an Espresso Bar in addition to the beer and wines.

The footprint didn’t change, they just knocked out a conference room, turning it into a small administrative office, and put the check-in desk was, turning the former check-in desk into the espresso bar. It really opens the place up. Much lighter and airier.

After a couple of hours, it was back on the plane, which, being a full-size jet, was parked just across from the club.

And this is the former Virgin America First Class seat that I was talking about:

And now with me in it!

Got back to Seattle right about the time my buddy, Shua, got off. He works at Florette, which is affiliated with Café Flora in the Madison Valley. Went back to the C Concourse Lounge to hang out and wait for him.

Yes, they’ve added an espresso section to this lounge as well – the test for the concept was at the JFK Lounge.

And Shua finally made it during my third cocktail!

Last year I’d taken him into the United Club when I was on my way to Barcelona, and now I have a goal to get him into all the private lounges at the airport he works at, since as an employee he doesn’t get access to them.

Had a cocktail and a snack (no, not the green onions he is bringing home from work), walked down the beginning of C/D Concourse, popped in that lounge to show him around (it’s a two-floor affair), had another cocktail and some soup, and then took the train to the newest of the Alaska Lounges, the monstrous one on top of the North Concourse (see my review a couple of posts ago).

It was a fun day of playing around in airports/planes/clubs.

Curious where else I’m off to in the future?

Purchased reservations


Confirmation code


Seattle (SEA)

Fri, Sep 6, 2019


Kansas City (MCI)

Tue, Sep 10, 2019


Denver (DEN)

Tue, Sep 17, 2019


Ho Chi Minh City (SGN)

Mon, Sep 30, 2019


Honolulu (HNL)

Mon, Oct 14, 2019


Seattle (SEA)

Fri, Oct 18, 2019


Bogota (BOG)

Mon, Jan 27, 2020


Tokyo-Tokyo Narita (NRT)

Mon, Mar 2, 2020


London-Heathrow (LHR)

Tue, Mar 10, 2020



Still have to figure out my trip to Santa Fe in December to see sis/bro-in-law and The Colonels, And Shanghai to visit a friend who is teaching there.

Added bonus for today – I hit the Safeway discount racks on the way home. Here is the score:

And the savings.

Well, that it for today’s post.

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Sep '19

Trip Report: San Diego

Hard to believe that I haven’t flown anywhere in two months. I’m surprised my hands aren’t shaking.

Destination: San Diego WorldMark Balboa Park.

Haven’t stayed at the location in quite a while. An inexpensive Uber ride in from the airport, oddly with a driver I think I’ve had before. Cuban. Unlike WorldMark’s Inn At The Park, a bit further north, this closer to downtown location is just in a bit of what some might consider a “sketchy” neighborhood at night.

And at night:

And maybe it isn’t as “sketchy” since I saw this exotic sports car owner putting windshield washer fluid in at the gas station kitty corner from the resort…

Went out for food a couple of times. Brunch at the 12th and Broadway Restaurant. The menu was as uninspired at the name, but it was a $5.99 (cash only, +tax and tip):

Grabbed dinner from a couple of other places to bring back to the room, since neither served cocktails…one night it was Albert’s Fresh Mexican for the Chicken Mole Enchiladas (which were lukewarm after a two-block walk, so they didn’t start out super hot):

The next even was a little better grabbing something from the Dog Haus…their traditional brat with sauerkraut and brown mustard…

If you look closely (and I didn’t notice when I was in their – the sign says, “We Love Wieners”, and so do I. And that is a bunch of soldiers behind the beer taps (great place if you like beer). And they serve their dogs on Kings Hawaiian buns.

And I did a little window shopping at the Salvation Army – where I’ve scored really amazing stuff in the past.

Went back later in the visit to pick up the gown…$14.99, nice brocade work.

I’ll close this post with the most amusing sign that I saw at the resort, on the stairs to the rooftop deck. Please note the last prohibited item:

Just a quick trip south to keep my hands from shaking.

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Aug '19

Lounge Report: Alaska’s New Seattle N Concourse Lounge

Hard to believe I haven’t been in the air for TWO MONTHS. Might be a record. A couple of “firsts” for me today. The first time I’ve used CLEAR to clear security (took like two minutes – much faster than TSAPre) and my first visit to the new Alaska Lounge in the N Concourse.

16,000 square feet of bliss, that’s how I’d describe it:


Love the hanging lamps in the form of jet nacelles!

And the plane spotting!

Yes, this is one happy Uncle Markie.

Headed to San Diego for a couple of nights – getting back into travel mode!

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Aug '19

Home Report: Upgrading The Shop

Being home for the summer (other than a couple of trips to Whistler) give me more time to devote to the wine shop.

My business partner went out of town for 10 days and I decided to remodel the shop – first by widening the entry into the bathroom, turning a doorway into an opening and moving the wine fridge into the opening so people would actually know that we have cold whites, roses, and bubbles:

Our glasses cart is behind the fridge – and I made a display bit for all our corkscrews and other wine accessories.

Jim provided this new sink for the shop months ago, including a one-hole IKEA faucet.

I found a maple fronted drawer set at EarthWise (a house recycle place) for $35:

And Home Depot sliced down a sheet of ½” sheet of MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard)

Which got worked into this…

Which went into here…wish I’d taken a picture with the previous cobbled together counter and dishwasher cabinet…

Dishwasher is on the left above, to the right below.

I am not responsible for the water heater plumbing – that would be the clusterfuck of the previous landlord’s brother. At least I didn’t have to move any of it!

Here are the installed pieces:

I didn’t cut the sink hole out because as nice as MDF to mimic Maple, it doesn’t have much strength unless it is supported. It also shows the untreated wood. The Agua Spar is like $42 a pint – beautiful finish for cheap wood, but not cheap. It was the one piece that I actually made sawdust in the shop to cut it out.

Also note the floor is so uneven that I left space for a kickplate that I could taper back to the wall.

To get the kickplate trim routed out (1/4 round) with the right connections, I used some picture frame clamps….

Nice to have a woodshop in your garage.

Sink in!

And when you have a box of plumbing parts….which means I’ve done WAY more plumbing than I’d like to:

Only had to go back to the store to replace one pick that I had – but had a crack in it.

But the end result….

The counter let me move the microwave off a shelf across the room, and now the icemaker (that aqua-colored box) is on the counter.

Detail note – that is a wooden 6-bottle wine box that we are using as a lined trashcan.

Sadly, now I want to build a cabinet around the water heater and the Frankenstein plumbing.

But that is for another day.


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Aug '19

Home Report: Blue Angels

Last post I showed pictures of the Blue Angels parked – now see them in the air!

This will give you an idea of the viewing platform (aka Jonathan’s balcony):

Went online and got the live feed from King County Airport which was holding all traffic while the show was going.

Made some chicken salad and cole slaw on Hawaiian buns, brought over some cocktails. A great way to enjoy the VERY RARE Sunday off when I’m actually in Seattle.


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Aug '19

Home Report: TPG (The Points Guy) Event At The Museum Of Flight

Not on the road as much this summer, so fewer posts. This one so close to home that I could have (but didn’t) walk it. The Museum of Flight is about a mile from my house.

Oddly, the parking lot was closed, as was the east entrance – and now I know why.

Yep – the parking lot was filled with Blue Angels who are performing this weekend at SeaFair.

The Points Guy event was, of course, filled with Aviation Geeks. I might have passed on it but your $100 entrance fee was a donation to the Rainbow Railroad, which provides support (and funds) to get LGBTQ folks out of countries where their love is a crime. And the event came with a swag bag:

Free wine (and beer, and soda):

And seriously delicious nibbles from McCormick and Schmick’s catering.

Mostly it was people milling about, eating, drinking…

And the presentation was only 30-45 minutes. Learned a few things. Got to brag to people about my March Around The Globe trip for only 140,000 miles in a combination of business and first.

Most of the museum was closed, though you could wander around the main gallery.

Fun way to spend a Tuesday night. Definitely came home stuffed and buzzed.


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Jul '19

Life Report: Happy 13th Anniversary

Realized that today is the 13th Anniversary of my first blog post.

Wonder what is was? I was starting a trip to China to go on a Viking River Cruise with The Colonels.

Here is the link: https://blog.unclemarkie.com/2006/07/30/seattle/

What a long strange trip it’s been – thank you for coming along.


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2 Responses to “Life Report: Happy 13th Anniversary”

  1. Debora Dye Says:

    13 years…is that all? I’m glad you do this.Pretty joyful! Thank you!

  2. UncleMarkie Says:

    Every year around the anniversary I wonder if anyone actually reads my blog. Thank you for reading all these years!

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Jul '19

Trip Report: Whistler For The Last Time This Summer

Last trip to Whistler – this time with Bliss. Nice to have someone to share the expenses and the driving.

You’ve all seen the pictures of the units I stay in, so this will be a brief post.

Stopped at Duty Free (as always), and since Kevin doesn’t drink much (somebody has to even me out), I grabbed two 1.14ltrs of Jack Daniels. Not my favorite whiskey, but they had a “two-fer” with a Jack Daniels bag (to go with my Jack Daniels hat from a couple of years ago, which is my “Miata Hat”.

It’s a surprisingly well-made bag. Thick canvas that’s lined. To bad there isn’t a pocket or two.

Got to check in a little early – which means dumping stuff and heading to Guest Services to pick up a season pass. Amazingly, they keep using the picture from five years ago for mine:

We caught almost the last lift up for the day…not even time for a cocktail, but Tuesday, we were up the mountain and onto Whistler Express to the top.

It was a GREAT weather day on Whistler…here is a view of the sky bridge:

But if you want a 360-degree tour, click on the video:

And as long as I’m doing videos, here is one going down the Blackcomb Gonola towards the village.

We rewarded ourselves for the big hick earlier with lunch in Blackcomb Village at Milestones – a favorite:

Apparently, I was hungry and ate the food before getting a picture! But they make a GREAT Gin and Tonic (garnished with fresh sage and a skewered ribbon of cucumber.

Wednesday was a little more socked in…

Probably should have worn long pants – but at least I refueled with an Old Fashioned at the Umbrella Bar:

We grabbed lunch in the Rendezvous Lodge (20% off for Season Pass holders) – I went for the Kid’s Fish and Chips – which comes with 3 “sides” (two edamame, one protein bar), Bliss went for the grilled salmon burger on a gluten-free bun. There were twice as many fries before I got the camera out:

See the water bottle on the tray – a new one. Ordered it off of Amazon and bought a sticker up on the mountain for it.

It’s a really good water bottle with two lids (complete seal and pop-top drinking). At the end of the day, there were still ice cubes tinkling around!

Lots of stuff going on in Whistler in the summer – live performances…

Sort of a bogey-wogey band – she’s a great singer, and a decent bugle player – yes, BUGLE – look in her left hand.

The last day on the mountain, Bliss went hiking. I went for more gondola rides and ended up at the Umbrella Bar for an afternoon snack of their Ensalada Caprese, and a Collins…

They really do have GREAT food.

Now that I am at the end of my Whistler trips for the summer, I’ll share the results of the ROI on my Season 360 Experience pass:

That’s the last adventure until the end of August.


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Jul '19

Trip Report: Whistler Second Visit

One of these days I get tired of Whistler in the Summer. Not yet.

Trip number two this summer, mostly in pictures. The trip started with a Sunday night at Birch Bay.

Ribs on the grill, whiskey in the glass. Not a bad way to pass an evening.

Morning finds us on the road again!

Picked up DancingBear’s Summer Pass and grabbed a late afternoon gondola up the mountainside:

And a cocktail and a split sandwich at The Umbrella Bar:

Great scenery! Even with a few clouds.

Our late lunch meant a late steak dinner…

And look what we have for breakfast the next morning!

And up the hill, and across the valley we go:

And onto a bus, and up another hill to have a glass of wine…and watch some glacier skiing.

Here is a little video of the way down….

Lunch in Blackcomb Village (Milestones):

And we saw a bear on the way back up the mountain!

A little more “gondolaing” and down the hill we went to fix our dinner:

Oh, what a difference a day makes…weather wise.

So, we grabbed a little lunch….back at the Umbrella Bar:

Before heading up Whistler Mountain…in the clouds…

Yep – not a warm day for the middle of July.

We found a Farmer’s Market at Blackcomb Village and grabbed some vegies for dinner.

Mick signed up the “The Sasquatch” Zip Line – a little over a hundred Canadian.

And back up the mountain:

Here is the video of his mountain-to-mountain zipline:

While DancingBear was Zipping, I was Zogging – as in Zog’s Dogs.

Sadly, not as good as I remembered. And slow to boot.

Before I realized it, it was time to head back to Seattle.

Another trip to Whistler done.

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Jul '19

Trip Report: Return From The Big Apple

One of the downsides of the Wyndham New York Midtown is the 10am checkout. It’s a serious drag to get packed up, bags put in storage for the afternoon since my flight isn’t until 6:30.

Caught an early lunch with Russ (11:30am, when they opened) at The Grand Central Oyster Bar – close to where Russ works, and just a couple of blocks from the condo. About 11:15 a line started forming…

Nothing like a breakfast Beefeater Martini…

Followed by oysters…

Followed by Lox Eggs Benedict….

Great way to finish a trip to NYC with Russ:

Found this picture of both Russ and Ranger Sierra after the last post, so, randomly, here it is:

Back to the condo for the bags, then back to Grand Central to catch the train to JFK…

Got slightly misdirected getting to the airport, but finally found my way – though I was sweaty when I arrived, and not to the terminal I was leaving from. I wanted to see the new TWA Hotel, the 60’s JFK icon repurposed into a hotel. Downside is that the JetBlue terminal it’s attached to is a long walk from the SkyTrain.

They are still working through the last bits of the Punch List, but it’s a cool space, though underutilized, and a long haul walking (especially with luggage). They should pick up a couple of Checker Aeroporters and runs a shuttle from all the terminals. I couldn’t check my bags until four hours before my flight, so I was plenty tired by the time I hit check-in (which, thankfully, was quick). This should give you an idea why…

As I was in the short line I got a text that my plane was now delayed by at least four hours…though about going back to the TWA Hotel for a cocktail in the restored Connie, but I was done walking any further than the lounge.

Nice office, right? And great plane spotting! A BA 747 in the retro-BOAC livery.

And their usual livery…

And then all the random national airlines like Air Serbia, and Aerolineas Argentinas…

If there is a silver lining about the flight delay, it’s that I looked on-line, and they swapped aircraft. I was supposed to be on old Virgin America metal, now I’m on one of new NEO’s with the updated interior…and the new First Class seats!

And on the flight we have a boat load up high school juniors on our flight:

Not that I care, since with the new interior, there are 16 first class seats as opposed to 8 – and I got one!

And the new interior!

And it came with dinner – which is good because the lounge shut down at 10pm – and they’d pulled the soup and salad at eight.

I was surprised that they had DigiPlayers on board, thought those were being phased out. Ended up watching The Aftermath – set in WWII. Worth watching, though not a light drama.

Didn’t get to bed until 2:45am, but actually managed a couple of hours of sleep on the plane – a rarity.


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Jul '19

Trip Report: Big Apple

New York isn’t someplace that I really want to visit in July due to the heat and no cheap plane tickets.

Flew into Newark (EWR) on United, using a ton (50,000 miles) for my First Class seat. Before the airline switched to “dynamic pricing” of its award seats, it would have been half that. But I had them in the account, so why not (other than it would have gotten me one-way to Europe in Busienss). And I did get my favorite seat…

Nothing like a pre-flight cocktail when you had to get up at 4:30am. And then there was breakfast:

Actually got a couple of hours of sleep on the plane – must be exhaustion since I don’t usually sleep on planes.

And, the plane was running about 45 minutes late. Add being next to the last stop on the airport shuttle, I was almost 5pm by the time I got to the condo – but boys (Gnarlene and Scott) had already been hanging out for an hour in the lobby – pooped from walking.

Nice place The Colonels got us:

Sadly, no balcony, though there is a communal one up on 33 – we are on the 20th Floor. Decent place, decent view:

A big shout out to Scott for the FABULOUS pictures from his iPhone. Compare his to mine – mind you, it was evening when I took mine.

From the 33rd Floor common area which was PACKED with people. Lots of things lit up in the city to celebrate World Pride this weekend, which we will miss.

The first evening we had company… Ranger Sierra, who is now a Park Ranger for Grant’s Tomb.

Heavy appetizers and more whiskey than Sierra is used to. Made good use of the fold-out couch!

Everybody in the condo slept in with all the travelling, and it being Sierra’s day off. Nice to have someone make coffee!

With the UN being just a couple of blocks away, we decided to get tickets for the tour:

I had taken the tour a decade ago, but Sierra hadn’t ever, and it was on his list.

Without an oven in our kitchen (though it does have a four burner stovetop), most of our dinners in were heavy appetizers from the Amish Market just up the street:

Not the cheapest, but they have an amazing amount of stuff packed into that space.

And then Russ (another friend who lives in the city) showed up with a more substantial meal of empanadas and salad.

I met Russ during my Microsoft days – I don’t see him often enough.

We all took in the sunset up on the balcony:

Lovely evening….always nice hanging with friends you haven’t seen for years.

The next day found me at Grant’s Tomb, though Sierra tour was cancelled sadly.


On my NYC adventure I’ve been trying to just do one big thing a day – blame it on the heat, or my laziness. Final day’s “thing” is dinner with Gnarlene and Scott in Chinatown.

Our restaurant choice…Ping:

With its odd payment rules:

Usually it NO American Express because the fees are more expensive.

Just the right around of food – enough to be full, but nothing left to take home. And yes, I was drinking a beer (they don’t serve hard liquor).

And then over to Little Italy:

Back on the subway to Grand Central – thought I show you that even the Metro Cards are celebrating Pride:

A fun four nights in the city that doesn’t sleep.

Tomorrow I’ll post the return home as it is its own adventure.

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Jun '19

Trip Report: Whistler — First Trip Of The Summer

Nothing like this on a driving trip:

Had a BUNCH of 10 cent off Safeway Rewards. They only let me use 10 of them.

We left on Sunday after I got off work – fortunately Mags lives close to the shop. Was only able to grab a one-bedroom at Birch Bay – Mags was on the Murphy Bed.

Since we had a grill, we grilled, we ate, we slept.

Morning brought an early “Owner Re-education Camp” at 8:30am – which I shouldn’t do, and won’t, ever again. Here was my “breakfast”:

Got out of the meeting, packed up, and headed north over the border, to have lunch with Solus+ at Two Lions Public House….Burger and cocktail special…$8.50 doubles

And Larry’s Poutine….

We were in Whistler by 3, and our room was even ready. Dumped our shit and headed into the village to get our lift tickets.

And our lovely dinner that evening…

In the morning, up the mountain we go!

And across to Whistler Mountain…

Onto a bus…

And up further and further – on the 7th Heaven Express…

To see Glacier skiing…

And to film a birthday video for one of my vendors from my Microsoft days…

Before heading back down Blackcomb Mountain…

To have lunch in Blackcomb Village at Milestones, which used to have a great Old Fashioned, but now it’s a Peach Bellini…

Here is the list of lifts that are open this visit:

We decided to walk back to Whistler and the condo….

And hang out by the pool since the sun was out…

The next day Larry went up early, but I was rewarded with the first bear sighting (for me) of the season!

It’s early in the season, so they are still at the lower elevations. It was a pretty clear day on the mountains:

And I was rewarded with two more bears in the afternoon!

Days were spent on the mountain during the day and cooking our meals at night. The car didn’t move once for the four nights we were there.

The final day, saw the final bear of the trip (other than me):

This was trip number of either three or four…last one in August is up in the air as it isn’t in Whistler, but Creekside and the lifts are running for sightseeing this year

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Jun '19

Trip Report: Portland For A Food Show

Got back on the train headed to Portland (from my overnight stop in Centralia) at this wonderful 1912 station:

This time I’m travelling in coach, but it was in the transition car with Bistro at the other end, so the seating layout was the same as Business, just no coupon for $3.00 or newspapers. It’s only an hour and a half, so no bit deal considering I get 20% off Bistro items when I use my Amtrak Mastercard. No photo – sorry.

Hello Portland!

And hello to the new WorldMark Portland Waterfront after a short Uber ride:

And some of their common areas:

And our room!

Dinner tonight is a LeChon – specializing in South American dishes. We started with Martinis (how South American!), and then ordered several small plates: pork belly with leek griddle cake, asparagus, and our favorite, the grilled octopus:

The main reason for the trip was a food show by one of my suppliers – two floors of food, snacks and WAY too much cheese. Again, no photos – it was sensory overload of samples to eat, samples to take home and I could only take it for an hour. Had to go back to the condo (via the liquor store) and take a nap. The fact that we were running around the city in 90-degree heat didn’t help.

Evening found us entertaining a mutual old friend for a couple of cocktails and conversation before heading out to Portland Burger for some take-out. It was a good decision since the place was also a music venue and loud as crap.

Had to check out by noon – and our train wasn’t until 3:30, so off to Jakes Crawfish for a decadent lunch courtesy of a $50 certificate (but the bill was another $50 on top of that). Jakes is one of my treats – Martinis, oysters, and salads.

Off to the train station – an access to the lounge for both of us (courtesy of me being in Business Class) was a nice end to our visit. Rache is getting off in Kelso.

I’ll close with some scenery shots from the train home:

I do love a good train trip.


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Jun '19

Trip Report: Train To Centralia

After being home for weeks, I’m finally back on the road – well, the rails. Headed to Portland for a food show, but Centralia is the first stop.

King Street Station in Seattle is as lovely as always:

And there was a cool “company car” parked on a siding…

It belongs to the Department of Transportation’s Federal Railway Administration. Here are the details on the car labeled DOTX 221:

Rail Car DOTX 221 which is part of Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Automated Track Inspection Program (ATIP). This car, built in 1954 has a long history It is the former CNRR to VIA “CAPE BULE”. Sold into private ownership for many years then to FRA.  Built as a 4 double-bedroom, buffet, lounge.  No rear facing windows. The car has been retrofitted to do autonomous survey work. No longer requires crews on it. 

Got upgraded to Business by using a coupon, so I had a little more room:

And, at least until the end of the year, it followed the sound through Tacoma.

I’d booked a room at McMennimans Olympic Hotel, which has a long history and is as old as the current Centralia train station:

With a beautiful check in area…

But the entrance is next door and up a bunch of stairs:

All the rooms share baths – fortunately they are plentiful.

There is also an on-site restaurant with some of the nicest urinals I’ve seen:

Along with a nice interior…

I started with a flight of McMenamins reds:

It was happy hour so I ordered a couple of things (which I couldn’t finish). The Pulled Pork Sliders (a little dry) and the Cajun Tots (WAY too many):

Followed by a whiskey drink:

And then an early bedroom. No TV (or phone) in the room, but Wi-Fi.

Breakfast the next morning found me there again for the half order of Eggs Benedict:

I’ll pick up the tail tomorrow as my trip continues to Portland.

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Jun '19

Trip Planning: Around The World In Twelve Days

It feels a little “odd” to have NOT been travelling for the last month plus. It made my business partner happy as I picked up a much of Friday shifts, allowing him to putter around his garden and do house projects.

That hasn’t stopped me from planning future trips. Summers I generally travel less because there are no “deals” as all the families are travelling because school is out. What it DOES mean is that people aren’t thinking about early November (typically a slow travel time), and February to April.

I looked at going to Frankfurt in early November. It would have enhanced my 2019 travel map by adding Europe. Here is the current planned 2019 travel:

And if I added Frankfurt, it would look like this:

I booked the flights using miles (110,000) for business class, booked the hotel using points (45,000). It would have meant I had three nights in Frankfort. Then I went to bed.

Amazing what sleeping on something will do for you. I woke up with the major thought, “But, I really don’t like Frankfurt, and I’d use up all three days getting someplace else within Europe by rail.”

A week or two went by before I started to explore another trip. This time I decided to do something on my bucket list rather than just something that I could book in Business Class. Hence, the World Tour 2020 was born. It started with trying to book this trip spending a handful of nights in Seoul and a handful of nights in Taipei – neither places I’ve explored (been through Seoul several times, but not beyond the airport):

Alaska let me book the long layover flight, but I couldn’t get it to actually ticket for 120,000 miles roundtrip plus fees. Picked up the phone (which I dislike doing) and called the Partner Desk at Alaska. She tried the itinerary and couldn’t get it to ticket. It kept coming back as 120,000 miles EACH WAY. Alaska Airlines allows stopovers on Award Tickets as long as its in the Partner Airlines hub. I chalked it up as, “try again later.”

While I was on the Alaska website, poked around and found this:

“Korean Air: We are aware of an issue with Korean Air award booking failures affecting both alaskaair.com and our call centers. We are working with Korean Air to investigate and resolve this issue. If your travel plans are flexible, please try again using different dates or partner airlines.”

Turns out they are having problems with Icelandair and have pulled ALL flights from inventory:

“Icelandair: We have temporarily removed the ability to shop for Icelandair award travel due to a high rate of booking failure. We are working with Icelandair to resolve this issue.”

Sad about Icelandair as I’ve flown them before, though their Business Class is more akin to domestic First Class (slightly reclining seats as opposed to lay-flat).

So, if I just tried to book “The World Tour” for March 2020. It comprises two one-way award bookings using two different airlines, both of which allow for stopovers. The first one-way is Seattle to Tokyo (where I’ll be spending four nights), continuing on to New Delhi (three nights). I haven’t been to India since my first international trip in 1976 (yes, I was a mere pup of 20). Japan Airlines Sky Suite (Business) in 787-8’s for each leg.

The return starts in Delhi with a flight to London (three nights) before going onto Seattle. Club World (Business) for the DEL-LHR leg, then First Class for the LHR-SEA leg. I haven’t been in BA’s First for about a decade. Wasn’t impressed the last time – seemed they were hoping everyone would go to sleep so they could sit around and read magazines. The reviews are better these days. Time will tell.

Here is what that map would look like:

Definitely a “bucket list” kinda trip, though the map display looks odd from the top.

Even if I added US flights to it, including HNL, it still looks weird:

But if I add South America, I get a better map:

Sean (who I’m visiting in Saigon in October) wants me to meet up with him in South America next summer when he is on summer break from the school where he teaches. It would make the map easier to comprehend.

All the domestic flying I do, I do to accrue large chunks of miles to use for long international flights in the pointy end of the plane. The cost for this “bucket list” adventure?

140,000 miles plus fees. The JAL fees are really cheap ($51.20). The fees for British are egregious (S806.83). A couple of hundred of the BA fees are because Heathrow charges HUGE fees for Business/First departures. Still, less than $900 in taxes/fees for an “Around the World” ticket isn’t bad. It also means that I’m getting a GREAT value for my miles. Alaska miles are valued by The Points Guy at 1.8 cents each. Depending on how you assign costs to the ticket, I’m getting somewhere between 5.93 cents per mile to 17.78 cents per mile (if you figured them as four one-way flights). Here is the math:

The most amusing number in the spreadsheet is the cost of a First Class ticket on British Airways from Heathrow (London) to Seattle. $13, 586.92. That’s A LOT of money. The number for the combined one-way is a guess as the BA site wouldn’t let me do a multi-city itinerary split between Business and First. But as you can see by the numbers for JAL and BA that the segment price to/from the hub is way more expensive than continuing on through the hub.

Oh, and the bucket list item was “Around The World In At Least Business And Only Take One Weekend Off Work.

This is my last full-week home for a couple of weeks, I head out Monday for Centralia to stay at a McMenamen’s hotel, then down to Portland to check out the new WorldMark Portland. Following week up in Whistler, followed by four nights in NYC at the Wyndham Grand New York.


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May '19

Trip Report: Wedding Ramble, Part Three – Anaheim With No Ears

It sounded like a good idea at the time – a 6:55am departure from San Luis Obispo. In reality, I had to get up at 4:30, check-out, return the rental car with gas in it, and catch an Uber to the train station.

A light rain as I waited for the train – the first run of the morning with direct service to Anaheim (didn’t want to transfer in LA). And this is a very pretty chunk of Amtrak trackage:

I was greeted onboard with coffee, muffins, orange juice which held me over until we hit Los Angeles…a perk of Business Class.

After LA I only had two stops to go, but they managed to get me a snack box and a split of questionable red wine (as photographed in the condo later):

Here is a shot of the Surfliner leaving Anaheim:

Grabbed an Uber to the condo where my room wasn’t ready, so I checked out to common areas:

And the rooftop deck with hot tubs…

Rather than eat the Amtrak snack box, I headed out to see what I could scrounge at the nearby “Garden Walk” which is part of “Downtown Disney”. Being off season, lots of things were labelled “Open Summer 2019”. I ended up at Fire and Ice which is a Mongolian Wok kinda place. I opted for an appetizer and a Manhattan while I waited for my room to be ready:

Nice lunch – and as usual I spent more on the booze than I did on the food.

Random photo from “the mall”:

Might have to use that as a dating site profile photo!

Finished checking in to discover what this Two-Bedroom Presidential at the WorldMark Anaheim was all about….

And even a laundry room…

Yes, it is slightly larger than my small house.

Even numbered units have a view of the nightly fireworks at Disneyland. I can see Space Mountain and the Matterhorn from the deck.

Every night at 9:30, it’s a 10-minute show. Nice perk to watch fireworks with a cocktail in your hand just wearing a robe.

My Tuesday “major activity” was Uberring to Vons for a supply run – company is a coming. Grabbed a rotisserie chicken, mixer, bourbon, salad, a pork loin, potatoes – got company coming Wednesday!

Salad and chicken tonight:

If you zoom in, you can see Space Mountain and The Matterhorn.

I needed a couple of more things from the grocery, and I’d noticed this mini-mart a block or so away:

I LOVE places like this – the immigrant run convenience stores that stock a little of everything. I went for Ranch Dressing, pasta, and some more mixer. I ended up with than, a bandana, a pint Jameson glass (for Jameson), and most oddly, alcoholic sperm filled with a German cream liquor. Three cheers for The Magicland Market:

Which brings us to the lovely Wednesday dinner with friends…honored guest is Dr. David, who I met at Courtney’s Wednesday Night Supper in Seattle.

Also joining us is my buddy, Craig, who has met up with me at a number of WorldMark properties:

I had my phone set to go off at 9:26pm – to remind me of the fireworks. Sadly, on Wednesday, no fireworks. Guessing technical failure. Still, the company was great!

It was a full house Wednesday with Craig in one bedroom and Dr. David on the couch, so no one had to drive. Speaking of driving, they are both SAINTS for making the hour plus trek to come visit me. Craig is headed to San Diego tomorrow (making him already half way there), and Dr. Craig has an appointment half way back home, so it’s working out.

And my final night – guess what happened at 9:30:

Apparently, having company scares off fireworks.

It wasn’t the visit that I’d planned with a couple of friends who would have been there for the entire week – but lemonade out of lemons.

Friday found me at the airport headed home, via the Admirals Club lounge at Orange County Airport:

And soon onto the plane, fortunately in the pointy end:

And a little hot snack on the plane…

The end comes to my longest domestic trip in years.

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May '19

Trip Report: Wedding Ramble, Part Two – The Wedding

Back on the train to the reason for this whole ramble, The Wedding. Off I go way too early in the day from the Emeryville Amtrak station (chauffeured by Lunetta).

And they are still serving breakfast!

Followed by a nap (do you see a pattern here?), followed by a late lunch:

With some scenery thrown in. Just FYI – I booked at bedroom:

The last photo is of the train station at San Luis Obispo.

Called Budget to snag a ride to the rental car office and signed out a car that had seen better days (like the driver’s side mirror had tap wrapped around it that had been there awhile and was yellowed). But soon enough I was checked into the Best Western Casa Grande in Arroyo Grande. I splurged on a suite:

Which has a VERY NICE lobby area:

And my suite wasn’t too bad either:

Went to the store for some dinner and drinking supplies….

OK – so, the four on the right came down with me, the two unboxed flasks are for me at the wedding – the six boxed (and filled) flasks are for some of the wedding party.

Spent the morning of the wedding tasting wine in downtown Arroyo Grande…

Visited Timbre first, then down the street to a winery that was closing, Phantom Rivers, where everything was 50% off. Here is the haul:

Great – I thought I was going to make the final leg WITHOUT the box in tow. Oh well.

Jameson and Carolynn (the wedding couple) arranged for shuttles to run from the hotel to the wedding venues. The ceremony was at Carolynn’s parent’s house (where she grew up):

It was good to see Julian (Jameson’s brother who I visit in Japan):

Nice that they were serving Gruett Rose bubbles (from New Mexico) before the service.

Then down to the clubhouse for the reception…

And I was on wine duty to pour the 5-liter bottles of Bonny Doon that I brought down a couple of weeks ago.

And the first dance….

The “after party” ended up in my suite – wish I remember more of it. Woke up to popcorn scattered everywhere!

Needless to say, I slept in really late. Fortunately, I don’t head south until Monday, which left time for an intimate dinner with the wedding couple and two others at Hapy Bistro which is half wine shop, half restaurant, with cigars thrown in…but the food was stunning.

It was an early night for me since I have a VERY early train in the morning, AND I have to get the rental car returned.

Tomorrow, the adventure continues!

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