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Oct '19

Trip Report: Linh Ung Pagoda and Marble Mountains

Death March Part Two – but we are in Da Nang for only one full day (plus a couple of half days). First up is the Linh Ung Pagoda…

The seven-story pagoda contains 21 Buddhist Alters – fortunately nobody wanted to walk the stairs.

Back into the car we go – one MUCH SMALLER than this morning’s car. Off to the Marble Mountains, also overlooking China Beach in Da Nang. The title refers to My Khe
beach in the city of Đà Nẵng, Vietnam, nicknamed “China Beach” in English by American and Australian soldiers during the Vietnam War

It’s an elevator ride to the top and a back down:

And it features a series of caves (where the Viet Cong hid out during the Vietnam War):

Found this outside of the final cave entrance. This is the second one I’ve seen this trip!

Got back to the hotel with enough time for a little nap before heading out to dinner at Stinky Fingers, which was started by a guy from Louisiana, and the food was amazing. They made their own tortillas from imported cornmeal from scratch for their chips. Dirty Fingers is the name.

And finally! Cocktails!

It was all good until an obviously American guy came in with a subtle version of a Trump t-shirt – America Great Again, in a slate on black t. What I found annoying was that there was a Vietnamese girl on his arm.

Went back to the hotel and fell into bed.


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Oct '19

Trip Report: Early Morning Trip To Mỹ Sơn

Having arrived in Da Nang last night, today is sightseeing day – and it starts EARLY. How early? We need to be downstairs and ready at 5:10AM (I kid you not). We arranged for the hotel to give us some tiny box breakfasts (hard boiled egg, bread, banana, coffee) since we will be missing their breakfast buffet.

We were the first people through the gates when they opened at 6AM.

We were joined by some other early risers, including three Americans doing a semester abroad in Chang Mai, Thailand.

Yes, there was an electric trolley to take us up the hill (thankfully).

And our first ruined temple:

From Wikipedia, here is the description of the ruins:

From the 4th to the 14th century AD, the valley at Mỹ Sơn was a site of religious ceremony for kings of the ruling dynasties of Champa, as well as a burial place for Cham royalty and national heroes. It was closely associated with the nearby Cham cities of Indrapura (Đồng Dương) and Simhapura (Trà Kiệu). At one time, the site encompassed over 70 temples as well as numerous stele bearing historically important inscriptions in Sanskrit and Cham.

We had our own private guide, as did it seems, most of the other groups which is handy since there are the remains of 71 temples in 14 groups.

Here is a sampling of the photos I shot:

I was awed by the column in the above photo – memories of my semester at The Evergreen State College studying the Art History of Ancient Rome and Greece, combined with my first trip overseas at the age of 20 to India and Nepal. I wandered off from the group and stumbled onto this building, which was barred from the front…

But open in the back

Yes, the temples were heavily bombed during the Vietnam war, but more on that later:

Back outside…more and more temples:


And, as promised, more about the bombing during the Vietnam War (again, courtesy of Wikipedia):

In 1937, French scholars began to restore the temples at Mỹ Sơn. In 1937 and 1938, the main temple known as “A1” and the smaller temples surrounding it were restored. Other major temples were restored between 1939 and 1943. However, many historical buildings were destroyed during the Vietnam War. The area was part of a People’s Army of Vietnam and Viet Cong base area and consequently United States aircraft bombed the region in August 1969. The surrounding area is still rendered dangerous through the presence of unexploded land mines.

Throughout the site, you will see hundreds of bomb craters:

Our walkabout ended up at a “shopping opportunity”, or in my case, a chance to sample some “banana wine”.

I don’t think we will be stocking it at the shop.

We had our driver stop at a mini-market on the way back to the hotel. We had yet to find one near the hotel, and someone (me) was out of booze and mixer.

Even with the stop, we made it back to the hotel before they stopped serving breakfast at 10:30am. SCORE!

Wish I’d know last night that I could have gotten a cocktail in the restaurant!

We have more tours planned for the afternoon, but someone (me) needs a nap!

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Oct '19

Trip Report: Train To Da Nang

Sean, Michael, and I are taking the night train from Saigon to Da Nang. This was my idea – I love a good overnight train ride.

Left pretty much on time at 9:55pm from District 3 in Saigon. The round-trip in an “air-conditioned 4 person soft sleeper” was about $100 USD each.

Each of the berths has a reading light and a USB charging port. There are also three outlets for laptops, etc.

Periodically, venders would come through offering soups, beverages, etc.

I took an Ambien and crashed out until the morning, when I caught this wonderful sunrise video:

During this time, they brought us some breakfast…

And just random pictures out the window…

Around 11, they brought by some lunch for us…

And for some reason, people with cabins started sitting in the corridor…

Got into Da Nang about 2pm –

And it was off to the Haka Boutique Hotel after a cab driver intentionally took us the long way (not realizing Sean speaks Vietnamese). Should have just gotten a Grab.

The lady at reception recommended a restaurant for dinner that she goes to (meaning local, not touristy on the beach). Quán Phước Thái 

And for some reason there was a costumed bear circulating, then, by the street, where we were, a karaoke singer shows up with a blaring speaker strapped to his motorbike, singing and trying to sell packages of chips – and then there was the sad balloon clown. Wish I’d gotten a picture of that – he was not a happy clown.

But the food was amazing, especially the scallops in their shells – Sean ordered a kilo of them (2.2 pounds), but still think we only spent a million two (about $52 USD – and half that was the scallops).

There were a couple more dishes that got eaten before I could get photos…not bad for walking distance from the hotel.

Tomorrow is going to be a long day, so I’ll close this here.

[? ? ?]

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Oct '19

Trip Report: Saigon, Part One

Sean was a saint and met me at the airport and whisked me back to his place – staying there the first two nights…comfy!

And morning brings coffee after Sean has left for work…

The plan for the day is to jut explore the neighborhood, find a cash machine, keep myself fed and amused until Sean comes home around 6.

Until I get to the cash machine, Sean let me raid his stash of Dong (the official currency of Vietnam):

I grabbed about 150,000 Dong – which is equal to $6.46.

Here is the view from his 5th floor apartment:

And a bird’s eye view of the traffic chaos and we aren’t even in the middle of the city!

Here is what the building looks like from street level:

I have company coming this evening! My former Couchsurfing now ex-boyfriend of my friend’s stepdaughter (there’s a mouthful) from Bristol, England, who is now in Saigon teaching English.

Hard to believe it’s been eight years – and he’s only 28 now! And just so you know what Sean looks like….

I’ve known Sean like 25 years at this point – my how time flies.

Here are some random neighborhood shots…

I’m not sure was a Dinky Hong is, but it sounds dirty.

More exploring the following day, followed by a quiet dinner in. Sadly (for me as he’s a great cook), has stopped cooking because the cost of having custom food cooked and delivered is so inexpensive that it gives him more time to grade papers (yes, he is a teach as well, though Science, not English).

Thursday found me downloading the Grab App for my phone – like Uber for Asia. Michael arrives in the late morning and I’m meeting him at the hotel I have reserved, the Dong Du Hotel. Yes, I chose it because it has Dong in the name.

There are definitely some “no-no”s on this list – like Bloody Steaks.

And apparently, the keep “Ken” in the refrigerator. Love the illustrations on the fire poster:

Michael and I snacked around for the early afternoon on some things I bought while at Sean’s:

Things like dried squid, cuttlefish covered peas…

And steak-flavored potato chips…

When we headed out for dinner, we stumbled across what is basically an Auto Mat – an alleyway lined with vending machines!

We settled on Café Runam, which turns out to be a chain, but the food was good:

I like that they serve their drinks with stainless steel straws!

And we both ended up getting the pork dish because they were out of the two other things we wanted. This will turn into a “theme” as we eat our way through Vietnam.

Morning finds us on the top floor the hotel where breakfast is served. They have interesting choices for breakfast:

And beverage choices…

Today’s adventures are to check out the Saigon Central Post Office. It was designed by Alfred Foulhoux, but is often erroneously credited as being the work of Gustave Eiffel  (as in that guy who did the tower):

Illiterate and need someone to write a letter for you? There is a service for that:

With the usual revolutionary monuments in the courtyard out front:

Notre Dame Cathedral (closed for renovation):

And stumbling across Book Street where we ended up chatting with kids who wanted to practice their English:

Stopped at a Circle K (I kid you not) to stock up the hotel room:

Even with the booze, that is like $7 worth of goods.

This was an unusual sighting on the street!

Apparently, they are popular for giving tours to tourists, especially ex-US Military.

It was appropriate that we saw this on the way to the War Remnants Museum, which according to Wikipedia, was originally called Exhibition House for US and Puppet Crimes before it was changed to Exhibition House for Crimes of War and Aggression.

And then the inside…

Oddly enough, I found the exhibit on the loss of life by reporters in the war both fascinating and heart wrenching:

Which was paid for by the Commonwealth of Kentucky:

And yes, there is a huge print of the infamous war photo of the six-year-old girl running naked down the street, her clothes burned off by a Napalm attack.

This was one of the closing pieces in that wing – from the French newspaper Le Figaro in 1965:

There was one section of the museum that I couldn’t go into. I had been there two and a half years ago. The section deals with the use of Agent Orange. I choked up at the museum, I’m choking up as I type this, the senselessness of it all.

There might be some pictures of it from my blog post back then: CLICK HERE. Apologies for scrambled special characters – a result of a WordPress update years ago.

Michael posted some pictures from some of the exhibits on his FaceBook feed. Several were almost immediately taken down as being too graphic. Sobering is how I would describe the museum, and I believe that every President, Vice-President, and Congresspeople should tour this museum before they ever send our young men and woman into harm’s way.

I’ll get off my soapbox now and onto lunch! But we have to find someplace first:

After much walking, we ended up here:

And I even had a beer! Just an FYI, Vietnam is all about coffee and beer, sadly, not so much about cocktails.

We tried to order seafood, but they were either out of it, or “take long time”. We ended up with these dishes, which were wonderful:

After lunch, got stuck in traffic on the way back to the hotel…but at least it wasn’t raining…until we headed to Sean’s when the skies opened up.

Fortunately, the rain let up by the time we went out for dinner.

As usual, a couple of dishes weren’t available, but what we ended up with were great:

It was a great dinner, but sooner than later, we were off to the train station to catch our night train to Da Nang.

The adventure will continue in the next post.

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Oct '19

Trip Report: Headed to Vietnam

Headed back to Vietnam after a two-and-a-half-year gap.

And using miles to fly business class on Korean Airlines, which gets me into the Delta Sky Club…


Also checked out their other one on the South Concourse…


Since I’ll get fed on the plane, I try to not stuff myself. The food is much better than the Alaska Lounge, but then, the Alaska Lounge if half the price, and I don’t have to be flying with them to get entrance.

My home for the next 11+ hours…

Sadly, we were stuck on the ground for almost two hours because of traffic delays, and a change of runways. Without Champagne!

But eventually the booze and food started flowing….

And I found the “unicorn” bathroom – the HUGE handicapped one.

Couple of movies before a nap. Tried Zorba The Greek, then Spartacus, finally settled on The Dead Poet’s Society. I’d forgotten there are very “dark” parts to that movie.

Here is the bed all laid out – sadly, Korean doesn’t provide a topper for the seat, or pajamas.

And then more food and booze…

With our late departure, no time to visit the lounge, barely had enough time to hit duty free so I’d have some whiskey when I get to Saigon.

New plane, but more food and booze:


Second leg was only 5 hours, but I did manage to get about an hour or so of fitful sleep – these are the older style business class seats that don’t fully (but close) recline.

Landed half an hour late, immigration was a breeze, but it was another 30+ minutes for my “priority tagged” bag to appear. Fortunately, Sean is a patient man, who I talked into picking me up at the airport.

Tomorrow, the Saigon adventure begins in earnest.

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Sep '19

Life Report: What If We Went Back To College

While I was visiting Dan and Lisa – Dan talked about returning to school for a degree at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. It got me thinking – so I looked up what courses they offered, and found this link to a “what am I suited for” quiz as it related to the CSU curriculum: https://csu.mymajors.com/quiz/

I was curious as to what they would recommend for me. I found the answers amusing (rated for best match in interest and down):

  • Fermentation Science and Technology
    Your Score: 529
  • Interior Architecture and Design
    Your Score: 410
  • Apparel and Merchandising
    Your Score: 407
  • Hospitality Management
    Your Score: 383
  • Women’s and Gender Studies
    Your Score: 317
  • Journalism and Media Communication
    Your Score: 299
  • Political Science
    Your Score: 299
  • Philosophy
    Your Score: 297
  • Sociology
    Your Score: 285
  • Human Resource Management Concentration
    Your Score: 283

Interesting, really. Fermentation Science and Technology – that might be good for my moonshine fascination and my love of pickles as my late night salty/crunchy snack.

Mentioned the test to Dan, who results were:

  • Fermentation Science and Technology
    Your Score: 516
  • Hospitality Management
    Your Score: 463
  • English
    Your Score: 450
  • Human Resource Management Concentration
    Your Score: 377
  • Business Administration
    Your Score: 377
  • Social Work
    Your Score: 316
  • Animal Science
    Your Score: 313
  • Equine Science
    Your Score: 313
  • Zoology
    Your Score: 313
  • Human Development and Family Studies
    Your Score: 266

WOW – apparently both Dan AND I are supposed to be on a Fermentation Science and Technology track. Wondering what that is?

Fermentation Science and Technology is a multidisciplinary major focusing on the science of fermented foods and beverages. The curriculum focuses on the science of the processes and methods involved with using microorganisms in the commercial production of fermented products. Courses in the major also emphasize the safety, culinary, and nutritional aspects of fermented foods and beverages. This major prepares students for employment in the fermented food and beverage industries in such roles as product development, processing, quality assurance and control, sensory evaluation, packaging, distribution, and plant management. Students enrolled in this major have the opportunity to participate in industry activities and professional organizations to increase their practical understanding of fermented food and beverage production, processing methods, and specific techniques. Learning Outcomes Students will demonstrate: Ability to integrate biological and chemical processes to quality and stability of fermented foods, and to critique and effectively communicate the relationships among processing of fermented foods, nutrition, and food safety. Discipline specific knowledge of the skills and competencies needed in fermentation science and technology. Examples include knowledge of food chemistry, sensory evaluation of fermented products, brewing processes, refining and packaging technology, food production management, and fermentation microbiology. Understanding of classification, production, financial aspects, consumption, and service of controlled beverages, including effective management of facilities and people with emphasis on safe service training and management. Competent application of science, history, culture, safety, health, and nutrition dimensions of fermented foods and beverages.

Potential Careers: Potential Occupations Partnerships with industry help provide field experience and internships for majors in Fermentation Science and Technology. The food industry is the largest in the world and fermentation science is a rapidly emerging area, so the future is promising. Examples of careers include fermentation scientist, food scientist, food technologist, food health inspector, food safety specialist, brewer, biotechnologist, quality control analyst, sensory analyst, food microbiologist, or entrepreneur.

Now let’s throw Lisa into the mix with her results:

  • Human Development and Family Studies
    Your Score: 617
  • Family and Consumer Sciences
    Your Score: 617
  • Neuroscience
    Your Score: 588
  • Psychology
    Your Score: 588
  • Nutrition and Food Science
    Your Score: 580
  • Animal Science
    Your Score: 570
  • Equine Science
    Your Score: 570
  • Zoology
    Your Score: 570
  • Fermentation Science and Technology
    Your Score: 530
  • Social Work
    Your Score: 444

So, even though Lisa’s score in the Fermentation Science category was number nine on her list – the level of appropriateness was right in the same numerical range as Dan and I.

Maybe the three of us should start a business that relies on fermentation. Beer? Whiskey? Pickles?

Here is a graph of where the three of us interact in our interests:

Please feel free to take the test and see where you end up. Granted, this is for a state-run land-grant college with some unique degree choices.

Definitely one of the most geeky posts I’ve done.


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Sep '19

Trip Report: Denver For Towelettes

OK, when I booked Denver, I wasn’t thinking towelettes. That was just the bonus. And getting upgraded to/from. And then there was the other bonus of old Virgin America metal in an Alaska paintjob First Class seat. I’m going to miss these:

It’s like flying in a white leather BarcoLounger. Only 10 inches of recline, but that’s double than the rest of the fleet in First. Upgrades are scarce (so I’m really lucky) on these planes because they only have 8 First Class seats, compared to 12-16 on the rest of their fleet.

And someone brings you breakfast and cocktails, though it looks like I’ve already finished my first one. Those are knock off Egg Bites (Starbucks) with potatoes and grapes.

Meet my host!

Who is hard at work about to brine one big-ass pork butt:

We have a mutual friend in Saigon (oddly enough, I get to say that I will see him in a week or so) who had a request for Kirkland Khakis in a 42/30. We looked at all the pants, and they started at 32 and ended at 40. So, no pants for Sean, and if Dan (my host) wanted any, no 30-inch waist for him. We did, however, find a Christmas Carousel for sale in the middle of September.

But the first dinner was salmon (with a side of bacon):

If you cook bacon on the grill – watch for smoke!

It was a stunning meal, and after a full night’s sleep, it was time for another feast. Some pictures of the making of carnitos:

I don’t really compliment gas grills much, but if you want to heat up some tortillas….

Before I knew it, packing time. I’m sure TSA will want to do a secondary search of my laptop bags with these empties packed inside:

The 1983 and 1984 Port bottles are from the mid-nineties when I worked at MSFT and Trader Joes had them for very cheap. The 1912 and the 1900 Madeira Dan and I drank in 2000 (yes, we were drinking 100-year-old liquor) after dinner at Andres (not to be confused with the movies, “Dinner With Andre”) where the policy was: “Drink the last of the bottle, keep the bottle.” That policy did not include the Louis XIV Cognac in the Baccarat Crystal decanter.

The towelettes I’ll be checking…


It was a quick two-night visit – and before I knew it, I was back in the air headed home, though not in as nice a seat (but still upgraded):

And food (Turkey Burger), and more empty drinks:

Coming into Seattle….

And over my house, which would be just diagonal bottom left just beyond the industrial section:

Headed home to work.


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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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4 Responses to “Trip Report: Kansas City Quickie”

  1. Conan L. Hall Says:

    Did you visit the “walking wall?” Lemme know when you return in March.

  2. UncleMarkie Says:

    They were in the process of dismantling it when I was there.

  3. Helicopterkc.com Says:

    The foods looks delicious! But is this in KCK or KCMO?

  4. UncleMarkie Says:


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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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One Response to “Destination Report: Kamaka Ukulele Factory Tour”

  1. C H Says:

    Now I want the tour.

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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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2 Responses to “Trip Report: Waikiki With The In-Laws”

  1. Lifestyle Says:

    Very good blog! Do you have any helpful hints for aspiring writers?
    I’m planning to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you suggest starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option?
    There are so many choices out there that I’m completely overwhelmed ..
    Any tips? Cheers!

  2. UncleMarkie Says:

    I use a heavily reformatted WordPress template that is hosted on a private server. I’d go for free until until you build an audience.

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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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