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Jul '21

Home Report: Furniture Project Creep

It started with a piece of walnut furniture. A piece of furniture made by the father of best friend in high school, gifted to me by his younger sister. Growing up together I spent a lot of time in the basement woodworking shop. He bought his walnut straight from the sawmill in southern Missouri and stick-air dried in said basement. He made monumental pieces of furniture, mostly Secretaries, and has pieces in both the Truman and Carter libraries. Fortunately, the piece of furniture I was gifted was MUCH smaller and more manageable. And a bit of a “folly” in the British sense.

While small, the sucker is seriously heavy – be being solid walnut.

I found the drawer pulls “distracting”, and my high school buddy, son of the cabinet maker, wasn’t fond of them either. First job, find more appropriate knobs (yes, I kept the original ones – they are in the drawer with the spare hinge for the top). Normally, his hardware was New England Forged Brass.

I like the way they fade into the surface and let the walnut shine through. Which brings us to the start of “project creep”. Needed a serious reoiling with Watco Danish Oil Natural, the same oil he used on all his furniture. As I write this days later, the outgassing of the oil is still in my house.

Drawers come out both sides, though not all of them, more like every other – the other side being fixed. There is one feature of this piece that he put in all his pieces, the hidden compartments. His daughter showed me the five she knew about. In replacing the knobs, which was a pain because some of the small spaces, I found two more, for a total of seven. Some of the hidden compartments are nested behind each other.

There is another interesting detail to this piece, the pull-out drawer supports (the way that Secretaries support their fold out desks) have Ebony supports in them. At first, I thought it was just a random wood choice from scrap laying around his shop since he worked with lots of exotic woods.

It is a curious design, 3/4 inch walnut on one side, 3/8 inch ebony on the other.

My guess (he’s long dead so I can’t confirm) is that it’s based on the hardness of the woods. Walnut is 1010 on the hardness scale, Ebony is 1780 on the hardness scale. If you notice the notch on the walnut side, it’s so that the “folly” top can swing and lay flat. Once it is flat you push the drawer slightly in to get a solid support.

The project creep started with the oiling and the knobs and continued into the bedroom where it will live with the rest of the walnut furniture (can you tell I’ve been taught the love of walnut).

I have a bed that I bought 30-years-plus-ago, sold, reacquired 15-years-ago after it was in serious disrepair from an overweight guest. It always had a problem with the book matched back panel of the headboard popping out from, well, you know, excited adult stuff. That needed to be put back in place.

The cabinet maker would be aghast, but this keeps happening (the bed is from the 40’s and was handmade), so I finally broke protocol of all wood workers. Like I did years ago when I replaced the slats with an industrial version:

So, the bedframe, which is walnut on all four sides, needed oiling, as did the Cerwin-Vega speakers from my parents Quadraphonic Sound system from the 70’s (my sis-in-law Jennifer has the other two – please don’t let them go if you downsize!). Over the ensuing fifty years I’ve had to replace the woofers twice due to age rot. They still send out great sound (and make nice side tables for the bed). The house stereo is wired to support ten speakers in a 780 square foot house.

The end result, I need to move the pictures over the bed about six inches to the right to re-center them over the bed. OK – it looks great.

The chair in the corners is 50’s, picked up by my oldest brother out of a free box at Bard College in the mid-70’s, and I’ve been dragging it around with me since the early 80’s – was black, stripped it down years ago, stained it walnut, and reupholstered it again (probably 5th time). It has an amazing curved slightly seat that is very comfortable even with not much padding.

Well, that is one home adventure I’ve been working on. The other it has been too hot to actually work on. Building an outdoor sauna in sauna like weather conditions. The bedroom I can do in the comfort of air conditioning and oil fumes.

My buddy mentioned that one of his father’s Secretaries was featured in the background of the dust jacket for Jimmy and Roselyn Carter’s 1987 book, Everything To Gain — Making The Most Of The Rest Of Your Life.

[? ? ?] but have put on a few pounds

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Jul '21

Trip Report: Manitou Springs For A Train Ride

This is just a quick trip (two nights) to see the rehabilitated Cog Railway that goes from Manitou Springs (6,100 feet) to Pike’s Peak (14,100 feet). A month or so I read an article on the reopening, and talked Dan into going with me.

Dan, who lives north of Denver, picked me up at the airport and we set out for Manitou Springs. My breakfast on the plane was fading, and we stopped along the way at Rosie’s Diner in Monument (just north of Colorado Springs.

Dan had the Patty Melt; I went for Eggs Benedict:

Not a “light” lunch.

Sated and back in the car, we drove through Garden of the Gods between Monument and Manitou Springs:

Didn’t spend much time but we also did it on the way back out of time.

Next up, the The Day’s Inn – Manitou Springs:

We did not stay at The La Fun Motel across the street who cater to pot smoking pets:

Mike McEvers, an old family friend met us at the hotel for a drive into “downtown” Manitou Springs for dinner at The Loop – a Mexican food place:

VERY big margaritas and that was the SMALL one, and the “shrimp coctktail” was this wonderful mashup of ceveché and guspachho:

After the huge lunch, that’s all I and Dan (he had the same thing) could get through – luckily, they had to-go soup containers!

Wednesday was the big day – the Cog Railway! But, first, we have to get there, and the parking lot is small, so, they recommend taking the shuttle…which has a VERY LONG line:

We made our reservation time with barely enough time to grab a snack and a drink, though not as much as we should since there was NOTHING for sale at the top. Visitor’s Center is set to start partial opening in a couple of weeks.

Before long, we were headed up the mountain:

And we are off:

Dinner was at The Keg Lounge:

And my pulled corn beef, and a Manhattan that I didn’t get a picture of:

The next day we were back headed north. Dan dropped me at the airport where I settled into The Admiral’s Club for soup, salad, drinks….

Got upgrade on the way back, rewarded with Bulkhead Window which made for a picture…

Another one down!

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Jun '21

Trip Report: San Francisco!

When you find airfare to San Francisco for $258, roundtrip, in First – book it!

Had the pleasure of seeing one of Alaska’s latest livery in honor of the United Negro College Fund:

Had my usual Caesar, eggs, and yoghurt in the Lounge before heading to the gate. Let me tell you – TRAVEL IS BACK!

But at least I’m in First:

And this was waiting for me at SFO:

Decided to Lyft into the city to save my steps for the hills of San Francisco.

When I booed this trip, I was going to be at the WorldMark San Francisco, but I got a call the Friday before my departure saying that they had moved me to a different Wyndham property several blocks away. Apparently the WorldMark’s elevator hasn’t been signed off on yet. Here are shots of The Canterbury, where I am staying:

Not much of a view since I’m on the second floor…

Overall, think the units are a little larger than WorldMarks.

Threw down the bags and ordered booze to be delivered:

Not sure how they can make any money with a delivery that far, but I’ll take it!

The stuff to the right is stuff I brought with me to give away.

Part of the trip is to see friends, with Alicia and her stepdaughter Maggie (sounds weird to say it that way) for dinner at one of my favorite hole in the wall sushi restaurants – Maru Sushi.

Yes, the rest of the post is mostly food.

Checked out a new place, David’s Delicatessen:

I ordered the Rueben and a split of sparkling and was torn on the potato salad or the cole slaw, so he brought me both. And that split – they were out of the small bottle, so he just kept filling up my glass from the big bottle. I took half of the sandwich and sides home. I’ll be back!

Found this sign walking around:

Dinner was courtesy of some food delivery coupon I had – from L&L Hawaiian. Had the Kalua Pork and Mac Salad with Pork Saimin.

Found some other interesting business in the neighborhood – an Antiquarian Bookstore (Argonaut):

And a decent bodega (Sutter Fine Foods) with a great selection:

Not cheap, but VERY WELL stocked.

Grabbed lunch at another new place (for me) – Honey Honey:

Another dinner at Maru Sushi:

Checked out Chisme Cantina for expensive street tacos (that were way better than standard street tacos):

Finally got together with the boys (Mark and Onyx) who gave me a ride to the airport. Finding a place that had cocktails AND nibbles, AND a parking lot that could handle o big dually pickup truck led us to the Homewood Suites San Francisco Airport (a Hilton property). I was surprised by the herb garden across from the entrance:

All in all, it was a good trip. I had the plane to myself for one hot minute:

And a lovely sunset on the way out of town.

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Jun '21

Trip Report: Palm Springs AGAIN

When you live in Seattle, sun and heat are in short supply for most of the year.

Started the day with the usual travel cocktail (and travel cocktail shirt – not shown), which because it was such an early flight, I had to grab garnishes from the Alaska Lounge since they don’t serve alcohol before 6am, but they were willing to send me off with limes, olives, and their spicy beans. The First Class flight attendant was seriously impressed!

This is an odd ball trip. Rache has friends in town, I have friends in town, so it will be lots of separate and combined visits rather than entertaining in the suite.

I needed a nap, and Rache went off with four or five other people for lunch. It’s Palm Springs so I have my usual haunts, and one of them is Inca, a Peruvian restaurant. Started with a Pisco Sour, and theirs is EXCELLENT:

Followed by the Ceviché Mixto – always good.

ODD car parked on the street a block or so away, sure, it is a Lamborghini, but it has Alberta (and in Canada) plates on it:

After lunch it was time to hit the two Angel’s Thrift Stores that are right next to each other. The regular one, and the fancy one. Found three shirts this trip!

Rache came back for dinner – exhausted from being around lots of people all day (my take on it), and we order a TON of food from the Thai Restaurant within walking distance (Chada Thai)

And then there were MORE dishes – we have leftovers! Word to the wise – be sure to specify hotness on each dish, otherwise they will all be mild.

Rache was out on the morning but the kind man that he is, he had ordered breakfast and picked it up, and left me a lovely Breakfast Burrito to reheat in the fridge.

I spent the day being a slug, ordering fresh fruit (Rainier and Bing Cherries) to be delivered to friends in Japan, and I had my guilty pleasure from next door’s 55+ menu (that would be Dennys) for dinner.

Our last night in town, I had my friends over for cocktails at 4. It turned into a version of watching Angels in America, both parts in one day. You watch part one as a Matinee, then go to dinner, then come back and watch part two. In our case it was a couple of hours of cocktails, which started fine but then devolved into one of the four of us (not me) secreting drinks and stripping down to his undies and crashing on my bed. After a bit we noticed him missing. Put him back together and sent him home. Fortunately, they hadn’t gotten to the front door before I found their car keys, condo keys and belt still on the nightstand and got them back to them. End, Act One.

Rache and I then walked downtown, back to Inca, for dinner. Lovely cloud formation on the way down:

More Pisco Sours, Rache had the Ceviché, and I tried a beef dish (which was good, but not great):

Got back to the condo, mixed a couple of drinks, and there was a knock at the sliding door – Act Two!

First it was Partner A looking for Partner B who hung out for a bit and then went looking for him. Then, Partner B shows up looking for A, but his cell phone is dead so he has to charge it to call A, who shows up to get B, who has wandered off at this point….another hour of drama. Eventually reunited and back in their condo – at least I have both their phone numbers now.

It was supposed to be an early night since we have an early flight, and not direct. Via San Francisco.

A thwarted lounge visit (apparently, we could have gotten into the American Lounge), and we just settled for breakfast at a sit-down place. I needed sometime calming, i.e., clam chowder. Rache had a more traditional late breakfast:

Lovely views out the window on the way out of San Francisco – I never tire of that view (or of Puget Sound):

We were home early enough that we needed someone else to make dinner – hello, Loretta’s for their MASSIVE Pork Tenderloin, which we split!

Another trip in the books!


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May '21

Trip Report: Indy For Friends

Oh, the joys of more relaxed travelling…Indianapolis here I come!

I seem to have lost some of my packing skills:

I have not lost my vacation day-drinking skills:

Notice there is also some protein to soak up the alcohol.

Sadly, the days of really cheap First-Class seats are coming to an end (probably why I have over 100,000 Elite Qualifying Miles this year), and Indy is never a cheap flight (captive market). But I’m in my usual seat, and my usual travel aloha shirt:

And the flight includes lunch:

Joe and Lisa were at the airport to meet me and whisk me off to my hotel. We are all vaccinated, but they have three (Joe corrected me — it’ two, just feels like twelve) cats, which I’m not vaccinated against. I’m staying at the Crown Plaza Downtown at the Old Train Station. Yes, this is not usually my budget, but I have a train car suite – which I was expecting to be in the basement, but it was on the second floor. The have 13 converted cars that stand on their original tracks.

More photos later since we are off to dinner at La Margarita, which turns out to be their first night of indoor seating:

Barbacoa tacos with dipping broth, think Mexican French Dip.

On our way to our next stop, we passed the World Headquarters of White Castle – the burger place:

Next up was a Tiki Bar that is a favorite of Joe’s – who has a Tiki Bar in his basement. The Inferno Room:

The next found Joe and I at Shapiros – the famous Indianapolis Jewish Delicatessen.

I had a Rueben; Joe had a bunch of stuff so he could take lunch home to Lisa.

Home for Joe and Lisa includes a Tiki Bar in the basement:

The next day, Joe and I explored the old train station, now an event center attached to the hotel:

Here are some shots of the hotel, which is built in the old train shed – hence, train cars on the second floor:

They were setting up a wedding for 300 socially distanced people the next day.

Which begged the question, where is the current Amtrak station. Close by, on two remaining tracks through the train shed…and a seriously depressing place above a combined with a sketchy Greyhound/Bolt terminal.

On a whim, we decided to drive over to Beech Grove, a major Amtrak refurbishment center for their rolling stock:

And some of the new Midwest higher speed cars:

Off to pick up Lisa for a tour of New Fields, formerly known as the Indianapolis Art Museum.

Dinner was at the Root and Bone:

Apparently, I don’t pack any better on the way home:

My final morning/afternoon, since I had a late afternoon flight, a stop at an Antique Mall (Midland Arts and Antiques) on the way to the airport.

I actually got out without buying anything! Just as well since there was no room in the luggage.

Off to the airport, where there are cars on display, and a branch of Shapiros:

Other random thoughts: it was Indy 500 season, so there were white Corvette Pace Cars all over town, and my hotel was filled with early 20-something seriously fit young men – all staying at the hotel. Turns out it was Spring League held at Lucas Field, which is also connected to the hotel via skywalks. It’s like the Elite Pro D Football Camp. There are 8 teams, times 50 players – even doubled up, that is A LOT of rooms. Guessing they didn’t pay what I paid for my suite, which was cheaper since we are still in a pandemic. Godsend for the hotel with no conventions happening.

Well, that’s the trip. Indy was FUN!

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May '21

Trip Report: Escape To San Diego!

With my pod fully vaccinated, off to San Diego go I and Jonathan.

Lunch in the Board Room:

Pretty views from the plane (over the lap of the window passenger):

I never grow tired of flying out of Sea-Tac.

And then lunch, part two:

AND FOR THE FIRST TIME IN OVER A YEAR – hard liquor is back in First and Premium on Alaska. I almost cried.

Damn, no Cranberry Juice for those early morning flights (with Vodka). I find Orange Juice too acidic.

On the rental car shuttle (thanks, Jonathan for dealing with this), someone has A TON of checked bags:

And because of the Covid Meltdown of rental car companies, our car is buried somewhere behind another car.

Love the preserved detail at The Inn At The Park in San Diego:

We are in a Two-Bedroom Deluxe which comes with a “balcony” and a picture of the hallway carpet:

And a video walkthrough:

Some shots from the rooftop deck up a couple of floors:

Oh, and a sunset shot:

Dinner the first night was a true FIND – thanks again, Jonathan. La Taverna only opened a couple of months ago, so it’s still hard to find on search engines.

We started with the Grilled Octopus!

And the complimentary calamari (coupon from hotel):

Sadly, only shochu cocktails (oddly common in California to get around expensive liquor licenses).

The wine list was extensive (and expensive).

For the main, I got the short rib Bolognese special:

Jonathan got the shank special – we both got the house made pappardelle under it.

Large portions – we got take home containers!

Awesome food, served by the one of the owners – Jonathan, who is well-versed in Northern Italian raved that it was authentic – see his review here: Jonathan J.’s Reviews | Seattle – Yelp

The next lunch we sent to Hash House A Go Go – one of my favorites from previous visits:

Started with a couple of DRUNK CLAMS — What happens when you mix vodka, Clamato, and clam juice? You get a very Drunk Clam! Made with Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and chili pepper, this is the drink to spice up your meal. Their words, not mine.

Then Jonathan moved onto the Sage Fried Chicken and Waffle Tower, which is two sage friend chicken breasts, bacon waffle, hot maple reduction, and fried leeks.

And I went for the HH Original Benedict, which is smoked bacon, fresh tomato, spinach, roasted red pepper cream topped with two basted eggs served on a fresh split biscuit with griddled mashed potatoes:

Yep – you guessed it, MORE leftovers.

The afternoon was filled with the USS Midway Museum down in the harbor:

A great time on a beautiful day on the bay. And a lovely Fire Station on the way home:

Hello, mid-century modern!

Lots of leftovers to work through….

And I made little snack plates for when a friend from high-school visited – she used to live in San Diego, but now Alabama, but was back to visit daughter/granddaughter/ great granddaughter:

We were gabbing so much neither of us remembered to take a picture!

Before long, it was time to head home after a stop in the lounge, then onto the plane…

Continued the work I started in San Diego reading scholarship applications.

It was a fun trip that almost felt normal.

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Mar '21

Trip Report: Escape To Austin — 2X

Seattle tends to be gloomy in the winter, hence decamping to Austin a couple of times. First with Bliss, second just me.

As usual – the trip starts with a Caesar!

Bliss booked himself into a Saver seat for $129 round-trip, I booked myself into First for $360. Kevin’s seat comes with nothing, mine comes with breakfast (and wine).

For the first trip, we are booked into a two bedroom which means we have a small deck. Bliss took a nice video of the unit:

As well as taking one of the 10th floor pool and lounge area, complete with infinity pool (though, oddly, no hot tub – not that it would be open during the pandemic):

Speaking of deck, here is a shot of the two of us on ours:

And on the roof:

One of the things I do in Austin is to use Drizzly to deliver booze and mixer to me:

Two of those bottles are coming back to Seattle with me.

Dinner for the first night travelled with me…a bone-in pork roast and a green salad:

Or the breakfast Bliss cooked in:

Bliss is big on exploring and dragging me along…the river front:


And the next day the State Capital Visitors Center:

And other building on our walk to/from:

I did get a little time in the sun when Bliss went off to explore on his own.

And then there is the food in Austin. Sadly, my favorite restaurant (Ranch 616) was closed on both visits due to winter weather bursting pipes (yes, in Austin). They reopen in May. Sigh.

But there is still Walton’s Fancy and Staple for a Blood Orange drink and a Rueben:

And another day, a Bloody Mary with Biscuits and Gravy:

Or dinner out at The Grove where I got the Linguini with Pancetta and Mushrooms, Bliss the Steak Salad:

On the second trip I went to Irene’s and had the most amazing fried chicken sandwich (with a Manhattan):

Love the décor at Irene’s (and the waiter Manny), though I ate outside:

There was also delivery from Black’s BBQ – which for some reason after two trips I only have a picture of the lunch leftovers of sausage and mac/cheese:

No pictures of the ribs or pulled meat sandwiches.

For my second visit to Austin, I booked the Studio Presidential, which sounds like an oxymoron. But it costs more points than the two-bedroom Bliss and I shared, the only more expensive place at the WorldMark Austin is the Two-Bedroom Presidential. Here is a video tour:

The phrase “over-the-top” comes to mind. The “Studio” is twice the size of my 2-bedroom house! 2200 square feet is what I paced out (200 of that is the deck). There was even a turntable in the living room (ignoring the foosball table):

Which is kind of dangerous since they have framed records with their covers as art on the wall.

And a Bose soundbar system:

And a seriously nice shower:

Thankfully there is an Admiral’s Club at the Austin Airport to chill, get some mac and cheese, and fill my “water bottle” for the flight home.

Nice to get out of town and get some sun.

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Mar '21

Trip Report: Winter Mileage Runs

This year I’m only doing a couple of mileage runs, but they are all booked in First Class because tickets are still really cheap.

Alaska also rolled over 35,000 Elite Qualifying Miles from last Winter/Spring trips so I gave me a BIG head start with making 75K Gold for 2022 (and the 50,000 mile bonus that comes with hitting that milestone.

Mostly a bunch of pretty cloud pictures:

And my, how times have changed. You can buy a Covid test kit in the Oakland airport:

Still no booze in First Class – just wine and the cold food selection hasn’t changed in months.

Choice One – Fruit and Cheese Platter

For breakfast the other option is the ham/brie/egg salad wrap:

And if it is after 10:30 or so, it’s the Turkey which for some reason, I don’t have a picture of, but here is the description:

Harvest Smoked Turkey Sandwich
Thin-sliced, smoked turkey breast with Smoked Provolone, creamy Artichoke spread, fresh tomato, crisp cucumber, and peppery arugula on a soft artisan ciabatta roll. Served with scallion aioli and a Seattle chocolate.

And as it has happened the previous three years, Ken (on oxygen) and his wife were mileage running with me as well. We always end up on the Raleigh-Durham turnaround at least once a winter.

Probably my last mileage runs of the year unless Alaska announces their 100K level which they have hinted at.

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Jan '21

Trip Report: Overnight On Hood Canal

One of my podmates, Bliss, has a cabin on the Hood Canal. It’s been years since I’ve been out there. Doesn’t help that it doesn’t have a shower (at the moment), but thought I’d try an overnight. Glad I did.

It had been dumping rain in Seattle, but the day of the trip, suddenly, the sun was out. Should have taken the Miata, but I had the Escapé loaded with kindling and necessities.

Some hiccups getting out there, but in the end, here I am:

The steps are new and not quite done, but they really MAKE the house pop. Formerly you had to go around the left-hand side of the house.

This is a high tide. Yesterday when the storms were in, apparently it was crazy with wind, rain, waves.

The original entrance to the house was on the roadside, it a space that is now the bathroom. When Kevin was growing up, it was his grandparent’s cabin, there was just an outhouse.

Kevin has a daily ritual of feeding the seagulls. The choice is between them, and noisy crows. Apparently, they stay out of each other’s territory.

The cabin itself is quaint…


But Bliss has a big-ass propane BBQ on the deck for our steaks!

And as you can see, it’s fluffy robes at the cabin (bring your own):

Was having such a good time, no pictures of the dinner…mixed greens with sesame dressing, riced cauliflower, New York Strip steaks from Belfair’s Safeway 50% off rack.

But I did get a picture of the lovely breakfast, complete with homemade gluten-free blueberry muffins!

Headed back to Seattle after breakfast (which was a noon) and it was a stunning drive back…

Yes, that is Mount Tahoma (Rainier) peaking out in both photos.

And tonight, my dinner back at home was my leftover steak turned into a Chef Salad:

Sadly, I forgot to add the bacon — oh well, more for tomorrows eggs.

It was only a day, but after the rain and being locked up, it was much needed. Thanks Bliss!

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Dec '20

Year End Report: What A Screwed Year For Travel

For those who didn’t get a physical copy of my “end of 2020” seasonal card, here it is, and it pretty much sums up my feelings about 2020:

Let me start with the fact that I already had 35,000 flight miles in my Alaska account by the time I stopped flying in mid-March. In August I tentatively returned to flying with a couple of night trip to Austin, by myself. Austin, summer, probably not the best time of year, but a room was available, and First Class was cheap. Nothing like flying in 1A, where you are the only person in the row, with the exception of the flight attendant who is on the other side of the plane for takeoff and landing. Alaska (and Delta) block the seat next to you even in First Class.

This was what my travel year was supposed to look like for 2020:

Here is what it ended up as:

The major around-the-world in Business and First Class (Japan Airlines, British Airways) got called off when I was in Japan and the Indian government cancelled all e-visas for Japanese citizens. The plane still went, but not with me on it. Stayed in Japan for another week with my nephew, who was between jobs, and rebooked a flight back through SFO in Japan Airlines First Class Suite, and suite it was. Click for the blog post about that amazing experience. The Tokyo-Delhi ticket was part of my Seattle-Tokyo ticket, so no miles back since it was a one-way, with a stopover. Did get back 80,000 miles for the British Airways portion, and $600 in fees, and the JAL First Class ticket was only 70,000 miles and like $25 in fees.

Two other international trips also got tossed in the dust bin: Nagoya (for my nephews wedding reception) and Taiwan, and Bogota, Columbia (with Rache).

Here is the link to what I flew last year and what was cancelled:
UMTravels » Carbon Footprint 2020 (unclemarkie.com)

For the coming year, 2021 is starting off as messy as 2020 ended. Two local trips in January cancelled, along with another major international junket to Dublin and Barcelona to visit friends I have in both cities. Here is what is still on the books:

Here is a link to the specifics of what is planned for 2021 (and what has already cancelled):
UMTravels » Carbon Footprint 2021 (unclemarkie.com)

Oddly enough, I still have enough miles with Alaska to do a free domestic First-Class ticket, enough for a United domestic First Class ticket, and maybe enough in my Delta account for a one-way coach ticket. That said, unless it’s a last-minute domestic ticket, I save the miles for flying Business Class internationally, as it’s a much better return on investment.

Retained my Alaska 75K Elite status, got a status match for SkyLux’s second from the top tier, which is good through 2024 (and I have yet to fly them), as always. United Gold status (for life, being a Million Miler with them), and new to the mix this year, Delta Diamond Medallion status, which was a challenge match, that for once, didn’t have a maximum spend component. Got Diamond by making six round trips for under $1200. Points Guy values Delta Diamond at $8.830 in benefits because of the Global Upgrades they give out but their miles are only worth 1.2 each, Alaska 75K is valued at $6,825 in benefits though individual miles have a value of 1.8 cents, with United Premier Gold valued at $2,645 and miles worth 1.3 cents each. SlyLux is so new that they aren’t on the cart yet.

So, for 2021, these will be the cards in my wallet for easier travelling (though most airlines have discontinued issuing “real” cards):



With Alaska joining the OneWorld alliance at the end of March, my Alaska 75K status will give me OneWorld Emerald status, allowing me into the First Class Lounges (rather than Business Class Lounges) on all the member airlines (American, British, Qantas, Royal Maroc, Finnair, Japan Airlines, Singapore, and another handful) when any leg of my itinerary is international.  When I started thinking about this, looked into my Delta status, so access for me and a guest in all SkyTeam lounges even travelling in Economy, and I have Star Alliance lounge access (though not Polaris Lounges) with my United status, and the one or two lounges that Starlux has. If you think I’m making a bog deal out of lounge access, international lounges are critical — a place to nap, a place to shower, a place to eat and drink, and charge your devices. Funny that I just realized I now have international lounge access on the three global alliances. OK, I’ll stop gloating.

Looking of the pictures from airports of overcrowding for Present Day travelers….really glad I’m done travelling until the end of January.

Happy end of the year to everyone.


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Dec '20

Trip Report: Pod Buddy Getaway to Discovery Bay

A little midweek getaway with my Pod Buddy Bliss…

A stay-in-mostly trip to Discovery Bay, on the peninsula west of Port Townsend, east of Port Angeles.

Didn’t remember to take a shot of the resort, so I grabbed the one off the WorldMark site:

Mind you, we were up the hill a bit. We were in Unit 31:

Two-bedroom place, with enough space for keeping a distance.

And a change of views for both of us, even though Bliss does have a cabin on Hood Canal that he has spent a ton of Covid-time at.

So chill that I only took one food shot…but it was a good one:

Pork off the grill, some crawfish, salad, a little wine.

Nice to get out of the city for a couple of nights.

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Nov '20

Trip Report: I Needed Heat & Sun

There are several things Seattle lacks in the fall. Heat and sun. Hello Palm Springs.

I booked the 3-bedroom place for Gay Pride weekend, but with Covid, no celebrations, and only two of us in a place that sleeps eight.

As is my way these days, my trip starts at the Alaska Lounge for a Caesar and a light dinner:

My flight arrives about eight hours after Bliss gets in, so I put the reservation in his name. Bliss chose his flights based on the cheapest “Basic” fare on Alaska since he isn’t concerned with being able to get upgraded and gets a free bag with the credit card. I chose my flights based on what was the cheapest First-Class ticket ($325 roundtrip, Bliss’ was maybe $150).

This Airbus had the new First-Class seats installed. Sadly, still no cocktail service, just beer and wine.

Had the curry chicken wrap as my snack (other was the famous Cheese & Fruit Platter).

Being one of the last flights in, Lyft/Uber drivers were scarce – ended up booking an XL, some massive black Yukon thing – but I made it to the condo.

Some shots of the condo:

And the view with my morning coffee:

I did get some pool time – which you need to book in 2-hour blocks to limit the number of people. Bliss used it more than me:

In the pivot to online festivities, bars were trying interesting things to provide support for Pride, having lost the ability to serve people alcohol to people who don’t’ order food. Trio (restaurant/bar) was offering Cocktail Kits as a benefit for the Pride Foundation – bags of booze, mixer, swag. Wasn’t a bad deal. Web site said they were 750ml bottles, but the ones I got had liter bottles. By the end we got 4 bags (three for me, one for Bliss). This is the haul from just TWO of the bags:

Yes, Bluetooth headphones, a wireless mousepad/charger, cups, frisbees, t-shirts, hats, bandanas – the Effen Pack ($30) came with the nicer swag than the Jim Beam Bag ($20). Between us we ended up with three of the Effen Packs, which had really nice polycarbonate party glasses.

Bliss went to the store before I got there, so we had supplies for all our meals – which included these amazing nachos he whipped up:

Yes, I brought wine in my checked bag (along with my brandy and Verners).

Took a walk down the street to pick up the second set of bags while trying a couple of the Bud Light Hard Seltzers – as you can imagine, they were hideous and I ditched mine in a recycle bin:

And passed a Tiki Bar (Bootlegger Tiki) that I’d love to try, assuming it survives the Pandemic. Check out their website for all the new rules in place.

Afternoon cocktails on the deck with the view of the mountains which I never get tired of:

Thursday afternoon we had a late lunch/early dinner at one of my favorite places in Palm Spring – Sherman’s Delicatessen. They only have limited outdoor seating which is what I felt the most comfortable. This was the first time I’d been to a meal in a restaurant since I was in Waikiki in mid-March.

That was taken as we were leaving, and the sun had gone down…but the meal!

They don’t have a full bar, but they do offer a fresh squeezed pink grapefruit Greyhound (Cava instead of Vodka). Love them, but only one. Too much citric acid for more than one, or heartburn. Same reason I drink a Caesar rather than a Bloody Mary.

I love that they serve a platter of pickles with the meal – should have gotten more!

Bliss got the Early Bird Dinner of chicken and ribs which came with a full salad as well:

His was actually cheaper than my corned beef Rueben by $2:

But that IS a lot of meat – and I took half home. So, I got two meals for the price of one.

Bliss actually got dessert from the giant case:

Speaking of restaurants, the Denny’s has moved to outdoor seating in the parking lot – doesn’t look comfortable:

My final breakfast on Friday I took on the porch:

A Facebook comment on this photo was – “Looks like the Eifel Tower”. We were drinking Champagne (which I also brought down with me) in an early celebration of the news that would come the next day.

Final lunch was the other half of the sandwich:

Back to the airport – no lounge, sadly. But I was back in my new usual seat (used to be 1C, the aisle, now it is 1A the window because they are blocking the seat next to you for until the end of the year):

Got home and installed the Effen Vodka in the drink dispenser – good timing as the old bottle was dead.

It cools the liquor before it spits it out. Totally unneeded, but amusing.

That’s it for this post.

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Oct '20

Trip Report: Pandemic Coast Starlight Train Trip – Day Three

Checked out a little before 11am (which was checkout time) and headed to the airport even though my flight wasn’t until 3:50pm. With the pandemic, the hot breakfast at the Wingate by Wyndham was a sack of takeaway thing like an apple, a muffin, a granola bar – all suitable to packing for the way home. Personally, I was planning on getting my lunch at the Alaska Lounge at LAX.

Coming through security my bag was pulled aside – not unusual since I usually have a toiletry quart bag that is containers of whiskey, toothpaste, and shampoo. Add an empty metal water bottle, might just as well add a corkscrew! Why did they pull my bag – they thought I had a snow globe. Not that snow globes are dangerous, it’s just that they are filled with more than 3oz. of liquid. I didn’t have a snow globe, I had this:

I can see how it looked like a snow globe on an x-ray – and we all had a GREAT laugh.

Alaska is slowing getting the lounges back to full service, although with pandemic rules:

This is the middle of the afternoon, and there aren’t many people. But they are serving hard liquor (unlike on the planes) and offer soup, salad, cookies, etc.

Whiskey and diet, chicken noodle soup, salad with chicken and ranch. I went back form two more of the soup.

On boarding, I found Alaska’s NEW First Class seat. Since they started retrofitting these a couple of years ago, have only ridden once before, and it was on a Airbus A321neo – a plane that Alaska is starting to phase out, but yet, this was a brand new interior. It still had the “new plane” smell to it!

Interestingly enough, Alaska didn’t block 1D and 1F, which they usually do for a crew member, so they don’t share a jump seat.

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Oct '20

Trip Report: Pandemic Coast Starlight Train Trip – Day Two

Day two of my sequestered adventure. I interact with fewer people than I would on a trip to the grocery store, and masks are required.

This would be sunrise over Northern California:

For breakfast I headed to the dining car…which was dead. Even if it was at capacity, with the pandemic, every other booth is blocked:

Had a quick breakfast sandwich and some coffee, and headed back to bed.

Sadly, Amtrak no longer prints paper schedules for the passengers to follow – haven’t for years, but I planned ahead and printed one out. Really, it’s the only way to know if we are running on time.

And, contrary to usual Amtrak running times, we are running EARLY. Which means unexpected longer “stretch the leg” stops, like San Jose – which for the first time I actually got to see the inside of the station.

From the outside, you’d never guess this was inside:

Salinas was another stop that I hadn’t explored – mostly because I usually am headed northbound from Santa Fe via Los Angeles.

Around lunch time, it started to get interesting – with an unexpected stop in Soledad (home of the famous prison) where the train was met with four officers and three patrol cars to escort a guest off the train. I went to the observation car to see what was going on (since it has big windows on each side). Found this scene outside the window:

There was at least one woman filming the whole incident, and during the time I was watching, everything was civil and calm by the police, a little less so by the suspect, like he was loudly trying to talk himself out of getting hauled away.

Didn’t stick around for the whole arrest scene as my lunch was being prepared and delivered to my room.

Lunch was the braised beef, which I paired with a Nigori Saké I’d brought along and chilled:

I asked my cabin attendant why the guy was pulled of the train – stowaway? Drunk and disorderly? Smoking?

Jeanette’s answer was, “Probably all three.”

Learned later in the trip that in addition to wandering around the sleeper cars where he as not ticketed, that he was caught whacking off next to a ten-year-old girl. Charming. Surprised the police were so civil.

The unexpected stop put us a little behind schedule for arrival in San Louis Obispo where I was going to hang out with Jameson for a few minutes and give him a belated birthday present. He actually excused himself from a business meeting to come see me for five minutes.

Seems that we have matching Covid Cuts!

Back in the cabin, time to fire up a(nother) cocktail, using some bitters that Jonathan brought back from a work trip to Texas:

Oh, and remember the picture of me using the trash can as an ice bucket – figured out a replacement trash car using the folded down bags that they deliver my meals in!

Heading further south, we get into a long stretch that borders Vanderburgh Air Force Base, also home to SPACE FORCE™, SpaceX, and ULA (united Launch Alliance), and not home to cell service on the train while passing by the 86,000 acre facility on the interior side, and the Pacific Ocean on the other side.



Before long, it was dinner time, which I took in the dining car, with maybe half a dozen other people. Final meal with the Chicken Marsala.

With a wonderful sunset.

We were back to being on time…until near the end of dinner, we came to a rather abrupt stop. My drink almost slid off the table!

Seems that we have MORE adventure this trip, in the form of two dead bodies in the car that we T-boned. The quick stop was AFTER we hit the car. Train vs. Car, guess who wins? With the mass of the train, you couldn’t even feel the impact. I’m familiar with the physics since my brother died in a similar situation, though in that case, the train wasn’t blowing its whistle, and the crossing didn’t have gate arms. Here is a link to the details of the crash:


Seems that intersection is a death magnet, with 18 incidents in recent times, while waiting for an overpass to be constructed.

A candid comment from my dining car attendant, Frank, was, well, Frank. His comment went something like, “At least we hit someone in Oxnard. Coroner can be here in 30-45 minutes. If this had happened in the mountains, we’d be here for at least four to six hours.”

Within thirty minutes of the accident, attendants passed through the car with “snack boxes” to help get through the delay. I was truly STUNNED at how quick they responded to the delay. Don’t know if Coach passengers got boxes.

We were due into Los Angeles at 9PM. By the time we arrived it was 10:30. I love the LA train station:

Yep, clock on the tower is actually correct, quarter to eleven. It was almost midnight by the time I got to the Wingate by Wyndham (used points) and checked in. Had a wonderful Lyft driver, Sheena, a single mother picking up extra hours in addition to her full-time job. This is where that snack box came in handy! My midnight snack.

Some things to know about the trip on The Coast Starlight:

  • Lots of wildlife this trip; egrets, pelicans, all sorts of raptors, deer, sea lions, and an explosion of homeless camps.
  • Ocean side of the car seems to be the even numbers, but no guarantee.
  • With the new “Flexible Dining” meal scheme (all meals are free in the sleepers, which I believe they have expanded to things from the café car) you can have your food delivered to your room, BUT, it doesn’t arrive as hot.
  • Pony up for a sleeper. If you are travelling single, the Roomette is fine. Bathroom and shower shared. While it can house two people, it’s TIGHT for two. For two, spend even more money on the Bedroom which the bottom bed can actually hold two skinny adults. You also get your own bathroom complete with shower. Also available, though scarce, is the Family Room which has the same beds as the Bedroom unit, but also has bunks for two children. Bathroom shared.
  • Another reason to book a sleeper is that the second person just pays their train fare. Sleeper fee is for the cabin, not by person.
  • And yet another reason to book a sleeper – you can bring, and consume your own alcohol, in your room, sadly, not in the dining room, and they used to have overpriced but drinkable wine in the dining car by the half bottle, now they have Barefoot brand, which is terrible.

Headed home tomorrow. We’ll see how that goes.


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Oct '20

Trip Report: Pandemic Coast Starlight Train Trip – Day One

Continuing my quest to find pandemic travel options that as safe as possible considering mask scofflaws. Thought I’d check out the train in a roomette. This is something that I booked back in May when I was looking forward to ANY travel.

Hello Coast Starlight – it runs from Seattle to Los Angeles. Formerly it was seven days a week, with a Parlour Car for the sleeping cabin guests. Sadly, the Parlour Car was retired in early 2019, and now service “because of Covid-19” is down to three times a week. In my mind this change was just hastened by the pandemic. The current head of Amtrak used to be the CEO for Delta and has no love for long distance trains. He has also “temporarily” suspended full dining car service with cooked to order food on the Western long-haul trains. He managed to pull that off on the East Coast trains a year ago (more on food service later).

Here is the route map:

In case you were wondering (or not), Amtrak doesn’t provide wi-fi on long distance trains (though they used to in the Parlour Car), which make since this is what your T-Mobile coverage would be like on the Coast Starlight:

It being T-Mobile, pink equals coverage, green, no coverage.

While I wish they would embellish all that plaster, the fact that they restored it from decades of false ceiling brings me joy.

The top bag is just “supplies”.

Train is here!

Got settled in the room once we boarded:

With the pandemic, they can still bring you ice, but they no longer have disposable buckets –I turned the stainless steel 4x14x8 trash can into a cooler since a) it already had a liner, and b) Janette brought my ice double bagged with thick plastic. Yes, that is a half-bottle of champagne to go with my lunch.

Sadly, somehow my 5-minute video of the beautiful Point Defiance Loop on the train – which will be rerouted next year – didn’t save. So I have one frame I grabbed. Sigh.

But speaking of that lunch – it arrived just past Olympia. As I mentioned, Amtrak has moved to “Flexible Dining”, which is basically reheated meals than cooked to order. Current menu is:

So, no grilled burgers for lunch, no surf and turf for dinner. I went for the Creole Shrimp & Andouille:

Lessons learned:

  • Bring your own champagne because what they serve is Barefoot brand
  • Maybe don’t order the shrimp – it doesn’t reheat well and becomes rubbery
  • The desserts are no longer fresh(ish), they are shelf stable prepackaged.

Soon, it was time for a quick stop in Portland, with enough time to grab a postcard:

Then Eugene:

And then dinner…and the Chicken Fettuccine:

Cream sauce helped keep things moist – and a shot of the “dessert” of the evening.

And eventually to bed.

More tomorrow.


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Oct '20

Home Report: My 15 Minutes Of Fame

So, six weeks ago I posted about selling some footage for an HBO Sports Documentary – yes, me, a SPORTS documentary. Here is the link to that post: https://blog.unclemarkie.com/2020/08/22/trip-report-hbo-sports-documentary/

Well, three weeks ago they were in production and needed some additional footage that didn’t have to be exclusive to the Whistler Peak lift – just some footage of the end of the lift and getting off. Did some more digging and submitted another six videos, which triggered another check. What a weird year – the government sends me a check, HBO sends me two checks.

Fast forward to last night – and it is the Premiere of the Documentary. Since I don’t have cable, I had to sign up for the one-week streaming trial so that I could invite my pod over for dinner and a premiere. One of them is Roxy, who was with me on one of the trips that they used footage.

Burgers, corn on the cob, slaw….

And fries from both Rutabaga and Sweet Potato.

Here are some shots of the documentary…featuring some of my footage!

And my shoes make THREE appearances!

I wore the shoes last night – though I really miss the purple pants that I was wearing on the lift years ago.

And last but not least, the credits screen:

The whole film is 75 minutes long. Here is the promo for Wild Card: The Downfall Of A Radio Loudmouth

Summary is shock jock radio guy, with a gambling addiction, contemplates suicide on a vacation with his wife in Whistler, BC as the feds are closing in. My footage is of Whistler, all but the fuzzy shot of the town.

It should be available on HBO Streaming.

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  1. Conan L. Hall Says:

    Very impressive!

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Oct '20

Trip Report: Birthday Trip To Kansas City

Spent part of last week in Kansas City visiting my birth town (technically, one city over – Independence).

The usual Caesar (a Canadian bloody Mary made with Clamato)…the lounge does a great job with these:

Smoke is less than my flight a couple of weeks ago:

Food choices have improved a bit – there is a breakfast sandwich offered in addition to the fruit and cheese plate.

Still wish it was a warm sandwich.

Using points to stay at the La Quinta Midtown – it’s a little less than two years old and quite nice:

And a TON of outlets and USWB charging ports:

Desk has two USB and four 110 outlets.

Night stand has three USD and five 110 outlets. Wish ALL hotel were this equipped.

Off to Paul and Gail’s place for dinner. The next day Paul and I met up to have a little BBQ at Arthur Bryants…

We got it to go – and Paul found us an overlook to go with the gorgeous day:

Kansas City is full of green park areas. This one happened to be across the street from my buddy Chas Nol used to live YEARS ago.

Truly wonderful weather for my visit.

The photo was taken from the portion of the park with “cultural interest”.

Lots of take-out food this trip, though I generally think home-prepared food is fine, but you go with the comfort level of your host. I got the Roasted Beet Salad with Gorgonzola, in the the cup is escargot in a wonderful broth.

Besides hanging out with friends, the main purpose of the trip is to pick up a couple of cases of BBQ sauce. One from Gates (easy),

Gates will sell to my wholesale even though we only order a case a year. After picking up the case, went across the street to the restaurant and was surprised that they weren’t serving pork at that location. That is their inner city location, guess pork has gotten too expensive for the neighborhood. Had my sandwich at another of Kansas City’s many parks:

Bryants which took three visits and still no sauce will sell a case at a discount in the restaurant, but seems the restaurant was out. They had six the first day I showed up (which wouldn’t have gotten the discount, third visit, they were completely out. On Tuesday they said Thursday. On Thursday they said Friday after 11:30 – and then 1:30 when I arrived at 11:30. I ended up going over to Costinini’s Market at buying it at retail, which will screw our margins at the shop. Just what I want to do curbside – packing glass bottle of BBQ sauce in a wine shipper I used on the way out.

The important thing is that I got to hang out with Paul and Gail, Gail and I went to Lawrence to visit Wendy for a picnic lunch on the lawn with wine hidden in juice bottles. Felt like high school again!

A little plane spotting at the airport…lots of planes in storage:

Soon enough I was back in the air…

Sadly, it just isn’t really as fun as it used to be. That said, I still have a couple of more quick trips between now and the end of the year.


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4 Responses to “Trip Report: Birthday Trip To Kansas City”

  1. Tits Mahone Says:

    Do you mean travel isn’t fun or KC isn’t fun?

  2. UncleMarkie Says:

    Kansas City is fun. It’s the pandemic that has taken the joy out of my wandering.

  3. Melba Toast Says:

    What is the antecedent for the “it” in your penultimate sentence? What isn’t as fun as it used to be? Flying? Visiting KC? Traveling?

    Please say more about what and why.


  4. UncleMarkie Says:

    It, the pandemic, has taken the joy out of my wandering. I’m giving the train in a sleeper to Los Angeles next week to see how that goes.

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Sep '20

Trip Report: What A Weird Short Trip It Became – The Way Home

At the end of the last post we saw the wind and rain. On, what turned out to be my last day in New Orleans, this might have been an indication that things were changing:

Every door except the main two entrances were sand bagged. And then maintenance knocked on my door so that they could take the wrought iron patio furniture off the patio. And then the note under the door an hour later:

The gist of the letter was, Hurricane Sally was headed our way. If you are planning on staying, stock up on three days’ worth of food and water in case they issued a shelter-in-place order. Might be time to bug out.

Yesterday I’d made some backup reservations to get home. Monday night, Tuesday night, and my original Friday night. The joys of realizing you have a bunch of money in your Alaska eWallet and since everything is cancellable, just book everything.

Before leaving the French Quarter, I grabbed a trio of Louisiana delights from the restaurant at the end of the block:

Gumbo, Crawfish Etouffee, and Jambalaya.

After lunch, I decamped to Kenner next to the airport. Used points to get a room right next to the airport for my flight out the next day. Forgot to take a picture of the exterior, so I grabbed one off their site:

Some shots of the interior:

Nothing fancy, but it did have a pool-side view:

Two reasons I booked it. Free airport shuttle and attached IHOP. Airport motels are notorious for not having restaurants within walking distance.

It was a rude surprise when the IHOP was dark and empty, a victim of COVID. Poked around various delivery options and actually went with the one on the back of the TV Channel Listing – and was SHOCKED to get the best Muffuletta that I’ve ever had. And because I’d scoped out the vending machines while getting ice – three cans of Diet Coke – because NONE of machines in the complex had anything diet other than water. Sugar, Monster, Water were the choices. But back to that Muffuletta:

Looked like I’d be having it for breakfast as well (since, according to the desk was coffee and muffins starting at 4AM, until they ran out). It didn’t make it, so breakfast will be at the airport.

Well, that’s what I thought – and then the trip got even weirder…when a little after 10PM the power went down to the entire block. Now my motel looks like this:

Waited for over an hour for management to show up (the handyman was there but knew nothing). Owners never showed. Police were called. A K-9 team showed up. Fortunately, it didn’t get out of control, but there were 50+ pissed off people sweltering in the Louisiana evening heat and humidity bitching up a storm.

Me? Hailed an Uber, headed back to the French Quarter because I wisely hadn’t actually checked out and still had keys. Now, I’m in negotiation with the motel to get my 15,000 points back (truly, it should have been 7500 points for the quality) and the Uber home and to the airport the next morning.

Headed to the airport early figuring I’d dump my bags and pay for lounge access since the United Club that I have a couple of passes to (along with the Delta Club). Forgot that with one flight a day, Alaska only opens its desk a two hours in advance, and I was in the three hour window.

Guess I’m not checking my bag, and this half half-gallon of Evan Williams is going to make a janitor very happy:

Gotta say that the airport is dead, dead, dead.

And when I finally found the lounge, sad news:

Made even sadder since they had a sign saying it was $33, not the $45 I’d planned on spending.

Back the concourse for me – and a Cajun Dog from Lucky Dog! Much better than the street version:

And they have fancy toilet seats like Chicago used to (and my still) have. Wave your hand, and a fresh plastic liner runs around the seat – which is good because men are lazy and rarely lift the seat.

Back on the plane in my usual Pandemic seat (1A):

And bring on the wine – they’d replaced the red with something better, but still in a can:

And it was an interesting blend. Usually only in European or South African brands – there is Viognier, which is a white wine grape, missed in with all the various reds to give it a little more balance and complexity, which you generally don’t find in canned wine.

Arrived early, came home, poured myself a drink, and pondered my strange trip.


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Sep '20

Trip Report: What A Weird Short Trip It Became – New Orleans During A Pandemic

While I feel comfortable enough to take Ubers in this time of Pandemic, not so for the infamous New Orleans street cars – but since I’m in the French Quarter, there is no shortage of places to walk and explore.

Even found a National Historical Park that I didn’t know existed – the John Lafitte National Park and Preserve:

Because of COVID, it’s closed, but looks like a fantastic inner courtyard. Maybe next time.

Grabbed a dog from the Lucky Dog cart – more to support the guy than to deal with my hunger.

Bookstores (at least this one) are open:

And it turns out that the House of Blues is just down the street from me (though it, and all other bars/music venues are not open):

I love the above shot – with the Voodoo Garden sign in the distance, and the glistening brick sidewalk.

Grabbed some chicken at Willie’s Fried Chicken, which usually has a dozen daiquiri makers running at all times:

As you can see by the sign below…no more cocktails to go. What is New Orleans coming to? Not that I’m that big a fan of daiquiris.

Across the seat was The Sazerac House – complete with in-house distillery. Maybe next time. At least it looked to be open.

And other random shots from Canal Street:

At this point, I’ll point out the Sheraton which is on the left with the Black Lives Matter mural on it, and the Marriott across the street (and the Hilton Riverside). I had to ask why all these people were hanging out in lawn chairs in front of both the Sheraton and the Marriot (generally 4-star hotels). They have been turned into refugee housing for people escaping Hurricane Laura from three weeks ago. In lieu of Red Cross Shelters – because of COVID and not wanting to crowd people in. So, they are bored, separated from their houses, and hanging out on the street drinking, chatting, and basically not wearing masks. I spent a lot of time walking down the trolley tracks in the middle of the street.

This was the sign where I was staying…

Evening brought serious rain:


Wind, rain, with the backdrop of the Customs House across the street from Club La Pension.

And with that, I’ll close out this post. Bit of a cliff hanger.


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Sep '20

Trip Report: What A Weird Short Trip It Became – Getting There

My second airplane holiday since the world changed in March. This was a trip (like Austin) that couldn’t be moved around – i.e. Use It Or Lose It.

The Alaska Lounge is back to serving cocktails (though nothing Top Shelf, which was an extra charge PM [Pre-March]) which includes the Caesar, which is a Bloody Mary made with Clamato.

If you look in the background – let me do a little “Passenger Shaming” about the couple without masks in the upper right. They rushed the elevator to the second floor after I was already in. I immediately stepped out. She instantly apologized and offered to get off but I waved them off. Not surprised they aren’t masked up between sips/bites in the lounge.

Putting this picture in for my friend Courtney – who is a book hound. As the son of a librarian and bookstore owner, I grew up around books. Nice to see an outpost of Elliott Bay Book Company and the airport, as it is nice to see Powell’s Books at the Portland Airport.

Soon enough it was PLANE TIME. Lots of social distancing and the first row to myself and occasionally, one of the flight attendants.

A few pictures of the Wildfire Smoke as we were taking off.

The food has improved in First Class – no longer the snack boxes from the back (Picnic or Mediterranean), and now Fruit Cheese Platters are on offer. Sadly, it’s still just wine and beer.

And with Covid, Alaska is blocking the seat next to you, even in First Class. Usually I’m in 1C, but now it’s the window and 1A – makes for better photography:

After the main service, snacks and fresh-baked cookies come out….

Grab an Uber/Lyft to the condo for the week. It’s the BlueGreen Vacations place that belongs to The Colonels – Club La Pension. They’ve offered to give it to me to if I’d take over the maintenance fees, which are about $825 for a floating week. Here’s a look at the place:

I ask for a balcony…which, in retrospect, forgetting my sleeping pills, might not have been the best choice. But I do like a balcony:

The room itself is more design than practical…

The place is actually composed of seven different buildings, which make for some interesting hallways.

Got settled, make a drink (I come prepared), and then figured out dinner. Had a 15% off coupon from the Creole House around the corner.

Seating was about 50% — but I’m not comfortable eating out in restaurants – so I waited at the bar with 10 feet in every direction clear.

And ate my Gumbo and Crab Cakes back in the room. Imagine what I saved it a bar bill!

Had dinner on my deck, al fresco.

And then tried to get to sleep.

I’ll pick this us in the next post: New Orleans During A Pandemic.

[229.2] (couple of pounds up – blame fried food in NOLA)

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