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Wed
30
Nov '22

Trip Report: Everett-Vegas Mileage Run With A Surprise Ending

This was supposed to be just a random mileage run so I can have 75K Alaska status for next year. 75K is important to me because it allows me to book premium seats (extra leg room, free booze) at time of booking regardless of ticket price (with exception of Basic which are the seats back by the toilet). The 50K mileage bonus, four First Class upgrade certificates and four Lounge Passes aren’t bad either.

It started out like a normal run, but with a dusting of snow, which is unusual:

Going out of Everett, 45 minutes north of my house depending on traffic.

It’s a lovely 3-gate small airport with the feel of an airline lounge.

Was upgraded to First, so food was included:

Got some good shots out the window once we were out of the weather:

And this is a focused solar array outside of Las Vegas. More on this here: https://www.solarpowerworldonline.com/2022/04/array-technologies-supplying-trackers-for-nearly-nevada-solar-project/

And Vegas, here we are:

And back onto the same plane I go…

And more get views out to plane:

And more food…

And then the trip “went South” is a big way. First, it was circling the Everett airport for 45 minutes…

There was too much slush at Paine Field, and too little equipment. Off to Seattle we go!

The problem is, my car is in Everett even though SeaTac is 15 minutes from my house. Paging Lyft!

$82 plus tip. But I have a flight in the morning and don’t want to leave my car in short term parking at $30 a day. I remember when parking at Paine Field was much cheaper, but you can’t beat that I was two rows and a driveway from the terminal.

It was slow going getting back because the snow had picked up during the day. I returned to this!

And it was a slow slog home. Got home two hours later than I expected, but guessing it isn’t THAT bad.

Probably should have cancelled, but I’d been upgraded in both directions. Fortunately, it was just heavy rain by the time I got back to Seattle.

The annoying side issue is that I’m out about 100 EQMs for next year due to them changing the arrival airport – and no credit for going round and round in the air.

On the upside, took a call in the morning and got back the last 6000 WorldMark credits from the disaster of the Indio “vacation”.

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Sun
27
Nov '22

Trip Report: Across Canada By Train

Back on the road again! Off to Toronto to catch the train to Vancouver.

The United Club isn’t as fancy as Delta or Alaska, but free food and booze is free food and booze.

And the view from the gate…

Views like this is why I call Seattle, home.

On Air Canada today, in the pointy end:

And lovely views on the way out…

And then the parade of food and drink starts…

You might notice that I was gifted a spare seat this morning. Apparently, Air Canada doesn’t upgrade people, or there was no one to upgrade. I’ll take it!

Met up with Marybeth at the airport, and we are off to the hotel.

Oddly, this is the only picture I have from the hotel:

I do have pictures from the lounge in the ViaRail terminal in the morning!

With the massive traffic jam on the way in, we had about 10 minutes in the lounge before moving into our Cabin For Two, and they say at ViaRail:

And our car attendant found a table to “liberate” for us – MUCH BETTER!

And our first lunch…

Then dinner…

Then dessert…

Once the bed is made up…

To give you an idea of the weather, this is a good example:

So, here is one thing that ViaRail DOES NOT do as well as Amtrak – their lunch burger. Federal law in Canada mandates that they cook it to death.

The breakfast, on the other hand, is wonderful:

And we ARE prepared in our cabin:

And then there are the views from the bubble dome and bullet car at the end…

And this is what we settled on for the day layout of the cabin…a couch(bed) with a table:

We even ordered our lunch in one day! And they brought a tablecloth!

And more pictures of hanging out:

It’s a little fuzzy – but this is a great picture.

And if you look closely, you will see a car attached to the bullet car – a safety measure implemented a couple of months ago when they realized they weren’t crash worthy.

Dinner tonight was French Onion Soup and Prime Rib:

But if you want to see me in the morning, it’s less than pretty – even though I am in my sake pajamas I had made in China:

The dining car was slow because we were in Jasper for a couple of hours, and most of the people were wandering around town.

It was a nonstandard meal day – continental breakfast early, then brunch through until 1pm.

For brunch, I had the Chicken Pot Pie – which was GREAT! Marybeth had the omelet.

And then we were in the mountains!

And here is how we viewed it. Curled up on the “couch” in the room. MB is napping.

We needed the nap so we could have the lamb chops for dinner (salmon for MB):

Had dinner (it’s community seating) with Michael and David, who ODDLY, Michael knows Solus who we are having lunch with in Vancouver – small world.

We had planned for breakfast in the cabin, but for some reason, our attendant pulled the table out of the room when she made the bed rather than putting it in the closet – so we really had “breakfast in bed”!

We arrived two and a half hours EARLY (definitely NOT Amtrak), but they don’t throw people off until the 8am timetable arrival (definitely NOT Amtrak).

We hung out at the train station until my friends swung by and picked us up for high mass. It’s Sunday, and the Anglican Cathedral is downtown.

Service ran about an hour fifteen, and I will admit that every time the organ and choir fired up, tears were rolling down my cheeks. Probably memories of evensong services at Winchester Catheral in England to which I’ve been to many times (after coctails with my friend’s mum).

Lunch was a Sylvia’s on English Bay:

Took Amtrak back to Seattle, and here is the final shot of the trip, at the station in Seattle:

The end to a fun trip.

[198.8]

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Fri
11
Nov '22

Trip Report: What Was Supposed To Be Palm Springs

But is wasn’t, not even close (to be close you have to be within a half hour drive, not 45 minutes). Got an email from the manager of the Palm Springs WorldMark at 3:43pm the DAY BEFORE we were to check in (we had already checked in for our flights). I spent my ground time in Sonoma trying to find us a room somewhere near Palm Springs – Indio was the only option. And not a good one considering the Downtown location is right on the Gay Pride Route for Sunday. Indio is 45 minutes away by car (which we hadn’t planned on renting so add $500 for the car and $100 for the gas).

So, if I get snarky in the post, you will know why, but here’s what we made of it:

Quick breakfast in the lounge, too early for the bar to be open, sigh.

Bigger protein breakfast on board:

And a layover in San Francisco for a few hours:

Before I was back on board…

Seth and Maia met me at the airport, and we were off to our exile in Indio, wedged between a couple of golf courses and the desert. ABSOLUTLY NOTHING to walk to for miles.

In our two-bedroom, two-bath:

And the view:

Typical breakfast:

Went out for lunch at a local Mexican place – my Chile Relleno:

We visited the Moorten Cactus Garden in Palm Springs:

And then we were off to Inka, a Peruvian restaurant on the strip in Palm Springs:

And an evening view from the balcony…

Next day we are off to the East Entrance to Joshua Tree – not expecting two trip to Joshua Tree in one year, but it was close (35 minutes):

And then off to a cactus walk:

Back at the complex, I checked out the mini-mart/sandwich/coffee place:

A liter of Jack will set you back $50. That is at least DOUBLE what you’d pay in town.

So, Canadians MUST come here because the V8 is small, and the Clamato large.

Shocked they have Vernors, sadly, not diet.

A few more shots of pool time where Seth and Maia spent a lot of time:

Another day we were off to a Date Farm so Seth cold have a Date Shake.

What we didn’t realize is the creepy religious cactus garden walk:

Lunch afterwards at SHERMANS! Love this Jewish deli. Sadly, just got a pic of my leftover half a pastrami:

And a couple of shots of the pastry case:

Before long, I was back on a plane home, at least it was direct this time:

Some good, some bad (like multiple calls to WorldMark to claw back some points because of the clusterfuck). At least Seth and Maia had fun – they even marched in the Gay Pride Parade on Sunday under the Alaska Airlines banner. And I got some swag out of it!

Here is a picture from me and the 2019 Parade:

With that, I sign out.

[? ? ?]

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Fri
11
Nov '22

Trip Report: Sonoma Mileage Run

Managed to squeeze in one more California trip while Alaska is offering a 50% EQM boost which will push me over the 75K mark for Alaska, meaning I can keep buying cheap seats, and plant myself into Premium with the extra legroom and free booze at no additional cost. Yahoo.

Breakfast in the lounge:

Then shots out the window of the Sonoma airport…

 

Like seeming every other airport, it is undergoing an expansion, so I had to go back through security to get back on the plane. Not the best airport for a mileage run turn at the moment.

[202.2]

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Sun
6
Nov '22

Trip Report: Waikiki and San Diego

After my mileage run to Kona – several people inquired why I didn’t just stay longer. Not really the point of a “mileage run” but I did take it to heart and booked a longer holiday to both Waikiki and San Diego.

Sadly, an early departure for San Diego, then a layover, then onto Honolulu. Small benefit, nice sunrise:

And there was the added bonus of being in the pointy end of the plane:

I really love the Honolulu airport for it’s mixing of outdoor and indoor spaces:

Ubered to the condo, the Wyndham Royal Gardens, where I’ve stayed before – and sweet-talked myself into a upgraded room with a lanai (that’s Hawaiian for balcony).

One of my rituals in Waikiki is a breakfast at the IHOP down the street.

Followed by some pool time…

Nice views from the room, even if the room is only on the 5th floor…

I’m 8 blocks from the beach (in the lower photo) and half a block from the canal (in the upper picture).

Another pastime while I’m vacationing is taking “owner updates” from either Wyndham or WorldMark properties (Wyndham in this case). Fortunately, the sales center is very close to Tommy Bahama’s restaurant/bar where there is a great happy hour from 2-5pm.

The presentation center is above the Galleria which has been closed since the pandemic when Japanese tourist stopped coming. They are slowly coming back, but three are no plans to reopen the Galleria (which is right next to the Louis Vitton store). My informal survey of Waikiki shows about 25% of the businesses didn’t survive.

Some interesting artwork in the hallway – corrugated aloha shirts!

A decent views of the Pink Palace and the ocean…

I set a new record for in and out of a presentation – 25 MINUTES. In is always at least an hour stretching to 1.5 hours. For my time I got 30,000 Wyndham Rewards points, used correctly, $390 value. 30,000 will get you one night in Wyndham’s top end properties, two nights in La Quinta-type properties, or FOUR nights in their bottom-end back-woods properties.

But it’s time for a cocktail and some appetizers at Tommy Bahama where the happy hour prices are reasonable…

And then of course, much later, dinner at the Waikiki Brewing Company, which was WAY TO NOISY.

That was the Portuguese Sausage with all the sides. Picked something that would reheat well!

Another lunch I was off to Siam Square for Thai food, next to one of Waikiki’s gay bars:

But really, I spent a lot of my time like this:

Before long (3 nights) it was time to head back to the airport for another upgraded flight, and some time in the lounge:

And back on a plane with a POGmosa (Pineapple, Orange, Guava juice and sparkling wine).

And more food…

Before long I was in San Diego for the next stage of the holiday!

And the view of Balboa Park across the street….

Had a number of meals here. Decent, and cheap, and across the street!

Spent a bunch of time on the rooftop deck reading….

If you watched carefully, you could see jet on their final descent – wasn’t lucky enough to get a picture.

Did I mention this was in the gay neighborhood?

And a good thrift store….

And yes, I did ANOTHER presentation for ANOTHER 30,000 Wyndham Rewards points. Yes, I’m a points whore.

Soon enough (another 3-night stay), time for the lounge and the plane home…

Another holiday under the belt.

[? ? ?]

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  1. Marybeth McCarthy Says:

    I am your student ☺️

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Fri
21
Oct '22

Trip Report: Uncle Markie Visits Forever

Don’t get the wrong idea – I didn’t have a near-death event. My friends bought a place in Upstate New York (Finger Lakes) that they have named “Forever”. While structurally fine and with amazing woodwork inside, forever is how long it will that them to make it theirs in spirit and functionality.

Prebreakfast in the Delta Sky Club – a notch up from the Alaska Lounge:

And settled into First Class (bless you upgrade coupons):

And airplane breakfast watching Tempopo, and amazing Noodle Western out of Japan – rated for adults but the flight attendance caught a nude seen and will probably report it to management as inappropriate.

 

And they didn’t have the Old Fashioned in a can, but they had a lovely Negroni…

I diluted mine a bit with club soda.

And for some reason the flight attendant (same one who probably reported the film), was playing toilet paper games in First:

Transferred in Detroit – VERY LONG WALK and it was on to Ithaca and Mark picking me up at the airport for the 24 minute, 4-stoplight drive to Forever:

And here we are….

The end door leads into the stairwell for the cupola:

And other rooms in the house – dining room:

Dual sitting rooms:

And interestingly enough, I had two sets of friends visit, Russ, who drive three hours from Germantown for a couple of hour visit (would have stayed the night save the dogs at home):

Sadly, didn’t remember to get a pick of Drew and his cousin Leslie. Drew lives in Ithaca, Drew in Seattle.

Too soon, the fun came to the end with a ride back to the airport…and a scenic picture from the area:

Should have stood on the tops of the truck to highlight the valley.

And a very strange sign in the snack bar:

And soon we (the royal we) were off:

Back through Detroit – other choice is United through Newark (not) with Detroit Lounge food on the run:

And proper food and drink on the plane:

Arrived back in Seattle early, as did Jonathan coming in from San Antonio, so we shared an Uber back to the house. He is laying over for the night before heading to California, so we get breakfast in the morning!

What a treat his short layover.

That’s it for today.

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Sun
16
Oct '22

Travel Report: What Airlines For What

This is just a quick post to layout my feelings about various airlines since I’ve had the chance to fly some that I don’t regularly fly.

Thoughts on domestic airlines (that I fly) in order of my preference, but there is a HUGE gap between number one and number two:

  • Alaska Airlines: If you are going for elite status and you are trying to be frugal in purchasing tickets, Alaska is the last US airline to be totally mileage-based, rather than revenue-based. Elite status gets you free checked bags (as does their credit card) and the possibility of getting upgraded to Premium (extra legroom, free cocktails, snack) or even First Class. Customer service is consistently great – to the point if the flight is delayed (mechanical, not weather) you will often get a text/email while you are still on the plane saying you will get a link for either extra frequent flier miles, or dollars off your next trip.
  • Delta Airlines: As with the rest of the list, it’s revenue-based, with elite members getting a larger number of points. If you search out the cheapest fare, even if the routing is less convenient, you aren’t going to get all that many points. Should you want to achieve their highest elite level (Diamond Elite) you better to be prepared to shell out at least $20,000 worth of tickets which is WAY OUT of my league, though I’ve enjoyed having top level status for the last two years because of a status match that made an offer from Delta I’d never seen – no dollar spent minimum on the 8-round trips – I did it for $1100 and got about $10,000 worth of benefits out of it (Global Upgrades, Lounge Membership, Miles, etc.). Customer service is high, but occasionally spotty on board.
  • United: Again, revenue-based as above. Less cash spend to get to the top level (1K), but still expensive – and you still have to fly a certain amount of miles as well, not just buy a bunch expensive tickets. Customer service is medium-high, but improving. Front-line employees have been empowered to resolve customer issues by issuing miles or dollars off instantly via their company supplied smart phones. On a Denver flight the outlets at my seat weren’t working and I got 3,750 extra miles, which was oddly a little more than I actually EARNED on the flight.
  • American: Revenue-based, about the same spend as United. Sadly, American is a partner with Alaska Airlines so I do end up flying them occasionally, usually International via mileage tickets. They are finally getting rid of some of their ancient equipment used on their South America routes (not uncommon for Delta and United to use their oldest equipment to that continent). Service is medium. It always feels hit or miss with whether they actually want to be working or not.

So, the above is really geared towards earning Elite Status and the perks that come with it.

Don’t travel often?

In the states, fly Southwest Airlines because of their free checked bags and very flexible cancellation policy. They do have an elite program, but they also only offer one class of service, so no upgrades – just boarding earlier.

Travelling overseas, fly the Middle Eastern or Asian airlines with possible (lean towards Middle Eastern as Asian airlines tend to pack in the economy seats). They tend to have better seat pitch (distance between seats) and much better food. Or the European airlines I tend to avoid Lufthansa if I can – even in Business Class (First Class tickets are rarely available to partner airlines for mileage tickets).

Got questions? Want help with a travel problem – message me. Helping people figure out travel is what brings joy to my life.

As an FYI, at least until the end of the year, I have the following airline status:

  • Alaska 100K – next year HOPEFULLY 75K but its going to be close
  • Delta Diamond Elite via match until the end of January – next year, no status
  • United Premier Gold for life since I’m a million-miler flyer with them
  • Air Canada 75K until the end of the year, got through a status match – nothing for 2023, but I do have their credit card
  • Might still have StarLux, based in Taiwan, next to top level, but got it right before COVID and haven’t flown them yet, but it was for three years

Well, that’s it for the day.

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Fri
7
Oct '22

Trip Reports: Caribbean and SoCal – Days Apart

Pardon the copy and paste, but a personal letter seems like a great dual post:

Spent my birthday in St. Thomas, in the US Virgin Islands doing absolutely nothing but eating and looking out at the sea. Here are a couple of representative pictures that I haven’t end had time to blog yet.

 ..
   
 

Lots of stairs, often called for the cart to haul me up the hill, since I was at the top. My unit was the lower protruding balcony, and the final shot is of Thursday when the rains came in heavy, and the power went out for 20 minutes while they got the generator running and switched back to island power about 4 hours later.

Got back the night before Will and Solus showed up to spend the night before heading off to Dublin on their honeymoon. Lovely dinner, and great to reconnect with Will on a more personal level. The next day we all went to the airport together, first picture below, in the lounge.

Then it was off to hang out with Paul in Yucca Valley, which is north and west of Palm Springs by about 45 minutes.

   

     

 

Paul and I have known our AirBnB host since she was a kid living at the Last Resort up in Hansville with her parents. Paul got the last car off the rental lot which is why we ended up with a muscle car. Host is also an accomplished accordion repairperson and performer, equestrian (hence the horses). $200 a night, but well stocked.

Couple of shots from our day trip to Joshua Tree.

To be honest, the back-to-back trips between chemo sessions was a little taxing.

Brother Jon showed up last night for a couple of nights before he goes off to India and Nepal for a month of “work”.

My next trip is to upstate New York to see a mansion that friends bought – that should yield some wild pictures for you.

Hope all is as well as it can be with you all.

Mark

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Tue
27
Sep '22

Trip Report: Santa Fe For A Wedding

This week we are off to a wedding! And because it’s a wedding, the is lots of STUFF to pack:

And because I’m flying United, it’s a different lounge than usual:

Yes, I got into the domestic United Club using my foreign airline status. To do that, they changed (without asking) my mileage plan from United to Air Canada, which resulted in double credits for the flight (both United and Air Canada), so it didn’t ruin the bonus I was getting because I hadn’t flown in a awhile and they were bribing me. Here is what the final total looks like, with explanations.

On United:

9/14/2022    Inflight Compensation Miles    3,750 miles (because my power outlet didn’t work)

9/14/2022    Mile Play – Flight booking    3,900 miles (the bonus for their promotion)

9/14/2022    United SEA – DEN        3,824 miles (miles and bonuses)

On Air Canada:

15-Sep        Uber     Airport              42 miles (because my Air Canada card is linked to Uber)

15-Sep        United     SEA-DEN     1,532 miles (I get class of bonus miles for first, but not elite bonuses)

15-Sep        United     DEN-SAF     303 miles (actual miles from here down)

18- Sep        United SAF-DEN            303 miles

18-Sept        United DEN-SEA        1027

The end math is 11,474 on the United account and 3,207 for Air Canada. Would have done better on just the United miles with bonuses, BUT the lounge passes would have been $100 for coming and going. I’ll take this as a win.

And I know that only I care about this, but it’s how I get all those fancy seats on long-haul international flights.

Saw this retro livery by my gate (sadly not my plane):

And once on board, here is something I haven’t had on a domestic first in a dogs age:

Followed by lunch in the air:

And to the lounge in Denver:

And onto Santa Fe…

Spending the first night at my brother/sis-in-law’s AirBnB.

The next day, it is off to the historic El Rey Motel on Cerillos where the wedding is:

I’d books a room with two queen beds and ended up with a king in the loving room, and a spare bedroom with a queen, and no real use for it, sadly.

Here are some shots of the wedding rehearsal dinner/cocktail hour:

I stayed up late!

And in the morning, there is a breakfast food truck/trailer that was amasing:

And then the festivities roll around:

And the official portrait:

Wedding done, the party started!

The next morning, a massive breakfast brunch out in Eldorado:

And back to Jon and Norma’s AirBnB after dinner with Cyn and Lawrence at their BnB.

And soon back to planes and home:

Done, done, done.

[? ? ?]

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  1. T Mahone Says:

    You look great Mark Stephen Souder! Glad the wedding was so joyful.

  2. Marybeth McCarthy Says:

    This makes me so happy!

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Thu
22
Sep '22

Home Report: World Clock v4

As you all know, I travel a bit.

About three years ago, I was on a quest to find a world clock with the ability to display four time zones at a glance to help with my ever-present travel bug.

I’m too cheap to pay the $750 to $1000 on the vinyl lettered one:

And REALLY too cheap to spend the $1700 to $2000 for the ones with LED cities:

 

So, down the rabbit hole I go.

VERSION ONE: Four matching analog clocks.

Pros:

  • Easy to read at a glance

Cons:

  • Tags too small to read the city
  • No clue if that’s AM or PM
  • No clue what day it is
  • No automatic adjustment for daylight savings time

If you were wondering why one of the clocks is half an hour off from the others—say hello to India. Just to make it fun, Nepal is fifteen minutes off of India.

VERSION TWO: Four matching digital alarm clocks.

Pros:

  • Shows AM/PM
  • Shows date
  • Shows day of the week

Cons:

  • Doesn’t show city
  • Limited viewing angle (like only when I’m sitting on the couch looking directly at it)
  • Doesn’t automatically adjust for daylight savings time

Eventually moved to next to my desk and added city tags.

VERSION THREE: Three mismatched laptop and tablets resting in the garage (was testing proof of concept before I fired up another on)

Pros:

  • Shows city
  • Show AMPM
  • Shows day of the week
  • Automatically adjusted for daylight savings time

Cons:

  • Day of the week too small to read at a distance
  • They seem to want to keep updating themselves
  • Not sure if the fourth one will fit up there

VERSION FOUR: electro-steampunk esthetic Windows 10 stick computer and some custom programming by my buddy Dan.

And the back side with more details:

And, I got the touch screen working on the screen, so you can scroll down to see the day of the week, the weather in each of the cities, and a ticker with commodities prices, which is an homage to my dear confidant and his families business.

In its early construction phase:

And in its final home:

And yes, the 31-line 1A2 phone works., including working lights, flashing when you put someone on hold. A little overkill for a VOIP (voice over internet protocol) phone.

As does the limited-edition Fischer-Price Bluetooth Chatter phone. Yes, the eyes go up and down when it rolls. The rotary dial works by spinning and includes the # and * keys! Even has a speakerphone button on it. It was $60 plus tax when I bought it last November. They did one run of these. Now $166 is the current high bid on eBay for a new in box. $300 plus $12 shipping if you want one immediately. I purposely threw out all the “apple-quality” packaging to resist the temptation to resell it.

So, long story about my world clock fetish. At least the latest version adjusts for daylight savings time, and I can reprogram the cities (well, Dan can reprogram the cities).

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Sun
11
Sep '22

Trip Report: One Hour In Kona

Another day, another mileage run?

Different starter when you are on an evening flight!

Maybe I should be headed to Germany, not Hawaii…but alas, I’m in coach to Kona, though moved seats to have the middle open and me at the window.

And some window shots:

Dinner arrives – ordered the Protein Platter, and the rest comes as benefits of Elite Status:

Interestingly, they now are serving a sparkling wine that we used to carry at the shop (albeit, not in cans). It is the Saint Vincent, which is made by Gruet out of New Mexico:

And as we go into evening, more pretty shots:

Made it to Kona in one piece, just to buy some coffee and a post card, sadly, no post cards for sale. VERY small airport:

And back onto the plane, but this time up front:

And this is what I look like under the mask….tired.

More food…

And thankfully sleep.

Got home at 7am in the morning, but with Alaska Gold MVP for next year, so it was all worth it.

[197.2]

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Thu
1
Sep '22

Trip Report: Mountainous Mileage Run

Time to go back to racking up status for 2023 – and off to Juneau on the milk-run go I. This route used to be serviced by a “combi” which had the first 15 rows removed to make room for cargo. Now, it’s just a standard 737, but with 3 stops between Seattle and Juneau. I took it for old-time sake.

I actually found my post from December 2009, it is here. Had to dig up the pictures since they were stored on a server that is no longer active, so I’ll just put the pictures here:

No windows up front, and from the inside, there is a moveable bulkhead at row 15:

And should the pilot or co-pilot need something from the back, the can open a little door and pass it through.

These days the plane looks like this:

Started the day off with the usual in the lounge. Caesar (a Canadian Bloody Mary with Clamato), everything bagel – but now they also have scrambled eggs and sausage. NICE ADDITION.

No First-Class upgrade, but at least I’m in Premium (extra legroom and free booze):

It’s an hour and a half flight to the first stop, which is Ketchikan.

There is time to get off the plane (and buy a postcard), and see the airport:

Seems to be a thing in Alaska airports.

So, on the first leg there was drink service – nothing more than water and CheeZits at each of the next stops.

Here are the flight times:

  • Ketchikan = 1.5 hours
  • Wrangle = 20 minutes
  • Petersburg = 10 minutes 
  • Juneau = 30 minutes 

Next stop Wrangell, where my friend Salamander was raised (miserably, apparently):

Then Petersburg where we maybe go to 2,000 feet above land. No getting off as you’d have to go back through security.

And then onto Juneau, with some nice scenery along the way:

More animals in the airport in Juneau…

And then to grab the shuttle to the Travelodge:

Needless to say, stock photo as it was overcast and drizzly.

Fortunately, this was a points stay, because, well, this is what $200 a night gets you in Alaska. And the view – apparently there is a glacier in the distance:

That said, because of the flight schedule into/out of Juneau, it’s a 24-hour hotel shuttle. Other notable features are an on-site Mexican restaurant, and several MASSIVE freezers to store the fish you caught so you can fly it home.

This will give you an idea a where the airport is located – and they do offer a free shuttle to downtown…

When I say 24-hours, here are the flights south to Seattle for a typical day…

  • 1:30am
  • 5:20am
  • 7:10am (1-stop)
  • 8:20am
  • 10:24am(1-stop)
  • 1:06pm (3-stop milk run)
  • 1:10pm
  • 6:28pm
  • 10:24pm

That’s a lot of flights – and it’s a good thing since I decided I didn’t want to take the milk run home. At check-in online, they let me choose a different flight (and still get Premium seating, though a middle seat). It left 5 minutes earlier than my old flight but got in 3 hours earlier.

And the kicker is that a couple of hours before departure, they upgraded me to First-Class! Elite status has its perks.

And it being the window, more scenic shots.

And coming into Seattle….

A fun, odd couple of days in a metal tube.

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Fri
26
Aug '22

Trip Report: Return to Whistler

Well, this trip started with a hiccup, and a cancelled first night out of town, so I used the day to rest up, with a little “mental health” trip over to the Museum of Flight to just sit in the Pavilion amongst the planes. It is an incredibly calming place for me.

Later in the day MB came up to join me on my trip to Whistler – last minute substitution, but I’ve been meaning to spend more time with her now that she is partially retired.

It was a lovely dinner before retiring at getting out of the house at 8am – we are planning a LEISURELY drive north – including time to see the outside display at B.C Vintage Truck Museum, sadly, only open to the public on Saturdays:

And I’m not sure if the graphic matches the message:

Off to Whistler we go!

And the condo is ready for us at 2pm – normal check-in is 4pm:

In the morning we had a little breakfast, and headed out to the hot tub (we were too exhausted last night to tub, but MB did swim in the afternoon):

Did a little shopping later – and in the odd Canadian Sign category:

Not sure WHY Kraft Dinner gets its own line.

Then it was a stroll to the dog stand I love:

And then we were at Zogg’s Dogs!

I must have been hungry to not photo my own dog! Lots of dog covered poutine going out the window.

Did get dinner photos!

Free rosè from last week’s points run!

Sadly, I needed to get back to Seattle for an immovable appointment, so, back on the road we go!

And then – hour delay getting through North Vancouver, followed by an hour wait at the border with only ONE lane open for Regular and one for Nexus (which MB isn’t, YET).

And my haul from Duty Free!

Well, it was a fine couple of days in lovely Canadaland.

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2 Responses to “Trip Report: Return to Whistler”

  1. Jennifer Pruett Says:

    Glad you priorities the BEST gin!!

  2. Marybeth McCarthy Says:

    I look so serious in the first couch pic! Hahaha yes, I’m working on the Nexus pass!

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Fri
19
Aug '22

Trip Report: Points Run

Most of you know about my mileage runs (flying someplace just to fly home usually on the same plane), but this week I did a points run for Wyndham Rewards points.

How it works in this case, is booking a Bonus Time stay at one of the WorldMark resorts that also has a sales center in it. Yes, time share presentations, but I’m already an owner, so they are slightly more gentle. I booked one night at The Camlin in downtown Seattle, and then the next night up at Birch Bay. Each was $80 a night, plus tax, plus $20 parking in downtown Seattle. So, all in about $200.

First up, The Camlin. Studio, SMALL. But it’s one night and I’m here for the points!

Love this building, but here is my room:

And the lobby:

So – when I checked in, got my key, they sent me to the concierge desk where they “made the pitch” to attend the “education” update. They started with 2,000 WorldMark bonus points, which is a joke, can’t even get a night for that, and they’d want to charge you housecleaning. I said I wanted Wyndham Rewards points – they offered 15,000. My response was 30,000 or it’s not worth me getting out of bed for. 30,000 it is!

Value of those points? He says they are worth 1.1 cents each, so they value them at $330, Wyndham says they have a “Verifiable Retail Value” of $390. At the end of the post I’ll show you what I used those first points on!

Went to the presentation at 10:30 Tuesday morning, the points arrived in my account before I’d left the presentation, saying no to more points.

Then I took off for Birch Bay!

So, the guy at the concierge desk at Birch Bay was a little green, and said he said he didn’t have the power to offer more than 25,000, and I said, sign me up for a 10:30 slot and call your boss for approval. They time share business works in both directions for the hard sell!

Much larger room (one-bedroom as opposed to studio), so a little more room to spread out, even if just for the night:

I was only in there for a few minutes before I was back on the freeway headed north – to visit Will and Solus for dinner, then come back before dark – don’t think I’ve ever just popped over the border for the day.

At the rest stop:

And along the road:

Lovely dinner up north ONCE I GOT THERE. Stopped for Caesar Mix (Bloody Mary with Clamato that the Canadians are famous for).

But one of the main bridges was closed due to an accident so it doubled my time. Did see this lovely Lambo with an “N” sticker, which means, New Driver:

New Driver with a lot of change rolling around his pants.

Was having such a lovely time at dinner, ginger pork and several side veg, that didn’t even get a shot of dinner.

Was back south by 8:30 (hour door-to-door with no traffic) – watched a little telly before crashing out early. Can’t drive the distances like I used to.

Morning I was at the “Presentation Center” where they eventually brought me my chose of breakfast – I went for the Kolaches:

Could have been a little warmer (I blame WorldMark for being slow in picking them up), and a little more mustard, but tasty! Rooted By The Bay is the coffee shop that has them.

Headed home after the exactly an hour presentation (new record for short) with another 30,000 points in my account.

So, let’s do the math:

Out-of-pocket: $200
Points received after two presentations: 60,000
Worth at least $660 (according to the Points Guy)

That alone, not a bad ROI, but I needed a hotel in Waikiki next March for two nights, and usually the Ramada is 15,000 per night or lower $200’s. Wyndham Hotels go for 7,500, 15,000, 30,000 points a night depending on location and quality.

This is what I scored….

Two nights, studio apartment at the marina (the one Gilligan left from on his three-hour cruise), 500 sq.ft., full kitchen, 15,000 points a night. I haven’t seen that property in the system since the pandemic!

Retail on that unit, $348.00 a night, so $696.00 total.

And I still have another 30,000 points to book worth at least another $300. Woohoo!

To be honest, it is rare that I get that good a redemption, but gotta brag when I do.

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Mon
15
Aug '22

Home Report: Lots Of Visitors!

It must be summer in Seattle – everyone is showing up!

Well, the first isn’t a guest, I was the guests – but these are dear friends from the wine shop that invited me for cocktails!

Not the best picture but shows the joy in the evening.

Then, my “nephew” from Nagoya, Japan and his wife Yurika roll into town for a night before heading to Sequim and family…

And Julian showed up with something I’d ordered over a year ago in Japan, that honestly, I’d forgotten about, but was so happy to see. It’s a JAL Happi Coat of the same design that John Lennon and the Beatles wore in a publicity shot in the 60’s:

And nothing says welcome back to the USA like BBQ and mutant corn….

And the mutant corn…

The other ears for fine, but this one – definitely mutant corn.

Next up on the hit parade is a long-time buddy from Athens, Greece – well, when we met he was living in Paris. In town on a four-hour layover just to see me! He’s also an aviation geek, so off to the Museum of Flight we go.

There was it ritual exchange of aviation related stuff – those his are coming by mail. He got the other Happi Coat for his collection.

Several days later Julian was back for an overnight – Yurika is off with a friend overnight in Bellevue. I pulled out all the stops for dinner – as a thank you for all the times he has hosted me in Nagoya.

Yep – 48-hours in the sous vide.

And finally ready to serve…

What a fantastic dinner if I don’t say so myself – Julian definitely did!

A fun week with friends.

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Sat
13
Aug '22

Trip Memories: Guest Post From Julian Honeycutt

Gods & Penises

by Julian Honeycutt

 

In Japan, they say you are born Shinto, marry Christian, and die Buddhist. That is, as a new baby you will go to the Shinto shrine for purification, when the time comes, you’ll likely get married in a big building fashioned to look like a chapel and say vows in a wedding dress and tuxedo. And when your number is up, you’ll get cremated, and your family will give you a Buddhist funeral. And if you’re lucky your children, and grandchildren will pray for your soul in their butsudan and at every Obon. But in the intervening years, from that first purification ceremony until the day your remaining family all gathers in black, if you need a wish granted or a prayer answered you go to a Shinto shrine. Do you have a big exam coming up, and you need to pass? Go to Yamada-Tenmangu Shrine. Did you just make a business deal and want it to succeed? Go to Fushimi-Inari Shrine. Or do you want to start a family? Go to Tagata-jinja Shrine.

And that is exactly where we were headed at 10:00 AM on March 15th, 2018. Uncle Markie and I were on the train out toward Inyuama, the site of feudal wars between samurai and home to Japan’s oldest castle. But we weren’t going for the grandeur and history of feudal lords, we were going for the penises, and tradition, but mostly the penises. Convenience store bag in hand Katie met us on the train as we left the city. And I introduced her to my Bon vivant Uncle Markie, who isn’t really my uncle, that’s just a name that everyone calls him, including now Katie. She opened her convenience store bag and the morning started. Drinking on trains in Japan isn’t illegal and it’s hardly frowned upon, people just don’t usually do it, save silver-haired men and groups of foreigners. And with Uncle Markie in tow, we checked both boxes. So, a little after 10:00 we opened our 9% canned grapefruit cocktails. Next stop – Tagata-jinja Shrine.

The Penis Festival, actually called Honen-Matsuri, is a Shinto festival that has taken place in the same city in Japan for over 1,000 years. In its essence, it is a Shinto festival that celebrates prosperity and hopes for a fruitful bountiful harvest. In its display, it is a festival that provides free sake and parades a seven-foot 800 lb. undulating wooden penis through the streets of Komaki. If this is a wholly solemn and spiritual event, then the alcohol, commerce, frenzy, and fun are wildly out of place.

As we arrived, we passed Liquor Mountain whose line, at just before 11:00, already extended far out the front door. The parking lots on both sides of the street had been converted into vending stalls and food carts. Like most festivals in Japan, the standard clamshells of yakisoba noodles or paper cups of karaage chicken were everywhere. But unlike most festivals in Japan, so were the penises. T-shirt vendors- penises, varied banana vendors-penises, and candied penises, penises, and more penises.

It could seem odd, but it would take some great deal of time before we were penised out. Ring the penis bell of prayer? Yes! Give some money as an offering to the Gods? Couldn’t hurt! Rub the steel testicles for good luck? Don’t mind if I do! By mid-afternoon, young women in kimonos were offering free sake and parading the street caring wooden penises the size of a Sheltie (it’s seen as good luck to pet the penises; so, everyone pets the penises).

By late afternoon mochi cakes, supplied by local vendors, and mostly inedible, were being tossed from the rooftops. And the penises were winding down. With a mochi unsatisfying, only so much room in our stomachs for chocolate bananas and penis candies, it was time to go.

And though it was a Thursday, a day followed by Friday: a day in the working week, we felt it unjust to let it end so soon. The all-you-can-eat & drink yakiniku restaurant was a short few stops away. So, we did: all-you-can-eat & all-you-can-drink. As we paid and left the restaurant. Markie stumbled into a trip, that became a fall. And a drunk 62-year-old man hits the ground pretty hard. His pants ripped and his knee bloodied he asked us if we could just leave him there. Leave him there blocking the front entrance to the restaurant? No. No, we would not. Plus, you don’t follow up a penis festival with all you can eat & drink just to end it in a parking lot. Tomorrow was going to be hard, but I could see the cat paw of the Maneki Neko Karaoke (Inviting Cat Karaoke) sign from where I was standing, and we were doing some goddamn karaoke.

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Thu
11
Aug '22

Trip Report: Boise 2X

Normally I don’t do mileage runs in summer. Too many crazy clueless travelers – and pissed off angry, entitled, travelers this Summer of Revenge Traveler…but here I am.

And here I am a few minutes before opening:

That is my carry-on for the day. Reading material and room for snacks.

That is a Virgin Mary that I’m taking on the plane to add vodka since the bar doesn’t open until 6am, which is when I’m boarding. Sadly, no Clamato.

Leg One:

Sadly, no jet bridge, lots of walking:

But a nice sunrise view from the window/aisle seat:

And inflight service in First:

Welcome to Boise for the first to two turns:

Complete with beer by the can in the gift shop – don’t worry, there was some in the cooler as well:

Overall, a really nice airport, and now an Alaska mini-hub with direct flights to Seattle, Austin, Portland, Sacramento, San Francisco, and others. And add a distillery gastro pub:

On their online menu, they had a Rueben with KimChee that sounded excellent. My back up was the fish tacos, sadly, neither were on the menu – when I learned from the waitress that neither were on the airport menu, just in town.

That said, she said the chef could whip up a version of fish tacos (deep-fried rather than pan fried cod)…she often has chef make it for her employee meal since he makes it for his.

It was STUNNINGLY good, and the right amount of food for flyinig (i.e., no fries)

After a couple of hours, it was time to return to Seattle:

Back in Seattle, and back in the lounge:

And some excellent plane spotting:

Love the “N” Alaska Lounge for its comfortable furniture, excellent cocktails, and the STUNNING views.

And time for round two, and I found some Calmato in that lounge – they wee down to a couple of small cans. Supply chain issues (they should go to Safeway, who has it):

And more views:

And bang, I’m back in Boise, but this time, it’s a straight turn-around, but with a ¼ mile walk to the terminal and back:

Yes, it was Monday’s number.

But there was a problem with our plane. The Accessory Power Unit wasn’t working for air conditioning on the ground, nor could their mobile units in 95+ degree outside temps, which meant the plane for 45 minutes on the ground with everyone in their seats and 90 minutes on the ground also with everyone in their seat. It resulted in me using my less than clean snot rag from my back pocket to keep the heat cramps at bay, barely:

Please notice the expression. Couldn’t even finish this, had to switch to Diet Coke:

But…some views, including both a Boise and Seattle sunset, along with finally being able to get a decent shot of Mount Rainier:

Addendum:

Couple of shots at the chaos that was baggage claim — 16 carousels of hell:

And where I was by 10PM:

End of Addedum.

The things I do to keep status on Alaska (and OneWorld).

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Sat
6
Aug '22

Home Report: Guests Coming!

Time to finish the rehabilitation of the guest bedroom and bathroom (and clean up my own bedroom).

Have company coming in from Nagoya (Japan) and then Athens (Greece, not Georgia).

First up, finish the guest bedroom from its previous life as an office. First up, stiffening the bed for TWO guests:

The front section has four filing cabinets, the back, store for my distilling containers.

Then the permanent dust ruffle to hide the storage area, and then, violá!

OK, there was a bunch of work on the rest of the room as well!

And since I’m having guests….

And then it was on to the bathroom to finish the medicine cabinet, started a month ago.

The last project I printed on the 42″ wide printer, was the tail end of some sign vinyl I had. Keeping with the Japanese them of the bathroom (and living room), I found some on-line images:

Then with the shelfs I made months ago back in place…

And filled:

Then the shower curtain, freshly washed but showing water stains at the bottom:

So, time for a color coordinated shower liner:

Oh, and did I mention that the deck faerie showed up to finish (mostly) his work!

That’s it for this week!

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  1. Darcie Furlan Says:

    That double bed with so much storage is really clever!

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Sun
24
Jul '22

Trip Report: Portland For A Couple Of Days

Another week, another train? I should be so lucky. Just a little mid-week getaway.

Had some Amtrak points, so splurged on the Roomette for the 4 hour trip:

Was surprised when there was actually a MENU in my room. Those haven’t been available for YEARS. Printed time schedules still aren’t available.

The view are always lovely from either side:

This is also my first trip using the new Tacoma Port Defiance Cut-Off they debuted years ago – for one day. Several people (three) were killed on the inaugural run when the engineer was distracted by people in the cab and didn’t see a slow to 30mph sign and blasted through at 80mph. Oops. Guess we will call that “dead man’s curve”. Story here.

Also means stopping at the new Tacoma Station that it shares with Sounder service:

I did manage to get a shot of the curve, and the axles were definitely grinding even at 30mph.

We are passing over I-5 – which is where parts of the train ended up.

Fortunately, they slowed down today.

Had my porter serve me my lunch in my room – they had a Monte Cristo on the menu, took a chance on it.

Came with a blueberry white chocolate cheesecake.

Almost on time we were in Portland.

Caught a Lyft to the WorldMark Portland Waterfront Park…

First afternoon I had my old friend Dan by. We tried to reconnect in 2019 during the last heat wave, then the pandemic. But here we are:

Good to catch up after almost 30 years!

For dinner I had takeout from LeChon, a South American place next door that I love. The place was PACKED when I went to pick up my order. Variant? What variant?

I got the shrimp ceviche and the brisket empanadas. Yum.

Late morning the next day it was off to “owner reeducation camp” which netted my 30,000 Wyndham Rewards points which I promptly turned into a night in Juneau as part of a mileage run and one night in Denver on the way to my nieces wedding. Basically $350-$400 worth of hotel rooms.

The next afternoon, it was Leo SFS as the guest of honor:

Thursday found me back at the train station in Portland, in the Business Class lounge:

Train was a couple of minutes late coming in, but not bad.

Used the Business Class $3 off coupon to grab what is probably one of the best nuke breakfast sandwiches I’ve had.

No full Business Class car, just 14 seats separated at one end of the café car.

It was a good trip. Celebrated with a Caesar and some chips when I got home:

Just a little mid-week diversion.

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Fri
15
Jul '22

Home Report: Relatives In Town!

This week it’s relatives in town from Santa Fe.

Three nights close by at the airport, and I’m lending them my Escapé to avoid a $1200 car rental for 10 days. Ouch!

Even picked them up at the airport and fed them dinner.

The next day found us at the Museum of Flight with Jonathan taking a day off:

And there was a HUGE team polishing the airplanes!

What a fun day. I left early, the rest stayed for the new telescope images on the big screen in the auditorium. I had dinner to prep!

Smoked scallops and octopus as an appetizer:

Savory cinnamon rolls for dinner.

To go with the lamb off the grill (plus a salad):

The next night was seafood based:

And trying out the new placemats I laminated today – they were just paper placemats from the Crowne Plaza Madrid Airport from my trip to Spain in March.

Made little nibbles with bay scallops and bacon in pie dough:

Plus a little ceviche with a shot of vodka and Clamato:

And salmon done in my pizza oven:

Of course, there was a salad and wine.

Another fabulous dinner with friends and family.

Family is off to Sequim in the morning.

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