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Wed
26
Dec '18

Trip Report: NEXUS For Rache

Final trip of the year, if you’d like to see where I’ve been in 2018, here is a link: CLICK HERE.

This is a driving trip – which starts with a long drive through the driving rain to get to Vancouver and the moderately OK Rosedale at Rosemont Suites, which are part of the WorldMark system until the end of the year. With the cost of parking, the limited kitchens, not sorry to see these units go away. Hence, no pictures of the place. Just pictures of food and friends.

We had our mutual friend Solus+ over for a chicken, pilaf, and salad dinner.

We were just in Vancouver for an evening, the main goal being beautiful Blaine, staying on Birch Bay, so Rache can do his Nexus interview. The wait in Blaine is a couple of weeks. The wait at the Seattle office at Boeing Field is at least three months out.

Another downside of Rosedale on Robson is the 10am check-out time, which is standard for Wyndham and Vacation International units. Bloody early by my standards.

On the upside, Rache nibbled on biscotti with his coffee, and I waited for an early lunch at Ominitsky Kosher Deli. Kosher Rueben for me:

Smoked Tongue for Rache, who doesn’t love a hot tongue?

They are also a deli and small market – which a huge selection of cold-case pickles:

Plus, a guide to your wiener:

Not too much of a delay at the border – and it will be even smaller next time now that Rache has his Nexus card!

Got settled into our lovely 2-bedroom Handicapped unit at the WorldMark Blaine, which is right next door to the WorldMark Birch Bay – but a more intimate place with nicer furniture. Again, no pictures, just food.

Our first (of two nights) was steaks and asparagus off the grill (sadly on the roof deck than on our deck, unlike next door), and scratch made Hollandaise, complete with my sister’s handpicked and dried hot peppers which we whirred up in the blender:

And I found this Chilean Malbec in honor of our trip to Santiago, Chile, next month:

While I didn’t get pictures of our unit, I did take some shots of the VERY underused lounge…complete with “Elf on a Shelf” or, in this case, at a table:

Even our morning breakfast was lovely, with the leftover steak and asparagus:

Our final dinner of the trip was bratwursts off the grill and Rache’s mac and cheese:

The final trip of 2018 – and 2019 is filling up at an amazing pace (CLICK HERE for what’s on the books for next year).

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Mon
15
Jan '18

Trip Report: Ocean Shores With Rache

Through an odd set of circumstances, I acquired a free RCI week. Problem was that it a full week (which would mean missing a weekend of work), or more troublesome, only bookable less than 30 days out. If you think about it in inventory terms, it’s the sloppy leftovers that no one else wants. And why it wasn’t until December that I could book a January get away.

I was hoping for this place outside of Nanaimo, British Columbia which had one-bedroom units available in December (when we couldn’t go), but for January booking (had to book by 12-13 when the certificate expired) they only had their hotel room sized units, which is too small for the two of us. They DID have a two-bedroom unit in Ocean Shores, Washington.

Rache showed up on Friday, which was check-in day – I joined him on Monday, after, once again, mopping up water in the shop. Despite being called “Ocean Shores”, from the Sandpiper, you can neither see Ocean or Shores.

Their picture, not mine. My phone was deciding to be finicky. But the place had the amount of charm you see in this photo:

As you can see from the deck view – no ocean or no shores, but furnishings like your grandmother’s 1980’s retirement home…

The 80’s theme extended to the placemats:

As in, Corelle, the unbreakable plates from the 80’s/

The internet was also from your mother’s era (OK, my mother used dial-up until 6 months before she passed). Rache’s comment was: “The only internet more dysfunctional was in Cuban, where they know their internet is dysfunctional.” At check in you get three “chits” good for 5 Gigs among a couple of devices – and they say the connection is good only for email and web browsing, not for streaming anything. They were correct – it wasn’t even really good enough for even email. I ended up sharing my T-Mobile Data Connection with Rache since he’d used all the ATT Data and had bought $45 more, and it was only Monday (after checking in Friday).

That said, the kitchen was quite functional, and they even provided a little aluminum foil (which WorldMark doesn’t), but no spices other than salt and pepper. Fortunately, Rache brought his:

And we did eat well! I brought a shrimp appetizer:

With Veal Chops and a sampling of the Wines of Uruguay from the tasting on Saturday (and they were still tasting great!):

For breakfast, Rache made Eggs Benedict (from scratch) with fired Risotto patties rather than English Muffins:

After breakfast I called WorldMark and booked us into new places for our remaining three nights – giving up three free nights of lodging to pay $180 for better digs, and MUCH better internet. In the afternoon we moved to the WorldMark Mariner Village for Tuesday night, and the WorldMark Surfside for Wednesday and Thursday nights. Around 2pm we packed up and went out to lunch at Galway’s Pub in Ocean Shores:

The make a GREAT Manhattan. They brandy their own cherries, use your choice of Rye or Bourbon, and use the Vya Sweet Vermouth (my mother’s favorite). I went for the Corned Beef on Soda Bread, and a cup of Chowder, Rache went for the Fish & Chips, subbing chips for onion rings:

After that heavy lunch, it was off to WorldMark Mariner Village:

This is their photo (as are the others), but in a wonderful accident, that would be our room on the second floor, front corner, and those are the dunes to the right! And the inside:

Rache found out in the morning that we also had “resident deer”.

After he tossed them a couple of crackers, we had ten of them. Yes, I told him not to feed them, but he never listens to anything I say.

No pictures of dinner – phone was being wacky, but we were out of the unit by the noon deadline and headed to Long Beach (where Rache lives, and oddly, almost as far a drive as to Seattle) for a lighter lunch at Pickled Fish, where we ran in Matt, the distiller for the Adrift Hotel, home of Pickled Fish and Adrift Distillery. Thought I got a picture of him, but apparently, not. I did get a picture of our cocktails!

Manhattan for me, Old Fashioned for Rache. Fried oyster in buttermilk batter for Rache, Clam Chowder (even better than yesterday – thicker) and deviled eggs for me.

After our snack, stopped by the front desk to see Matt’s latest product – his Cranberry Liqueur.

Went next door to the distillery and had some, and some of his latest Gin. Yum.

Soon, we were at the WorldMark Surfside….

They have completely redone the exterior:

And the interior:

And the food continued to flow….

Wednesday night dinner of lamb chops, and breakfast in the morning….

With some leftover hollandaise from the other day.

On the shelves in the common area I found a nice book for Rache

He rejected my offer, sadly. Nothing to do but go back to cooking, this time Kalbi Beef off the grill with the last of the risotto:

And for after dessert – some Rainbow Unicorn Chocolates – just kidding, we didn’t open them:

The WorldMark places are so much more relaxing than most others. It was an early checkout for me in the morning…I’ve got company coming to dinner.

I took a slightly longer route home so I could stop here:

Burgerville is the BEST! Well, probably not the best for me, but I did have the halibut sandwich.

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Mon
28
Dec '15

Trip Report: Ruby Princess With Rache

It seems like it was only a couple of weeks since I was on the Ruby Princess – wait – it WAS just a couple of weeks ago!

New partner this time, and a different itinerary, but with all the same stops, just in the opposite direction.

Now – just point the arrows in the other direction – I couldn’t find a graphic for our trip, and it seems that next late summer they are making other stops coming down the coast.

Our trip started with an early morning Amtrak ride to Vancouver, BC where I spied this “private car” parked at King Street Station. It is the Silver Rapids, part of the California Zephyr fleet. They mostly rent out the cars to parties, tours, etc., though they do some of there on tours as well – check on this page – but sit down before you read the prices.

As for Rache and I, we didn’t have such luxury, but they did assign us four seats in Business Class which was nice and roomy.

I do wish they would run a mid-day train. Getting into Vancouver at noon means waiting around the condo until our room is ready. Luckily it was at 2:30 rather 4pm which is the real check-in time. The extra time allowed me a nap in the rec room, Rache a walking tour of the city, lunch and grocery shopping for both of us.

Once we got into the 2-bedroom, 2-bath unit, the view was lovely – we even had one of the rare units that has a tiny balcony:

Dinner tonight is with Solus+, a longtime friend (and dinner companion.

Solus+ is on the left, Rache is on the right. Great dinner of chicken thighs poached in Salsa Verde, a nice salad, loaf of bread, two bottles of wine (rosé to start, then red), and amazingly a bottle and a half of bourbon. Rach claims (rightly so) that it was Solus+ and I who did the most damage to the bourbon.

Out of the condo a little before noon, cab to Canada Place and a relatively smooth boarding process. I’m afraid I’m spoiling Rache with Business Class on the train (first through immigration/customs), Elite passenger check-in a boarding for the Ruby Princess, and the mini-suite that we got for $179 plus $45 port fees per person. I can’t believe I didn’t take any shots of the interior; you can find them here on the previous trip on the Ruby. Here is the layout from Princess:

Of course, you’d have to flip our, but that’s basically it, except double the size of the deck since we were the last cabin on the side:

Since we were actually on before 1pm, we actually got to do a sit-down lunch! Tasty!

And, of course, we had to have dessert…both of which were EXCELLENT:

No shots of the mandatory life-boat drill. Rache got some so maybe I’ll link to his trip report at some point.

The boat was all decked out for Christmas:

As was Vancouver, BC:

Before you knew it was we’re departing, passing under the Lions Gate Bridge:

Then quickly off to the LGBT gathering set for 5:30 in the Adagio Lounge, deck 16 aft:

There were at least 25 of us who showed up – the group pictured I’ve been on other cruises with – probably upwards of 10 previous cruisers – seems there are a lot of us who like the little under a week cruises.

When 7pm approached, a couple of the ring leaders invited us next door to SHARE, a Curtis Stone (LA restaurant guide whose restaurant, Maude, is in Beverly Hills) venture. They’d gotten a tabel for eight. What the hell, opening night, new restaurant put in while the Ruby was in dry dock – I’ll swallow the $39 (per person) upcharge.

And, oh my god, the food. There were enough of us that we got to try EVERYTHING on the menu:

Said menu:

By the time all the dishes started coming out it became clear that there wasn’t going to be a cover charge for us tonight – I celebrated by ordering a $48 bottle of wine.

Truly a stunning meal – I wa even more stunned when I realized that the wine was going to be comped as well. Had I know that, I would have suggested the following pairings:

Shramsburg Brut Rosé (California) for the charcuterie platter

Boutari Moscofilero (Greece) for the starters

Patz & Hall (California) & Ridge Vineyard Lytton Springs Zinfandel for the mains

Punch reviewed the resaturant at 2am after dinner – by the morning, it had 2,000 views, by afternoon 5,000 views… read the thread here. First post is the about half the menu, scroll down for the rest of it.

But, then, of course we had to go see some of the entertainment…

Something about “Colors Of The World” or some such thing…kept us amused until it was time to return to the cabin be explore how the pull down bed worked.

Of course, you have to have a “special key” to drop the bed down, but I happened to have one in my suitcase – it’s called an “emergency tool”:

Good for beds, electrical cabinets, hose bibs, random screws…

There is a “downside” of a wonderful meal of shared plates – at 3am you are starving, and unfortunately room service is merely a phone call away – and oh, did we order:

Because, of course, by 3am, all the ice had melted – that would be “Ice – Bucket Of” – if you look two pictures up, you can see Rach ordering the above (as seen in the mirror). I didn’t need really need breakfast when IT showed up at 9am. I went back to bed.

Onboard, you can always see where you are (and there is always “The Love Boat” on one of the channels):

At that moment, I was basically off my brother and sister-in-law’s places in Coos Bay/Corvallis – but this was my view:

The weather is starting to get a little better, at least no rain. I REALLY like this extra large balcony!

Another think about cruise ships is that they like to carve things, luckily not the guests. This was from the Elite Lounge on night two where it was salmon (most likely farm raised) on toast points with capers and Bermuda onions.

You should see what they do with a watermelon!

Another BIG gathering at the Adagio Lounge for the LGBT gathering – more cocktails, after we’d finished the cocktails brought from our suite…and then it was off to dinner – which the queue up for the dining room was MASSIVE so we opted for the buffet on the Lido Deck. My meal:

Not bad, but I prefer sit-down service – but hunger trumped waiting.

The entertainment for tonight was “The Uncle Markie Show” – featuring yours truly posing on a pedestal meant for a poinsettia:

And then there was tragedy on the “dis-mount”:

I hit the marble with a thud, and suddenly there were four Princess staff swarming in – luckily I’m padded (and was lubricated). Of course, I need a room service bacon cheeseburger to ease the pain. Please notice the absence of fries (bucket of ice not shown):

Our final day at sea was STUNNING – and made the balcony more worth it.

This give a nice idea of how big out balcony was, and these too give you an idea of how the weather was:

Another well attended (25+) gathering of the LGBT crowd – not bad considering that this isn’t a “gay” cruise:

No shots of dinner, just a couple of shots of dessert:


We shot for another show after dinner and I made it through ½ of one song – it was like a bad junior-high-school musical. I abandoned Rache to go grab another cocktail from the room, but walked past the remodeled Wheelhouse which now has another “upcharge” restaurant called “Salty Dog Gastro Pub” and found “the boys” trying out the other new venue:

Technically, that’s one of the waitresses in my puss print Santa hat.

And the menu – mind you, I was just eating the lukewarm leftovers which still weren’t bad!

Sigh, out last night aboard, and our final shot of the post. Moon off the balcony…

We had to vacate the cabin before 8am – but we had squirrelled away muesli, bananas and yogurt so we didn’t have to brave the morning buffet line or have a lackluster final sit-down meal.

Reporting to the Elite Disembarkation Lounge (thankfully in Club Fusion, one deck below so we didn’t have to brave the elevators) we had a little coffee, juice, pastries, though not enough for the MASSIVE delay in getting off the board. The phrase “clusterfuck” comes to mind. When we got to the lounge boarding groups were running 20 minutes early – always a good sign. And then there was the announcement. “There will be a delay in disembarkation, we will have details soon.”

We were an hour late disembarking, then another hour in line for customs. It seems that MANY of the passengers decided to ignore their designated times and swamped the customs/immigration lines. This seems to be a problem with cruises between Los Angeles and Vancouver. I hear even worse stories of cruises terminating or ending on Hong Kong. Must be a cultural thing. Serious points off to Princess for not checking people’s disembarkation numbers

Add another hour waiting for people to get to the airport transfer, and I’m starting to stress out. Our flight is at 1:25pm and I’d planned on getting a couple of hours of work in at the airport in the Board Room. By the time we got checked in and through security (EVEN with TSApre for both of us) I barely had time to slurp down two cups of soup, a salad, and a couple of drinks.

We were number one on the upgrade list, but First was stacked full, at least I had the seat next to me open, and we both got a free cocktail (me for my MVP Gold Status, Rach’s from the middle seat MVP who didn’t want hers).

A wonderful trip marred at the end, but still a fun way to spend five days.

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Thu
28
Mar '19

Trip Report: Vegas – Friends And Food

The main reason for the trip was the tour of the Nevada National Security Site, but you have to eat and hang out as well!

After the tour, we actually went out for a nice dinner – a rarity for us since we all are good cooks, but someone (Jonathan) was in the mood for Prime Rib. After a full day, I refused to go to a casino with the bad memories of my unexpected trip to Vegas last month due to a flight diversion. We ended up, upscale, at Lawry’s, which the original location is in LA, and I’ve heard many people wax poetic.

Cocktails, appetizers, the works (well, no dessert).

Then salads….

And then the big hunks of meat served in a big meat zeppelin!

Yes, a good time was had – and we had leftovers!

But we also cooked in the condo…

And Rache and I had lunch after the Mob Museum at the Triple George Grill

Ruben for me…

Clam chowder and salad for Rache:

Another fun trip to Vegas, with nary a foot inside of a casino.

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Sun
24
Mar '19

Trip Report: Vegas – It’s More Than Gambling

There is more to do in Vegas other than gambling – if I’m going to throw my money away, I’d rather drink it away. If you want to gamble, you can even gamble in the grocery store!

That said, there are LOTS of things to do without hitting the strip. Like tour a chocolate factory like Ethel M (M as in Mars, the candy bar people):

Wich also features a cactus garden—I was here in July when it was 118 degrees (no kidding!), today it’s just overcast, which is much nicer:

Other attractions that we checked out were the Burlesque Hall of Fame

We joined a tour halfway through lead by Buttercup, who I’m assuming does a little burlesque (they teach it at the museum in the evenings). We got in through our North American Reciprocal Museum card courtesy of Rache and I’s membership in the Ogden Museum of Sothern Art in New Orleans.

Next up is the Mob Museum which is reasonably close by – but MASSIVE in scale (and technology) ….

And there is a bar and distillery in the basement!

All-in-all, it would have been more interesting if it weren’t jam-packed with people (on a Thursday), but your wrist band is good for all day, and it’s open until 9pm. Not cheap to get into even on the basic ticket (but there is a senior discount for 65+ or your Atomic Testing Museum wristband will get you 25% off), there are all sorts of add-ons like the “Crime Lab Experience”, “Firearms Simulator Training”, “Distillery Tour”.

Speaking of the Atomic Testing Museum, Rache and Jonathan went (I slept in) and we ended up leaving Jonathan in the “Reading Room” for HOURS. He wished that he’d worn his boots from the day before to check out the radiation he might have picked up.

There is a TON of other stuff to do in Vegas rather than gamble – like Red Rocks National Conservation Area, Hoover Dam, Clark County Museum, Neon Museum – and more.

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Fri
22
Mar '19

Trip Report: Nevada National Security Site (NNSS)

Better known as the Atomic Testing Grounds north of Las Vegas.

The tale of this trip starts last June when I’m on the NNSS site trying to get a tour (http://www.nnss.gov/pages/PublicAffairsOutreach/NNSStours.html) which book up about nine months out as they are thirty people, once a month. Upside is that it is free. We finally got accepted in early July 2018 for a March 2019 tour. And, apparently, we all passed our security clearances.

Booked a three-bedroom at the WorldMark Las Vegas Boulevard for the week of the tour…and then it’s the waiting game to get airline tickets, rental car the rest.

Four of us (Myself, Rache, DancingBear, Jonathan) flew in on a variety of flights with Jonathan and I arriving first and picking up a rental car and some groceries….


Yes, I rented a pickup truck – it was supposed to be the HUGE F-150. What I got was a mid-size Nissan Frontier. I should have gotten the Jaguar F8 ragtop from Sixt! And, yes, I re-parked the truck better after the photoshoot.

 Part of the groceries were fixings for breakfast sandwiches for Tuesday, the day of the tour. DancingBear got up early to make them, so we had some food in our stomachs to show up at 7:30am at the National Atomic Testing Museum where the tour began (museum ticket not included in the free tour):


If you look closely, you can see our 85-year-old tour guide Ernie in the front window of the bus – he’s worked in the field for most of his adult life after growing up as a farmer in Nebraska.

Here is the itinerary of the full-day tour…



And with Jonathan on the tour, he marked a copy of map with all the stops the night before the tour:


Notice how close we are to Area 51? I notice the map doesn’t show the airstrip in Area 51 that a jet lands everyday from Vegas for commuters to commute. Also, Area 25 isn’t on the tour as that was the Nuclear Rocket Engine test site.

At the museum (the following day), Rache found this on display – from the Jackass and Western Railroad which was a spur line that moved around the rocket engines:


I bring this up because Rache and I had the opportunity several years ago to ride on the switch engine (I was the engineer!):

If you want to see the whole post on that adventure: CLICK HERE

Thanks, Rache for these web-scrapped photos since we were all required to leave our phone in our cars – to photos, no booze, no, well, lots of things. Here is the poster:

But back to the tour…it’s an hour and a half on a bus before you see this sign.

You get a clue about the terrain, but here is a better shot of the 1350 square miles where we also saw Predator Drones doing “touch and goes”:

Here is the link to the Wikipedia link about the site: CLICK HERE

With the 90-minute bus ride, first stop is a bathroom/snack bar stop, which is good because I’m out of liquid, then we are off to Icecap, which could be reactivated in a year if we decide to no longer ban testing (which, with our current administration, be tomorrow).

Which I really wish I’d had a camera for – it’s a building in 40-foot chunks that san be craned off and shipped to the next test site – well, before they blow a big hole in the ground.

Speaking of big holes in the ground, our next stop was Sedan Crater, which was the most sobering of visits of the day, when 12,000,000 short tons (11,000,000 t) of earth of material were moved in 11 minutes.

Standing on the rim looking down, which was TRULY sobering, they could have ended the tour after this and I would be satisfied – but we had five more hours (starts at 8am, ends at 5pm).

More driving before we arrive at the Apple II houses – structures that they built to see how the “blast” from a bomb would react with structures….this one was fine except all the windows were blown out:

Thank god the next stop was lunch at what was basically a commissary that had a bus-load of people showing up at once. Guessing the cheeseburger would have been better as a one-off rather than done ten at a time.

And there were also train trestles that were bent by the shock waves – which all the photos are heavily copyrighted, but the warping was three feet across twenty feet.

You should also be aware that during all these tests, soldiers were out there watching. It was a coveted assignment – watching something big blow up.

We were shown wooden benches on hillsides still in place (and rotting into the dessert).

All-in-all it was a fact-filled-feast with someone who was there throughout the years.

Personally, I was exhausted by the end of the day – but they did send us a commemorative photo collage of our day around radiation. The big photo is on the rim of Sedan Crater, the inset from in front of the museum:

In a little bit of weird, the world is a small place, we met a friend of our friend Sierra, another Ranger, who was on the tour, along with a bunch of SpaceX/Tesla folk (though not “on business”).

Fun day.

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For more posts, click here.

Want to see the report on the Hanford Nuclear Reactor B tour, click here.

Or the Atomic Museum in Albuquerque, click here.

Mon
11
Mar '19

Trip Report: Bay Area For Friends And Wine

Grabbed a ride with Rache to the airport – it was an hour earlier, than even I, the early arriver, arrives. Maybe I should have waited…since this was what I looked like in the lounge:

No upgrade to First this time, I was number 8 on the list for only 12 seats since it was a 737-800. Upshot is that I was a little hungry by the time I landed in Oakland – but thanks to Onyx (and Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café), we solved that problem with a Rueben and a Poinsettia:

Just down for a couple of nights, but off to Livermore we go to check out a couple of wineries – first stop is Concannon Winery, who claims to the oldest continually operating “label” winey in the US.

Ended up grabbing the Petit Syrah (which they introduced to California in the 1960’s).

Next up was Wente – which ALSO claims to be the oldest continually operating “family” winery in the US:

It both wineries, lots of extra tastes because I flashed my business card at the beginning. It also meant that it was best for us to stop in the town of Livermore for a little snack for the road – that would be the First Street Ale Street:

Which contained a bunch of local wines, including some we’d tried earlier:

Including a large display of beer cans:

A lovely afternoon south of Berkeley….but then we were back home due to light traffic (we were headed against the grain).

I should mention that Onyx does amazing bronze sculptures – here is one in process:

You can see his portfolio here: http://www.onyxvcrimbil.com/

Onyx shouldn’t have all the photo bombs – here’s Mr. Lunetta:

Before long, it was back to the airport, headed home. Booked myself into First because it was a Friday, and upgrades would be scarce – comes with a sandwich!

Another week, another adventure!

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Sat
9
Feb '19

Trip Report: Return From Chile

The length of my overseas trips are determined by two factors:

  1. The ability to only take one weekend in a row off from the wine shop
  2. The longest amount of days that I can business class flights on all segments

The upshot is that I’d have liked to leave on the red-eye a day before (or better yet gone through Dallas and saved 16 hours of layover in Miami) and returned a couple of days later. Not to be. When you are using miles to get a business class seat on a partner carrier you take the routing and the days available.

Bit of a clusterfuck getting back to the airport – should have put into Uber than I wanted to go to the Holiday Inn rather than the airport (and get yelled at in Spanish by the Uber driver). Ended up having the hotel book me a car, which, oddly, was cheaper than the Uber would have been. It was a tourist car, not a cab, is my guess.

Bit of a zoo at check-in, fortunately the Business Class lines were shorter:

And beyond customs, there was even an American Admirals Club (which will be handy for Rache since he has access now that he’s an Alaska Lounge member).

In what seems like no time (with free food/drink, time morphs), we had loaded. Today’s plane is a 787-800, but it has the same seating at the 777-200 that I flew down on. Don’t I look happy?

Even happier after takeoff when goodies started appearing…

Followed by dinner…thankfully, served in two courses:

I must say that I was impressed by the Business Class bathroom on this leg:

And soon it was time for bed…

Global Entry was quick, sadly, luggage was not. The problem with South America flights is that it seems that EVERYONE has two LARGE checked bags.

Eventually made it to the lounge – and a shower:

It really doesn’t suck to travel Business Class.

Sadly, I wasn’t hungry, but they even had an Avocado Toast station:

I knew I’d be getting breakfast (again) on the flight to Seattle:

So, that brings to a close my South American adventure.

Next week is all mileage runs.

[224.4]

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Sun
3
Feb '19

Trip Report: Return To Santiago, Chile

Back to Santiago we go…via a different bus company:

Seats were slightly more comfortable, and the same price, 5,000 Pesos…but had to use the bathroom, which had no water, but at least it had a hole to pee in.

Back to the Ibis Esation Centrale, though to a different floor – where we were soon visited by Thomas. Rache taught him is first year of teaching, which I won’t say how long ago that was.

Thomas had already gotten his subway pass, so we headed one stop over to the central train station to check out the restaurants at that stop – and we found several, and settled on El Hoya.

I didn’t realize we were in a place that Anthony Bourdain visited!

We didn’t notice it at the time, but there is a shrine to him mourning his death. You can read more about his visit here:

http://culto.latercera.com/2018/06/09/anthony-bourdain-las-huellas-unica-visita-a-chile/

This is particularly amusing to me because Rache took me to a place he visited in Montevideo when we were there – and we just stumbled across this place!

We stopped for supplies at the grocery in the train station (think we should have stayed in THIS neighborhood) – which I’ll make a comment about, of all things, Diet Ginger Ale. I like it. It’s hard to find Diet Ginger even in the US, so I was amazed to find a couple of different ones in Chile. Shocking.

And speaking of other “odd” things, the street next to the bus station where the hotel is turns into a string of food stalls starting at 10PM or so – for all the incoming buses!

Took this at midnight – needless to say, I was the last one awake of our crew.

Rache and Thomas were up and out early for their walking tour, which at 3 hours, was a bit much for me. I opted to sleep in and go across the street for an Italian Dog for brunch. Couldn’t figure out why it was an Italian dog when it had guacamole on it, until Rache pointed out that it was the colors of the Italian flag:

Once I saw the pictures from the “3-hour tour”, I was a bit envious as it included a HUGE cemetery. Led by a “Where’s Waldo” guide:

Late day flight out (10:45pm departure) so that will be another post – but I’d like to share observations about my time in Chile:

  • Not noted above, Rache had his wallet picked from his FRONT pocket on the morning, very crowded, subway to get to his tour. Multiple people stopped us to say that we should be wearing our packs on our fronts rather than backs. A woman stopped me to show me how I should hold my cell phone to keep it from getting taken. Most of these incidents happened close to our hotel, which was by the very crowded bus station, and in Rache’s case, on a very crowded subway – and then there is the photo Rache accidentally took of the “perp walk”. That said, out of the city we didn’t even think about these things.
  • Santiago reminds me of Rome, without the charm. A hub city best left behind to move into the country.
  • I’m glad I went, I’m eternally grateful for all the work Rache put into the planning of this trip.
  • Of our mutual trips to South America, I’d rate it this way, in order of most/best to least/worse:
    • Cityscapes: Montevideo, Lima, Santa Cruz, Santiago
    • Food: Lima, Montevideo, Santa Cruz, Santiago
    • Lodging: Lima, Montevideo, Santa Cruz, Santiago
    • Safety: Santa Cruz, Montevideo, Lima, Santiago
    • Transportation: Santiago, Montevideo, Santa Cruz, Lima
    • Disparity of incomes (homeless, etc.): Santiago, Lima, Santa Cruz, Montevideo
  • Maybe don’t come in February, the height of their summer

Still glad I came, starting to run out of South America countries to visit that have easy flights using miles. Columbia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Equator, Paraguay are left, and the first two of those are having “political” issues.

Next up, the return home.

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Fri
1
Feb '19

Trip Report: Santa Cruz, Chile

Because I believe in sleeping in, and Rache doesn’t, I decided to grab “breakfast” at the bus station on the way to the bus. Yes, it was McDonalds. It was the Quarter Pounder Meal because I didn’t realize “solo” would get me just the sandwich, and that with the combo, I had my choice of “papas fritas” (fries) or empanadas “little pies”. I bring this up because the meal (which we all know what it costs in the states) was 4040 pesos. The fare for my 3.5-hour bus ride was 5000 pesos. That should tell you how inexpensive long-distance busses are in Chile.

We are off to Santa Cruz, Chile at 12:15pm. Seats recline more than an airplane, but my butt is still too wide for them.

Arrived to Santa Cruz to find cabs, but no drivers. Paging UBER! We are staying at the Hostel Cruz Del Valle:

Again – don’t why, but no photos of the room! Staff speaks no English, so lots of phone translations, but a positive attitude by all.

For dinner tonight, we are checking out a local craft brewery restaurant (the brewery is in the countryside) for dinner – Katarkura Cerciceria Restaurante

With a great menu of food and beer:

And their story:

The food (and beer, and wine) was excellent:

You pick the meat (choice of four — I went for pork), and four sides (sautéed onions, cheese, sauerkraut, mayonnaise), and Rache got his sandwich with a fried egg, green beans, sautéed onions and mayo – and what a presentation!

Loved the FRIES – a note: the Chileans serve Papas Frites with everything. Sadly, the McDonalds did better fries than most I had in Chile – with the exception of these folks, the fries were magnificent!

It was a wonderful meal where Rache had beer, and I went for wine (and killed two thirds of the bottle):

It was a big sandwich – I finished the fries and took half the sandwich home, along with the rest of the wine.

Our main reason for coming to Santa Cruz (other than Rache prefers small towns) is to see a couple of wineries, but our first one isn’t until 3:30 so we have time to explore the neighborhood after breakfast (included with our room, with custom scrambled eggs, meats, cheeses, yogurt, cereals, pastries, coffee, etc.). I was looking for grocery store things, and we aren’t in the center of town, so we set out with our various mapping apps. We did find a convenience store, but it was closed, but stumbled upon a farmer’s market with everything you’d need (except for mixer for my bourbon):

Makes me wish we had a full kitchen in our place!

Here are a couple of random pictures from our walk…

Come the afternoon, we were back on the phone ordering an Uber to visit the MontGras Winery just outside of town:

Which was getting ready for a hundred-person wedding later in that evening:

I was sort of weird to be in a winery, on a weekend, and there were no other tourists around – so we got a private tour:

All the vineyards are drip irrigated because of the heat, this is what the soil looks like. The grapes really have to work hard, which makes them more flavorful:

And the usual bits and bobs of equipment:

And in an unusual move, they let us open one of the tanks after the guide flipped the sign around as to its contents, to taste the wine and identify whether it was red or white, and what varietal (he’d already gone through all the varietals they farmed):

We both went for white, but I was the one that got Sauvignon Blanc since it was more acidic. Rache went for Chardonnay, but it wasn’t full-bodied enough for Chard. Shit, I’m starting to get this!

Now for the tasting…

Complete with nibbles to pair with the various wines:

What a lovely tour – and we carry the MontGras Camenere at the shop.

Instead of going back to the hotel, we went into the main square to have dinner, and stumbled on yet another sort of celebration:

We ended up at Club Union Social for dinner:

The grapes (which are real) are Pais, otherwise known as the Mission grape in the US.

Again, language difficulties, but parts of the menu were in English – and, of course, we started with Pisco Sours:

I ended up ordering the rabbit…

Rache got the tonque:

We both had the wine:

And we found supplies at the big grocery store just off the square:

And yes, we got ice – but it’s in the sink slowly melting (no fridge in the room).

The next day we are off (well, after breakfast and a nap) to the Vina Santa Cruz, which is much further out of the city, requiring a driver.

 

This is definitely a “destination” winery – we passed a wine museum and an auto museum before getting to the main winery, which comes with its own gondola and history presentation area:

And then the history area:

They even have an observatory!

And display of meteorites…

And the view from the top aren’t bad either….

But it’s time for the tour – which we share with a handful of other people, but not as many as the 20 on the Spanish tour. Here are some of the production facitities:

Including one of their concrete eggs for aging wine:

This is one of the barrel rooms:

Which is set into the stone hillside:

Now it’s time for the tasting….

Followed by a stroll around their little museum…

And finishing in the gift shop:

Our driver was waiting for us (he actually cost more than the tour), and off we were back to the city half an hour away – and back to the square. We asked the driver for his favorite place to eat on the square – and he said Club Union Social– where we ate yesterday! Back we go. More pisco sours, I wanted something lite, so I went for the garlic shrimp…

And back to the store we went for more ice, more mixer, and if I’d wanted albums, I could have gotten those!

What an odd selection – Koko Taylor, Woody Allen soundtracks, Love Music, The Who – thinking I should have picked up the Koko Taylor.

Our dinner was salamis and cheeses we picked up at the store as we have a big day tomorrow, headed back to Santiago.

That’s it for now.

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Trip Report: Santiago, Chile

Welcome to Santiago! Here is the view from our room – we are directly across from the major cross-country bus terminal. We are at the Ibis Estacion Central.

Not sure why I didn’t take shots of our room – which was dormitory like in nature, with two small twin beds. Great location, a little small, a little short on towels, but clean. At least its well-stocked now!

We poked around the neighborhood a bit, and finally settled on the restaurant – the hotel restaurant. Turns out it was the best place around – and in the middle of the afternoon, it was packed. When in Chile, gotta start with Pisco Sours!

We opted for burgers…

Nap time for both of us and then a little wandering around the city… his shot shows damage still around from the earthquake ten years ago.

Dinner found us BACK at the hotel restaurant (Ibis Kitchen) realizing that even though we went further afield, still no sit-down restaurants with table service.

Rache got the rolled roast….

I opted for the chicken breast, which comes with a fried egg on the fries (think I should have gone for the mashed potatoes):

Our next day was filled with getting transportation sorted – like our subway pass and our bus tickets to Santa Cruz, our next destination, and wandering around the city after I grabbed a quick dog across the street at the train station…

And then into the city trying (and failing) to find a funicular up the hill to a big Jesus statue (though not as big as Rios)

There is train service in Chile – it just doesn’t run to many places are at many times.

This is the shot that I took….

Seconds later, Rache took this one….

He accidentally caught a cop doing a perp walk!

Rache looked up restaurants and found a possibility via Uber. Car came quickly, and off we went – and when we arrived, the restaurant looked sketchy – as did the neighborhood. The driver said to not be here after dark, and we agreed, and started walking away from the people towards larger streets, and stumbled upon El Toro, which turned out to be GREAT!

Another good meal that put us to bed early!

Tomorrow morning, we are off to Santa Cruz!

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Sun
27
Jan '19

Trip Report: Headed To Chile

Since I know this would be a LONG post, I’ll break this trip up into three or four entries. Actually taking a weekend off from the shop!

Travelling with Rache – who, as is usual when we travel internationally, is going for weeks, while I’m going for the most days that I can find a business class ticket using miles – in this case, out on a Monday redeye, back the following Wednesday in the morning. Leaves me with 6ish days “in country”.

Getting to Santiago, Chile is two redeyes, meaning I have all day in Miami – not ideal, but it was 120,000 miles and something like $56 for a several thousand-dollar ticket.

Inside the US, my “Business Class” award gets me Domestic First Class:

It being a redeye flight, not much in the way of food service:

The Inflight Entertainment system was decent, watched a couple of movies:

Was definitely going for “light” entertainment. And you could always turn the map on….


The serious downside of this routing is that I get into Miami at 6AM and don’t fly out until 10:55PM. I could leave the airport, but I need sleep, and with the government shutdown, how long would it take me to get back through security. The upside of a Business Class ticket on American, was access to their nicer Flagship Lounge, rather than their usual Admirals Club.



I opt to have a custom-made omelet…




And a nap in one of their “recliners”. “Recliner” in the sense that it’s one position, which is reclined:


Got three or four hours of fitful sleep – time to use the shower facilities…a god send:


I’d put a fresh shirt in my carryon, and the “self-pour” bar was open by the time I was all cleaned up:


And lunch is set out….

I basically spent the entire day napping, snacking, drinking, wasting time on the computer while waiting to board my flight to Santiago, Chile, which fortunately, the gate was directly under the club. I’m in the bulkhead first row of Business Class for my ride south.

While there was food on this flight, which I reserved the beef (overcooked as usual) ….

It came all at once since we didn’t take off until 11PM and they assumed most would like to sleep.

Watched two movies on this leg:

And did use the lay-flat feature of my bed to grab three or four hours of sleep:

On arriving in Santiago, Immigration was quick, luggage delivery slow. They’d manage to crack my bag and I was surprised at the efficiency of the process for filing a claim. That will be something I do in the states once I’m home. It’s in enough of a shape to get it home (I hope).

Rache was due to arrive 30 minutes before me via Dallas, but he was delayed and arrived 45 minutes after me, when the lines at Customs were longer…but we finally met up and ordered an Uber to the city!

It was about 1PM when we got to the hotel – and I’ll pick up that in the next post.

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Tue
4
Dec '18

Trip Report: Waikiki!

Time to head for sunshine…but first, got to bottle the holiday Cinnamon Brandy…by Christmas the liquid will be a dark mahogany color:

And get the wine shop’s
wine club boxing started – and I get to do it in our new space (so I can actually start it on a Sunday while the shop is open):

Some hiccups, but easier than last month.

Off to the airport in the morning…no upgrade (sigh). I hit the lounge, but bought the sandwich onboard since it’s a five-hour flight:

The Granola Bar is a freebie are a perk of Premium Class (along with doubles of Woodford Reserve) is a and the JcoCo Chocolate is a perk of being either an MVP Gold, or MVP Gold 75K.

Since I just had smaller carry on, I opted to take the “cheap” way to get to Waikiki – TheBus, the local city bus, a whopping $2.75 and an hour of my time. You can do the airport shuttle, or 808-EXPRESS for a direct transfer if there a couple of people. Don’t know what the UBER would be, but there is service.

I got into Waikiki in the early afternoon – and they gave me a choice of rooms that were ready:

  • 23rd floor, no lanai (that’s deck in Hawaiian)
  • 7th floor, lanai

Uncle Markie always loves a deck.

Not much of a kitchen (microwave, fridge, toaster, coffee maker, but plates, glasses, dishes, etc).

The closest grocery store is a dozen blocks away, and I’d rather have food now, rather than later. Headed down the street to Cheeseburger Waikiki, which used to be Cheeseburger in Paradise, but are still under the same corporate umbrella.

I started with some weird drink special of whiskey, gin, orange juice….

One was enough, and I ordered something for the starter menu, the Cheeseburger Sliders – still a lot of food. Should have taken one home for breakfast!

Headed back to the condo to just hangout and recover from the trip – nice view:

And plenty warm:

Yes, there are Speedos involved.

Wonderful pillows meant a wonderful night’s sleep – so I could get up in the morning and revisit a place Bliss and I had breakfast on our trip here: IHOP for the 55+ Menu.

Next up was another local bus ($5.75 for the full-day bus pass) to the Salvation Army because it’s Senior Day which is a 15% discount. I usually am able to find nice Aloha Shirts at a great price. I DID find some finds, at .50 each – and one of them a TRUE FIND.

Yep, the middle one is a PanAm glass, the other two, Hawaiian Airlines.

Across the street at Ross Cross Dress For Less…

Oh, I bought a new small carry-on suitcase – I started the trip with a Hawaiian print small duffle with a shoulder strap – I wasn’t even to the Alaska Lounge in Seattle before I realized my mistake. I needed something small enough for the city bus…but with wheels.

On the way home courtesy of my “all-day bus pass” was a stop at Food Pantry for a little pupu stuff for dinner – go Poke!

Here are some more pictures from my deck, but during the daytime…

And some of the Royal Gardens amenities….

The next noon thirty I was off for a Wyndham Timeshare presentation…Wyndham is the parent company of WorldMark, where I usually stay, but they have no places in Waikiki so I traded points with The Colonels for this stay, and my next one – which, as part of the tour, was a two-bedroom deluxe upper floor at the Waikiki Beachwalk – sadly, next door to this:

But here is the Wyndham Waikiki Beachwalk property…

And some nice additions…

And the view….

For the ninety-minute presentation I got a $125 AMEX card, and a tour of the type of unit I’ll have the first week of January when I’m back in Waikiki with DancingBear.

Next stop was at CVS to see if I could transfer a prescription that I had two doses left – and my pharmacy in Seattle, while truly wonderful, is only open Monday-Friday, and I’m on the road M-F this week and next. Since I’d just changed insurance, I wasn’t sure….but they said they’d text me when it was ready.

Across the street was a Tommy Bahama, with a bar on the second floor and a restaurant on the third… a little snack was in order. Turns out their happy hour was 2-5. Woohoo!

With a decent Manhattan ($12.50, not Happy Hour pricing):

A great view:

And KILLER Two For $10 Mahi Fish Tacos!

The “signature” coconut prawns were good, but next the tacos…..

Turns out both the CVS and Tommy Bahama are just across the street (and down an alley) from The In Between (and the porno store upstairs):

Dinner tonight was going to be the Wailea Coffee Shop….which Rache and I ate at on another visit…now closed, along with Hy’s Steakhouse next to the Royal Garden. Lot’s of “old school” restaurants seem to be closing. I ended up at the Korean place across the street sub-street-level. Korean Kang Nam Style BBQ Yakiniku.

I should have just ordered a “Highballu”, because the concept of whiskey and Diet Coke (they served Pepsi) barely made it through translation:

But it was served with Kim Chi! And some interior shots:

I ordered the BiBimBap in a stone pot:

Nice to have some more vegetables in my system.

Waikiki, being a tourist Mecca, you have t-shirt shops with Obama’s picture, saying, “Miss Me Yet?”, and this:

Oi.

The next day found me poolside:

And then back in yesterday’s neighborhood to check on my prescription (it was ready, but no text), and another stop for Fish Tacos at Tommy Bahama – this time I went for the Happy Hour Cocktail of a Vodka Martini (which my mother claimed, “There is NO such thing as a VODKA martini!”). It nicely came with small olives, but they were stuffed with Blue Cheese – rest in peace Swanda.

Sadly, check out at the Royal Garden is 10AM. Meaning I ate some cubed papaya, and got back on the city bus to the airport – and with no checked luggage, soon I was in the shared AA/JAL Lounge with a Hot Asian Buffet!

And a “pour-it-yourself” bar!

With a nice view of the Japanese Garden that is in the middle of the airport:

And even bidets in the loo!

Before long I was back on the plane, yet again, not upgraded…but free cocktails, and thanks to Jonathan, a ride home from the airport.

Another week, another journey.

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Tue
20
Nov '18

Trip Report: Election Night In Austin – Part Duo

Rache was up way before I and was out exploring the city.

I made it out the door to lunch, at a place run by Sandra Bullock’s sister that is part deli, part flower shop – Walton’s Fancy & Staple:

I went for the Rueben and a Burnt Orange:

Stopped by Austin Wine Merchants, had a nice chat with Ian, picked up a bottle of Blue Corn by the Texas Distillery, Balcones – whose used 5-gallon barrels I use to age my hooch.

And I thought Madrona Wine Merchants was stocked to the gills!

Rache brought home fried chicken from Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken, and I popped a bottle of Chilean wine (since we will be going there in January).

It being election night, we were definitely eating dinner “in” with the television locked on MSNBC and Rachel Maddow. Especially since we are in Austin, and the Beto/Cruz race is tight:

Sadly, we went to bed without definitive results…

Wednesday found us having lunch at Z Tejas – which, as it turns out is on Alaska Airlines Dining For Miles plan!

Pretty yummy food! House margarita for Rache, the Hard Day for me.

Rache ordered the Table Side Guacamole…

I ordered the chicken-fried rib eye, the healthy alternative!

I didn’t finish my vegetables, or the complementary corn bread, so we took those back the condo. Think a meal of various leftovers.

We took a detour after lunch to the amazing “junk” store, Fortney Home…which soon will be moving to a historic building in a small town an hour away:

When I mentioned “leftovers” for dinner, we do them well. Leftover lunch salad from the other day, and from the chicken bones from election night, I’d made stock, bought some noodles, added the vegetable from lunch…. And voila!

The wine was a South American Bonardo…yep, another oddball grape, courtesy of the wonderful wine shop around the corner.

Think I’ll save Thursday and Friday for part three.

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Mon
19
Nov '18

Trip Report: Election Night In Austin – Part Uno

When we made the plans, it was when we both had time open – not looking at the calendar and noticing that it was going to be election day in Austin, and when we made the reservations, Beto wasn’t the buzz that he was on election night.

Rache showed up the night before, and I had to open the lovely bottle Fico gave me in Tucson last week when he brought mixers to my room on the train:

I think that’s a GREAT picture – almost as good as the one from the lounge in the morning….

Or from the plane….

In a drunken booking moment, I’d blown four Gold Guest Upgrades to get us into First…which was good, because when we got to the airport, there were 42 people on the upgrade list!

It was an afternoon flight, so this was our meal:

Still not a fan of meals served all at once, but it was tasty.

Got checked into the condo after an Uber ride…nice place:

 

With a CRAZY long deck – 102 feet of deck, with a minimal two chairs and a side table:

Here is a video condo tour….

One of the nice things about the WorldMark Austin is its location to GREAT food close by – like Ranch 616 (as in 616 Nueces, and we are 801 Nueces):

I had two appetizers….the side of Grilled Quail (something like $6 – a STEAL):

The Don Combo, which is a Half Dozen of Crispy Oysters, Half Crispy Calamari, Chipotle Tartar and Green Goddess, and Pico de Gallo salad:

Rache got the Divorced Quail, which is Quail three ways, One Buttermilk Battered and Fried with Ranchero, One Sugar Cured and Grilled with Tomatillo, separated by Herbed Boursin Cheese Mashers and Sautéed Mixed Vegetables

This is the third time I’ve eaten here, and it never disappoints.

That was our Monday getting to Austin….stay tuned for more details!

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Wed
7
Nov '18

Trip Report: Beantown

They ask, I visit – when I can. This trip started with a random text three or four weeks ago. The questions was: “When are you coming back through?” My answer was, probably winter, but let me look at fares. And the fare was $237 round-trip Seattle to Boston. Off to the Lounge go I:

And it nicely started with an upgrade!

At least it’s an aisle near the front for the long red-eye flight.

And I learned something new on the Alaska First Class Menu:

The unit of measure called an IBU which stands for International Bitterness Unit (though it also is a medical abbreviation for Ibuprofen). People who like really hoppy IPA (India Pale Ale) want a higher score. Check out the Wikipedia article HERE.

It’s a redeye, so the food is going to be minimal, but it starts with a little berry smoothie….

And then usually, it’s veggies and hummus….but this was a small hot sandwich thing, which I was grateful for:

The problem with red eye flights is that they are red eye flights – my arrival in Boston was around 6am, and with checked luggage I couldn’t even go sleep it off in the lounge one terminal over, so it was:

  • Baggage claim
  • Silver Line to South Station (Free)
  • Red Line to Alewife (Free)
  • Uber to Pucci’s place ($15)

As also is my way when getting into Boston (actually Belmont) is to head straight to bed for a nap – which is what I did in my lovely guest bedroom:

After my nap, we were out the door to Total Wine & Beverage (which isn’t close, but it’s cheap), and then back to the house for a lovely Pucci lunch. Plans to get together with Jill were thwarted by UPS deliveries at her place. Sadly, I didn’t get a pic, so you’ll have to take it from me, it was a stunning lunch.

When I visit midweek, I basically get to see Pucci around his teaching/performing schedule, so it’s catch as catch can. Left me time to wander up the street to The Spirited Gourmet to grab a sandwich for dinner – and to check out the wine selection and look for a favorite Gin of Pucci’s.

I got back just in time to miss the rain storm dumping!

While Pucci was off teaching – I ACTUALLY tuned to TV to watch the first game of the World Series:

Much cocktails and conversation at the end of the game when he returned from teaching and watched them win. Almost felt like I was with Dad watching football!

The following day’s lunch was at The Red House in Cambridge where during the day they feature ½ price oysters for the first dozen – I decided to tag mine with a couple of Maine Crab Cake sliders (and a Manhattan!)

I should have had our server get a picture of all four of us – Jill, Norma (Jill’s mother and wonderful woman), Pucci and I. Seems like I’m missing a lot of “photo ops” on this trip.

Pucci had the entire day off – he rearranged his schedule to move students to Friday and Saturday. THANKS!

With the afternoon free, we headed to a museum that I learned about through the North American Reciprocal Museum group that I get access to through my family membership at The Ogden Museum of Southern Art (with Rache). This is the same organization that exposed me to Intuit –Museum of Outsider Art in Chicago a couple of months ago.

Today’s visit it to the Boston Waterworks Museum:

This is actually the back of the building – had to borrow a shot of the front from their site:

Pucci had never been, and I hadn’t either – and they gave up a grizzled mobility challenged docent who was a font of knowledge about not only the equipment in the museum, but the whole Boston area water system. I was glad Pucci was there with his knowledge of some of the public reservoirs. Amazing old pumping equipment in the building, that was only shut down in 1974.

Serious “Steam Pump” at this place.

Jill was back at the house for dinner (after Pucci and I had afternoon naps!), and what a dinner it was, Beef Tenderloin, green beans, sautéed mushrooms, mashed potatoes – what a meal!

And I can’t forget the special guest, Jill’s dog, Murphy (aka, Murphy, The Wonder Dog):

It was a wonderful quick trip.

The return trip was as cruel, timing-wise, and the incoming – a 7am flight (basically getting on the same plane that brought me here). I was out of the house, in an Uber (under $30) to the airport at 5am.

Oy.

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Mon
15
Oct '18

Trip Report: The Amtrak Cardinal

In my quest to decide if I want to keep investing in Amtrak (time, not money), I’m trying a few of the routes I haven’t tried (that still serve food). The summer it was the Silver Meteor from New York City to Fort Lauderdale. This week it is The Cardinal from Washington, DC to Chicago (it used to start in NYC as well, but track issues have caused it to not for the foreseeable future).

Rache and I started with an early flight from SEA to IAD – and then the task of getting into town by public transit (I was willing to throw an Uber at it) for $11 each (Rache was a little cheaper since he’s 65+). We were in Premium with free drinks and a snack, but sadly, not first – we were numbers 9 and 10 on THAT list. It’s less a deal for Rache since he can sleep in coach, me, not so much. But we arrived in one piece (albeit late) to the lovely (read, practical) Days Inns Washington, DC on Connecticut Ave. Nothing to write home about, but clean, good location, not over the top expensive.

Rache grabbed the desk, but not to worry, I have a travelling table!

Being beat – I suggested we just order in food (the joys of a big city!). We went for Thai from ThaiPad, which was basically across the street. Oddly, no photos. We both got versions of Pad Thai (Rache, shrimp; me, chicken). I wanted something I could eat in the morning as well – no fridge in the room (and no chopsticks with the delivery!)

Basically, it was a comfortable place to crash for a night, close to a DC Metro station (for which I now have a card).

The morning found us headed to Union Station, and directly to the Accela Lounge to chill out until our 11am train.

The lounge offers both Red Cap Service (slow) or a guide to the tracks – we took the later.

We got settled in with the help of our car attendant, Momma J – really DO wish I had a picture of her! She’s been at it for 32 years.

With our before noon boarding – we got lunch.

Please not that that the “silver colored” eating utensils are plastic – and that poor cheeseburger has been nuked. If you are going to do that – DON’T NUKE THE BUN, it comes out like rubber.

Dessert was better than the burger:

Fortunately, you are allowed to bring your own bar when you are in a sleeper (we are in the bedroom), and Momma J kept us stocked with ice:

After dinner I looked at The Washington Post – and realized I should have gone shopping last night while in DC. Evan Williams was on SALE!

Let me zoom in on the important bit….and those are prices for 1.75 liter bottles.

Welcome to our bedroom:

We DID get a good meal at Blackies not far from the station:

Definitely better than Amtrak! Next off we are to a gallery covered by our Ogden membership, the Intuit Gallery of outsider art – WELL worth a visit:

Didn’t get a chance to check out this restaurant, The Silver Palm, which has a train car attached:

Back to the Amtrak lounge we went before the flight…

And the final shot – from the Chicago Airport and a statue of a police dog…

We are done. The food on the train SUCKED. The scenery didn’t – but the food SUCKED! Abandon The Cardinal.

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Thu
20
Sep '18

Trip Report: The Big Easy

Months ago, Rache was visiting, and NCIS: New Orleans came on, and by the end of the show we’d booked a room and flights. Same thing happens occasionally when I watch Hawaii 5 0. The shows remind me of how much I like a particular city. At the time I even had enough Alaska Gold MVP Guest Upgrades that we travelled in style both ways after a stop for a Caesar (Bloody Mary made with Clamato) in the Alaska Lounge:

They do make a good one! Almost like breakfast in a glass. Got to the airport ridiculously early so we could get a free ride from Jonathan before he went to work. It also allowed me a have a nice little nap in the room, which was good because I didn’t get very much sleep the night before.

Settled in, and lunch is on the way!

During the trip, I noticed this sign in the bathroom.

So – how I read this is: Return To Your Seat, or Ring For A Cocktail. I’ll take option B.

For some reason, the nuts come near the end of the flight…

And once again, heavy on the almonds, which aren’t my favorites. I passed the pecans to Rache, who isn’t an almond fan either.

The original plan was that “The Colonels” would pick us up and we’d go out to dinner and then they’d drop us off. Plans changed last week as the weather changed – so Uber us into the city!

Got settled into our one-bedroom condo, with Rache graciously taking the fold out couch, leaving the bedroom for me. We did get a great view of the city from our rooms:

Basically, we dumped our bags and headed down the street to Houston’s, which is my standard first night dinner and music to get me into the New Orleans mood:

This might very well be the best French Dip that I’ve ever had in my life!

And the fried oysters looked pretty good, too!

And then there is the sign on the way to the bathroom that I loved:

Per the way we usually travel together, Rache is up and out and exploring during the morning hours while I lollygag in bed – getting together late morning for our lunch stop of the day. A place that neither of us has been before – Central City BBQ:

Got some cocktails ordered…

And some BBQ! I went with the pulled pork sandwich, potato salad, which came with these house-pickled pickles and onions — yum

Rache went for a single rib, sweet corn spoon bread, and roast Brussel sprouts.

We were debating a second round of cocktails when the skies opened up and started dumping rain. Decision made.

After the rain cleared, we headed back in the direction of the condo, but stopped by Dryade’s Market to check out what had changed. When I was there earlier this year, the bar was closed – but today, were fortunate to find it open, and my favorite bartender Kevin, manning the bar.

Found this display at the end of the bar – guessing this can’t be very good wine, though it does come in its own glass:

Headed to our next stop, I spotted some lovely graffiti:

How sweet is, “Tell My Mother I Love Her”.

Before long we were off to celebrate Happy Hour (like we haven’t all day) at Samuel’s Blind Pelican – home of the 25-cent oyster.

A dozen charbroiled oysters ($10).

A dozen raw ($3)

Fried Green Tomatoes.

And dessert – another two dozen on the half shell!

In our quest to try new places – the next lunch was at Bacchanal:

It’s deceiving because from the fence to the right, all the way behind the trees on the left is the wine shop/restaurant.

There is an outside eating/drinking/entertainment area:

We opted for inside, upstairs in the bar as it was over 90 degrees outside:

Where they were also having a wine tasting! Coals to New Castle.

Three UNIQUE wines open – my kinda place!

  1. 2016 Envinate Taganan Vinos Atlanticos Tino
  2. 2015 Bodegas Ordonez Tineta DO Ribera del Duero Tinto
  3. 2009 Forster Jesuitengarten Riesling Spatlese

Plus, we’d ordered a glass of rosé to go with our lunch:

And then topped it off with cocktails!

Great staff! Including the bartender who isn’t present in the photo:

And they had one of the more amusing restroom signs that I’ve seen:

More running (well, streetcarring) around the city until the heat got to us – headed back to the condo for naps, and eventually some take out dinner – Rache went for the Brother’s Fried Chicken on the corner, I went for the Thai-ish food next door to the chicken convenience store:

It was an early night for both of us.

Our last full day in town is devoted to one of Rache’s favorites, The Dry Dock over in Algiers – which requires a couple of street cars and a ferry:

And, The Dry Dock and their wonderful food. Gator sausage and shrimp bisque for me:

Garlic shrimp for Rache:

Home for a little nap, then it’s off to The Ogden Museum of Southern Art, where we are members – for a concert in the atrium, with the galleries open (though our cocktails were banned). OK music, great, thought provoking art:

And decent views of the National WWII Museum from the rooftop deck:

And even of the formerly known as “Lee Circle“:

Took the St. Charles streetcar line towards the condo and hopped off at the St. Charles Tavern, recommended by one of my wine shop customers. Seems we were there on cheap 14oz. ribeye night!

We took the leftovers home with us – and promptly dropped into a food coma.

For our final lunch, we went to Toups South, which is in the Southern Food and Beverage Museum (and it has a GREAT used book section). Rache had the cracklings, followed by the buttermilk fried chicken sandwich (which is a TON of food – I helped with the fries)

I opted for something lighter – the Fried Green Tomato Salad, I think, or something delicious.

Bought a couple of books before we headed back to the condo to hang out in the owners lounge since we’d checked out before lunch. We hung out for a couple of hours, both of us napping at points on the comfy leather couches before Ubering to the airport…we were early, but still had to battle Friday “get out of town” traffic.

Back in our First Class seats, too tired to even take pictures of the evening meal.

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Sun
22
Jul '18

Trip Report: Wonderful Week In Whistler – Part Three

Well, it’s time for the final day on the mountain – and to beat the crowds we are actually AT the lift entrance just before it opened at 8:30.

I think the trick would be to show up at 8:45 when the initial crowd has cleared through.

We got up the mountain so early that we’d neglected to see what time the trail opened to The Peak Express – turns out it was 10:00, so we had plenty of time to take a Peak 2 Peak gondola ride to kill time. Almost had the gondola over to ourselves, but a handful of people jumped on at the last minute.

We were in for a surprise for our return run back to Whistler – the popular “glass-bottom” car pulled into the station, and NO ONE was in line for it.

We had the car to ourselves! I’ve occasionally had regular cars with just me in them, but never the glass-bottom car. Maybe there is something to be said for getting up early.

Got back to Whistler side and had to cool our heels for 15 minutes or so until the trail opened. Personally, I think they should have given the old men a head start as we were immediately passed by everyone else once they opened the trail.

We are headed own a steep hill to the Whistler Peak Express:

Everybody had passed us, so there was no line at the chairlift, and up we go…

Rache is calm enough on these no to pay more attention to the phone than the scenery…

Here is a short video of our ascent:

At the top, we found the new suspension bridge open:

And some great views:

There was always a trail to the other peak, but it was a serious hike up and down.

Speaking of down, here is the descent off the cliff on the chair lift:

And the view of The Roundhouse from the lift:

Once we got back to The Roundhouse – it was a slow slog for me back up that hill. I would have given a pinky for a PediCab up that trail, we went back down the mountain for a light lunch at the Beacon Pub:

I’d eaten there other years and there was semi-shaded outside seating. And booze.

Rache had the Buffalo Wings – which looked exceptional:

And I had the Seared Ahi Salad:

We split the fried pickles – some of the BEST I’ve had.

Our last stop was at the new full-service bar on the deck of The Roundhouse. What a welcome addition! Which meant going back up the mountain. Thank goodness for the Season Pass.

After our cocktails we headed back to the condo for a little nap before our final dinner. Indian-spiced chicken thighs.

I wasn’t up as early as the day before, but in a couple of hours we were at Duty Free, followed by the border:

Not more than 20 minutes or so delay (would have been 5 minutes in the Nexus lane).

All and all, a fun week in Whistler. I’ve already started to cobble together another trip in August even though there are no contiguous days available. Got to get the most value out of my Season Pass!

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Fri
20
Jul '18

Trip Report: Wonderful Week In Whistler – Part Two

Rache was up and out and on the mountain before I’d dragged my lazy ass out of bed. At least I was out of the condo at 11am.

Oh, what a difference a day makes – yesterday, no lines to get on the gondola, today, 30 minutes of wait time, even with the season pass:

Rache and I kept in contact via Facebook Messenger and decided to meet at the Roundhouse – this was the view today, as they were getting ready to install glass panels on the deck:

Yesterday, you couldn’t see much beyond the railing, today – miles of visibility. Back on the Peak 2 Peak:

To the Blackcomb side:

Back on the bus to 7th Heaven, then the lift up the hillside:

A quick side by side of yesterday and today, taken from the same location on top of Blackcomb Mountain. Yesterday:

Today:

From the edge you can actually see into the bowl to watch people skiing and snowboarding…

Oh, what a difference a day makes!

WOW! Now you know why I come up every summer…it never gets boring!

And back down the mountain we go…the two of us on the chairlift, and at least one skier on the slopes…

And you can see the bus we take back to the Peak 2 Peak:

One of the highlights of my summer trips is to blow a wad of money at Christines – the upscale restaurant on Blackcomb. Great views, and expensive enough that there aren’t many children in the place.

We started with drinks:

Followed by burgers (CAN$28).

I have to say that I was disappointed. The burger, while pretty, was seriously expensive and messy as hell to eat. Add service more interested in pushing glasses of bubbles and more cocktails at a slow pace, might be my last visit for anything other than cocktails and a view.

Back to the Whistler side to explore a couple of lifts that haven’t been open for tourists in previous years. Guessing this to make up for the inability to get down on the Blackcomb side as they replace two open chair lifts with 12-seat enclosed gondolas.

It’s a bit of a hike to the Big Red Express…

If you look closely, you can see the new suspension bridge between two peaks of Whistler Mountain.

I only have a couple of shots of descending into Whistler Creekside, where the other WorldMark is (though it’s a SERIOUS trek to get to the lift).

Tonight’s dinner is lamb with Caribbean rice and beans, and the usual salad.

Another fun day on the mountain! One more to come.

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