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Uncle Markie out and about.

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Aug '14

Visitors Report: The Colonels Come To Town.

What a lovely couple of days with The Colonels in town on their epic journey from Kentucky to Alaska (and back):


Now THAT is an epic trip. And as full disclaimer, I’ve raided their trip blog for some of the photos (and the map above).

I’d arranged for The Colonels to stay at the WorldMark Seattle at The Camlin for their three day stay:

The Camlin

The unit I got via the “waitlist” was a Courtyard Studio Plus – which means stairs to all the units. Luckily, they got a unit with only one set of stairs, AND had the bell-staff schlep all the bags and boxes into the room.

They arrived at 5PM from Eastern Washington, and I got stuck in traffic so I didn’t make it until 5:30. As the room was a little warm (no AC, but a fan), we had snacks and drinks in the courtyard. Had I thought about it I would have brought steaks and salad since there was a BBQ unit right across from their room.


We were at the table to the left (WorldMark photo).

After a couple of drinks – and a tour of the property (the museum in the basement and the Cloud Room on the top floor) we were off to Dragon Fish Asian Café which is walkable for all of us. Here is a picture from The Colonels blog:


The Lady Colonel took this photo as they were passing in front of Dragon Fish Asian Café on their way to dinner on Friday (that story to come later). His blog comment had to do with the ladies in blue dresses dragging huge crosses down the street:

Now, I know I’m an old white guy, rather conservative, and from a small town, but there were lots of folks in Seattle that just left me shaking my head. We didn’t get to photograph many of them, but the following photograph of two women in long blue dresses, each woman carrying a cross, might give you a sense of what I’m speaking of.

Our dinner at Dragon Fish was wonderful – I’d worried that the menu might be a little adventurous for The Colonels, but it turns out they like everything we had and shared – and then back the next day for lunch – that’s a testament to the quality of the food (or the close proximity to The Camlin). Here is what we had (as best I can remember):

    garlic, ginger, cabbage, sweet hot soy sauce
    curry spice, ketchup
    pickled cucumbers, sesame seeds
    tempura onions, sweet miso sauce
    smoked salmon, macadamia nuts, blueberry wasabi sauce
  • CHICKEN YAKISOBA (wheat noodles) 8
    vegetables, yakisoba sauce, sesame seeds, pickled ginger
    quick fried. peanuts, hichimi, lemongrass vodka sauce

Hung out at The Camlin with The Colonels for a bit after dinner, and headed home for tomorrow we are doing The Museum of Flight, then a tour of Madrona Wine Merchants, then dinner at my place.

Here are a couple of photos from our adventure at The Museum of Flight. But first a stop at The Taco Truck:


It was pronounced good – and a good thing I talked The Senior Colonel into only one burrito – those things are HUGE. Beef for The Senior Colonel, Spicy Pork for me (we both had burritos, a rare treat for me), and Lady Colonel has three tacos, one each beef, pork, and spicy pork.


Not a bad selfie with the three of us. First stop was the new building that I haven’t seen which is on the “air park” side of the museum, over the new bridge over East Marginal Way that I haven’t been over. The new building houses the mock-up of a space shuttle that we got from Houston – alas, no retired shuttle, just the full-size mockup. This will give you an idea of size:


And then to go crawl around some planes:


In front of a retired 707-based Air Force One – think ancient technology. And The Colonels inside a retired Concorde – like one I flew on several years ago.


The aisle is only 12″ wide, and seats more like 16″, and if you are over 6 feet tall you didn’t want a window seat since you’d have to bend your head for the entire flight. Here is photo from Pigletté Takes The Concorde for pictures from that trip:


piglette-1piglette-1That would be with the appetizer of caviar, smoked salmon and a lovely 1986 Pol Roger Cuvée Churchill Champagne.



Or doing Mach 2 (which is 1380 miles per hour) at 51,000 feet….while feasting on lobster rings with cucumbers accompanied by a 1994 Château Petit Village Pomerol. Damn tasty – don’t remember what the main course of wine was:


But enough of my old travels, let’s move back to the present – a final shot of The Senior Colonel in the grand hall of The Museum of Flight:


All tuckered out we headed back to my house to hang out in the semi-air conditioning (the bedroom, with a fan to push it into the living room). We chatted while I worked on dinner, figuring that a 6PM start would be better for The Colonels. The menu was:

  • Fresh home-made bread
  • Salad
  • Rib-eye steaks off the grill


The plan for The Colonels the next day was to visit The Living Computer Museum, partly funded and supplied by Paul Allen of Microsoft fame. But alas, trying to track down medical information kept them in their room until it was time for dinner with Swanda – and quite a spread it was:

Seafair Weekend 008

And the group shot with The Colonels camera, somehow minus The Caveman:


It was a fun dinner with The Lady Colonel bonding with The Caveman, Swanda’s partner. I left before The Colonels did which might be a record.

The following morning The Colonels were on the road to Kamloops, British Columbia. Guess it’s time for me to plan another trip to Kentucky, but not until they get back home.

For The Colonels blog of this trip, you can visit: http://froghollowfollies.blogspot.com/ once they are back from their trip (it’s private for the moment).


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Dec '12

All Hail The Colonels.

First errand of the day is in search of a live Christmas Tree – first stop is the nursery where I found this lovely pre-decorated tree:

Yes, it is now snowing in Santa Fe.

Today’s lunch date is with the Colonels – no Mom though, she’s still not ready for friends, just family.

The Colonels are on their cross-country jaunt and are in Santa Fe for a week which is why I stayed an extra day rather than working tomorrow. Off to Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen for lunch:

Kate had the Taco Plate, Eric the Adovado, me the Green Chilli Phillie. It was all pretty good, and reasonable, hence why the colonels were there.

While I was out at lunch more changes came to the Christmas table:

Presents and wise men appeared, as did presents, some of which are labeled to my father (from his sister) which is sort of weird for me, but guess it’s better than hiding them.

Spent a lot of the afternoon and evening talking this and that with mom, some serious, some, light. And a bunch of time digging stuff out of the storage locker – seems that I’m taking home a stand mixer and Cuisinart that my mother has no intention of ever using again. Looks like I’m back to two checked bags, again. Also got out the answering machine for the phone and installed that so mom can screen her calls. More leftovers for my dinner – that takes care of them all but the home fries for which there are a couple of eggs to go with.

In a strange twist of fate, mom got an email from these folks with an interesting train/boat 16-day Hawaii adventure this spring:


She emailed my Aunt to see if she might like to go along. Sounds fun, not that I have 16 days (plus the train travel days).

Signing out for the night.

Be well all, and hug your loved ones.

[? ??]

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Dec '17

Trip Report: New Mexico For A Couple Of Nights

Plane landed early, so The Colonels were still in route by the time I’d gotten my two checked bags. Suitcase and box of wine/cinnamon brandy.

Our plan for the afternoon is to hit the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History which used to be on the Air Force base, but after 911 and heightened security was moved to much larger facilities, eventually landing where they have space for extensive outdoor exhibits.

By the time we left we were starving – and a quick internet search turned up one of The Colonels favorite quick bit places.


We all ordered the same Green Chile Cheeseburger with 100% Hatch Green Chilis. The Colonels opting for Chocolate Shakes, myself a Diet Dr. Pepper.

Stopped by their timeshare in downtown Santa Fe to have cocktails (me), wine (Madam Colonel), and nothing (Mister Colonel, who is the driver tonight).

Off to dinner at my sister and brother-in-law—a fabulous meal of pulled beef that we devoured (so much for leftovers for lunches)! Oddly, no group photo. Apparently, we were having too much fun.

No true for the dinner the next night – though it was only my sis (technically, my dead brother’s widow) and I – Kennan was off at some training where they were feeding him. Too bad, since he missed this:

Yep, those would be Gruet Rose bubbles – perfect with a three-pound bone-in pork loin.

I had them find a smaller one – should have bought the 4.5 pounder and just cooked it all up to have lots of leftovers…we put a serious dent in it. Now I know!

After dinner it was time to get out the atlas and talk about whether the Cape Verde Islands are African. I claim that they are African (definitely politically), The Colonels don’t, meaning we can’t claim that we’ve all been to all the continents together – I met them on a cruise to Antarctica, which started in Lisbon.

Tomorrow its off to Lamy to pick up the train to Los Angeles, and then onto Seattle.

[? ? ?]

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Nov '17

Trip Report: Vegas Baby!

After last week’s quiet trip to Long Beach (Washington), this week is a little more hectic, since it’s VEGAS, BABY!

Salamander stayed the night at my place since it’s an early flight (because we are all cheap, and this was the cheap flight) with DancingBear showing up at 6am for our Uber to the airport.

Bit of a clusterfuck boarding the plane – that or most of the plane was MVPGold and higher – might be since I saw one of the wine shop customers in line (and on the plane in my favorite seat).

DancingBear and I were across the aisle in the Exit Row (nope, not even an upgrade to Premium for me), which Salamander in the back. We were on three different reservation numbers, and the three of us in one row would just be a bad idea.

Picked up the rental car with me as a second driver, and since we were too early to check in, it was off to lunch at the Black Bear Diner (even though they don’t have a bar) for lunch. And not a small lunch. I got the Rueben (very good):

Salamander, the Hot Turkey Mess (I mean Sandwich):

DancingBear got the Turkey Sandwich with avocado and cranberry:

Stocked up at the liquor store for the week and beyond, then headed to the WorldMark Las Vegas Boulevard to see if our room was ready – it only being 1pm, I was pleasantly surprised when it was available.

Here are lots of pool shots which is where we headed after stocking the fridge:

Salamander didn’t spend much time poolside as he prefers to go to the strip to watch people. Fortunately, he tends to make it back home in time for food, which tonight, DancingBear is making Chicken Marsala from scratch:

We eat well while we are on the road – this is breakfast the next morning:

Sadly, I’d eaten half before I got the camera out. Even our lunch outs are fun…

Tuesday was errand day. DancingBear needed sandals, but ended up with sandals, tennis shoes, and a new jumper. I was shopping for cheap cloth napkins since the unit didn’t come with an, and I forgot to pack mine. Almost bought this:

Tonight, we are having guests for dinner. The Colonels are in town from Kentucky, which is why we are here this particular week – got the table set up for the five of us:

Tonight’s dinner:

Our final day in Vegas, Salamander went back to the strip and DancingBear and I headed to Red Rock Canyon National Conversation Area, not far from Vegas. He even had his National Parks pass with him!

I didn’t get the picture stitched together very well, but you get the point:

This park is just a beautiful drive….

Yes, that’s a Bentley ragtop.

A four-wheel-drive Mercedes Sprinter:

And a Polaris Slingshot:

And you can even get a Nevada plate featuring Red Rock Canyon…

After all the activity, it was lunch time.

Not the best lunch food or service wise, so I’d avoid John Cutter. ONE waitress for the entire inside and outside.

Both DancingBear’s wrap and my ½ Philly Cheese Steak came with a side salad – which we boxed and took home for dinner.

And our sunset from the walkway to our unit:

And said dinner:

Not bad for leftovers!

Another early morning finds us back at the airport – at the lounge partner I didn’t know about before this trip, and what a lounge it is!

Yep, it’s morning, no one is quite awake.

At least I got into Premium for the ride home, DancingBear missed it by one row, and Salamander was almost back by the bathrooms. Maybe I should link are reservations next time to see if I can get up all better seats.

Home to work a five-day shift – a rarity.


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Jul '17

Status Report: A Decade Of Posts

Today marks the anniversary of my first post – July 30th, 2006. Ten years’ worth of posts.

The first post was short (https://blog.unclemarkie.com/2006/07/30/seattle/). I’d come in from my house on Lopez Island in the San Juans to stay overnight at the apartment I shared with the now deceased Swanda. I was headed to my first ever trip to China, to meet up with The Colonels who I’d met a year or so earlier on the cruise from Lisbon to Antarctica.

Sadly, it looks like most of the pictures have vanished from the early posts. I believe that I had them on a cloud service started by people I knew at Microsoft, which was eventually sold to Nokia and shut down. I have the archives, and someday when I’m old and grey I’ll go back and update the posts.

One of the things I remembered about that trip was that airfare was only $100 extra, and there was no single supplement on the Yangtze River Cruise, Xian Warriors, Beijing tour. Once I was there, we all realized why it was so cheap. Not the hotels, which were 5-star luxury, or the boat (also luxe), it was that it was like 110 and muggy. Think several changes of clothes a day. Still had a GREAT time.

This might be the first post in years without any photos.

Here’s to the next ten years.

[? ? ?]

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Jul '17

Trip Report: Headed Home, Bye, Bye To The South

Had to get up early today (another reason for sleeping in yesterday). 6am alarm as I wanted to be out of the house by 8am for the long drive from Richmond to Nashville.

Here was our route this week:

We did a little drive through for our breakfast after a piece of toast with The Colonels but pretty much drove straight though. I looked at the mileage on the rental car receipt —666 miles. Guess that makes it the Devil’s Handiwork.

Got checked in a walked over to a different terminal to get us into The Admirals Club so we could eat and drink free food and booze. Pretty comfortable:

Badly lit picture, sadly.

The return flight was less full than our incoming, both Rache and I had the seat next to us open, and being in Premium Class, the booze was flowing.

Makes me glad I didn’t drive to the airport. Much safer to grab and Lyft home.

Sadly, Rache has stuff going on in the morning so out the door he goes for his four-hour drive home.

Me, I’ll get to sleep in tomorrow as work isn’t until 1:30pm.

[? ? ?]

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Jul '17

Trip Report: Kentucky, Day Three

Oh, the joys of sleeping in. And sleep in, I did. Made it to 10am. Rache had advised The Colonels to not worry about me, that I’d gladly eat leftover biscuits and gravy. Luckily, the gravy was simmering when I padded downstairs in my bathrobe for coffee.

No picture, sadly – but MY they were tasty!

What I did get were some exterior shots of The Colonels Southern Hospitality base they call, Frog Hallow:

After I’d showered and shaved, we were off to today’s distillery, about 45 minutes from The Colonels in the town of Danville. Wilderness Trail Distillery is the name, and once again, showed up at 15 after for an “on the hour” tour. We went off and explored the countryside a bit before returning. Even found a little tobacco growing (sadly, not “wacky tobaccy”:

Back at the distillery:

Loved their sink stand in the bathroom – of course, I would have had it open up, in the form of a cabinet. No room in my current house for it.

Here are some shots from out tour – starting with the lab, which is unusual in that it was the original beginning of the distillery – they made under contract lots of yeast for various distilleries, troubleshot other people’s yeast problems – and now offer master distilling courses. Cart before the horse, as it was. For Wilderness Trail, they use a “sweet mash” process where is where all new yeast is used in the batch, as opposed to a “sour mash” process that holds back a portion of the previous run.

It all starts with the grain:

And then the cooking in the mash and still room:

That’s a lot of creamed corn!

All of the corn in their product (minimum 51%) comes from fields less than 30 miles away.

This is their centrical force proof safe where I had a sample of the 132-proof white dog:

And here is their bottle line – defiantly low-tech.

They are due to release their first bourbon this December – having aged it four years – that’s how young this distillery is. Th current releases are a dark rum (local sorghum) aged in old Four Roses barrels. They will switch to their own used barrels starting in December when they bottle their first Bourbon.

The tour and tasting was $7 (free for active/retired military/police/fire) and included a free shot glass.

One the way back to The Colonels, we stopped for an afternoon snack – and something else Rache had heard of, but never tried:

Yep, a rolling White Castle food truck. Makes me wonder if the pad they are working on is going to be the new home of a White Castle Burger stand.

Or other stop was a return to a Liquor Barn because I’d seen an Old-Fashioned glass with a retro Indiana postcard image on it at the store in Lexington.

I didn’t see any on the shelf in glassware, but I must have had a puzzled look as staff came up to help. She found a pair in a gift basket, which she gladly cut open to sell us just the glasses. GREAT customer service! And yes, they did have 32 Craft Beers on tap – I barely got Rache out of there since you could buy and try.

Before long we were back in our temporary home, each of us taking quick naps since The Colonels had invited neighbors over for dinner. At this point, I let Rache take over since neither of us have pictures, and he is more eloquent than I, and I’ve included his observations of yesterday’s visit to Barb as well:

Besides bird-dogging booze, Markie also included some visits of people he has known through his extensive travels. Barbara recently moved to a new (to her) home in Lexington. Even tho’ she was in the middle of a kitchen remodel, Barbara took time to greet Markie and me. Those two had a chance to catch up while I slowly made friends with Barbara’s dog Petey. It took a while form to feel comfortable with us, but he finally did. That pooch is full of personality.

And we ended up spending two nights with Eric and Kate. They are retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonels and are just full of Southern hospitality. The first night, Kate made a southern dinner of fried pork chops, green beans, fresh black-eyed peas, summer squash, and some stuff I’m forgetting. It was all delicious. We finished the night sitting outside and observing the fireflies. 

The next night, after Markie’s and my visit to Wilderness Trail, our hosts invited some neighbors to a lovely dinner party. I gotta tell you, this evening was like a festive scene out of Steel Magnolias. Kate outdid herself with putting together a lovely spread for nine of us that culminated with a stunning key lime cheese cake that she made. It was all just over the top amazing. 

Kate and Eric were incredibly gracious hosts and comfortable to be with. Friday morning felt like saying adieu to longtime friends. And I’m now Facebook friends with the neighbors.

I had worried that Rache wouldn’t have a good time – but I think I can put that to rest!

Eventually we headed to bed, as an early alarm was going off for me (another reason to sleep in yesterday!).

Tomorrow we are headed home, many things unseen, a reason for another visit.

[? ? ?]


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Jul '17

Trip Report: Kentucky, Day Two

Once again, I’m out of bed before I’d like. The hazards of planning a trip with multiple sites to visit each day.

Rache went for his usual morning saunter, and then had the leftover ribs from last night. I stayed in bed and then had my ribs and mac cheese. Pretty good breakfast. The Microtel advertised a continental breakfast, but, they too, had a vat of gravy – sadly, not enough biscuits to go around.

First stop today is the Buffalo Trace Distillery which produces more bourbon than anyone else, under about thirty brands. Pappy Van Winkel, Buffalo Trace, Sazerac are a few – think they have Blanton and Weller as well. If you click on the link it will take you to a list of their brands. This place is HUGE:

And they let you wander around before/after the tour (which is FREE!).

As usual, tours are on-the-hour, and we show up 45 minutes before – just long enough to have missed a tour. At least we got to wander.

Our tour guide is a retired Boeing employee from Cle Elum – he was amused that a couple of Washingtonians were on the tour:

Off we go to one of the aging warehouses. Unlike Maker’s Mark (and many other distilleries), Buffalo Trace doesn’t rotate its barrels from the bottom to the top – they just use whiskies from various levels in various brands.

Next up was the building that they hand bottle all the Blanton’s Whiskey:

Everything is done by hand; filling, labeling, wax sealing, bagging, and boxing.

But, what we are really waiting for it the tasting at the end of the tour. We had two choices between four samples. I ignored the vodka and the white dog (unaged whiskey) and went straight to the Buffalo Trace and the Eagle Rare.

The poor kid at the end of the bar was Italian, and didn’t turn 21 until next month – he got root beer, which they also make. Like I said, I went for the whiskey!

It even came with “dessert” which was a Bourbon Crème, that had it not been free, I wouldn’t have tried – but it was good – especially with the bourbon laced candy they were handing out. Unlike Bailey’s, it’s real cream and needs to be refrigerated after opening.

Sadly, they wouldn’t let me into this room with their most expensive products:

We needed a little lunch snack, and since it was National Hot Dog Day, we swung through a Sonic Drive-In since they were doing dollar dogs. Sorry – no pictures of us chowing down on cheap dogs.

After Buffalo Trace we were off to Woodford Reserve. Rache and I had been drinking Woodford Reserve on the flight out and I wanted to show him the distillery, but more important, the drive to get there which is through gorgeous horse country.

Yep, those are million-dollar HORSE BARNS; heated floors, the works.

We got to Woodford – of course, 15 after the hour. We opted to not take the $14.00 tour (or $8.00 for just the tasting), took a couple of pictures, browed the gift shop and left. These will give you an idea of the place:

And one of the barrel-aging houses nearby:

Next up was a cocktail visit with Barb – my travel agent for Princess Cruises. Out of kindness (and laziness), no photos of her “new to her” home since it’s in the middle of moving in and a kitchen renovation. She has a dog, Petey, cute as heck, that, of course, Rache instantly bonded with.

The is the part of the trip where all my friends come into play – and our next stop is at The Colonels, who last I saw in Santa Fe last November.

Don’t we look all comfy!

No need to haul the luggage upstairs – make the stair climber do it.

And speaking of comfy – look at our bedroom. Thanks Colonels!

The evening meal was one of southern hospitality — fried pork chops, green beans, fresh black-eyed peas, summer squash, and some stuff I’m forgetting. Needless to say, we slept well.

One more full day of exploring, tomorrow.


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Jan '17

Trip Report: Charleston — Tuesday

After yesterday’s long day, it was a sleep-in day. Probably got out of the room about noon and ended up at The Brown Dog for food. Just a random pick – but a good one!

I went with the Pig N’Fig —

And it didn’t disappoint.

Next up on the agenda is to track down the Unitarian Church which is in the same neighborhood…..

Wow, from 1772!

Even the meeting hall (Gage Hall) is lovely.

And being Unitarians, there was the monument to the slaves who built the original church.

For being in the middle of the city – I was amazed at the amount of space they had in their cemetery:

While I was wandering around.

There is even a pathway connecting the graveyard and church to King Street, one block over:

More wandering around town followed…not sure why there is a Napa Valley Education Center in Charleston, a coast away:

And there are tourist buggies all around…

Outside the Charleston Museum (longest continually operating museum in the US) there is a model of a Civil War era steel sailor powered submarine:

Found these outside the aquarium…to stop skateboarders from doing tricks on the edge of the bench – great design!

Tonight’s dinner spot is Hyman’s Seafood – where the Colonels took me to lunch years ago when I visited them on Edisto Island. Still as good as I remember:

Definitely “old school”…

Right down to the plaques on the tables.

I’m OK with Itzak Perlman and Neil Diamond, not so sure about Hulk Hogan and one of his wrestling buddies…

Let’s start off with some drinks! Well, one of them is a $1.50 oyster shooter:

To be fair – they give you everything in the Manhattan shaker, even if it doesn’t fit in the glass, but let’s talk food!

Appetizers, or the full Glatt Kosher Dinner:

Which, oddly enough is just under the “two pork chops, fried or grilled”. I went for appetizers – which, apparently, I didn’t take pictures of – anyway, I went with the She Crap Soup and the Shrimp and Pups.

Yum – and it was enough to send me to sweet dreamy land.

More tomorrow.


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Nov '16

Trip Report: ABQ-SEA On The Train

At least once a year or so I take this trip – a couple of days with the remaining relatives (and now The Colonels) in Santa Fe, and then the long ride home on the train. Fly in, train home.

As I was saying goodbye and hugging my sis-in-law (my eldest brother’s widow), to paraphrase, she basically said, “It just seems weird that Eileen isn’t here.” It’s been a year and a half since she passed, and I’ve been back to Santa Fe a couple of times since, but YES, it is weird that neither of my parents are around for my visits to Santa Fe. My parents moved back to New Mexico, settling in Santa Fe after I graduated from high school – so my entire adulthood Santa Fe has equaled parents.

I’m hoping what her (my sis-in-law) husband said about me, “He’ll outlive us all.” About ME! Geez, I hope not. I’m hoping it’s just worry over their recent health issues. But enough about family – I’m on an adventure starting this afternoon!

Before I get on the train, time to have lunch with Michelle – sis-in-law’s best friend, law school buddy…

Oddly, at Pueblo Harvest Café, we both had the same thing – the Chicken Nambe Relleno with Christmas sauce (both red and green chili) and the Calabacitas (mixed vegetables). Not used to the zucchini being so large in the mix, but not overcooked.

Got the car returned after lunch…

And Uber’d to the train station. I could have (in theory) taken the shuttle back to the airport, then taken the shuttle to the train station – it seemed easier to just pay Uber $9.01. Nice day – no need for the hoody:

I had a little time to kill at the station, but soon enough, the train (The Southwest Chief) was here:

And my sleeping car:

Didn’t take long to settle in, and get a bucket of ice for the room, and relax:

The nice thing about the train (even with a transfer in LA to The Coast Starlight with Lounge access) you can just stare out at the changing landscape of light and beauty…

And the occasion Vandenberg Air Force Base with soldiers on patrol:

Nice thing about the sleepers is that you have places to hang stuff:

And places to shower:

And, for the last 6-months, WI-FI! Granted, it’s cell phone-based…

Sadly, they don’t block streaming services such as NetFlix. A woman in my car complained that her movies would cease up. Duh, you are on a wireless connection, shared with other people.

Platform shot Santa Barbara:

At Eugene:

The new Amtrak is even trying to convince younger folk to travel – with this poster in my car:

I’d share a cabin with him….but before I know it, I’m back in Seattle, 2.5 days later, Uber’d home, and on my couch with a cocktail:

Home for a week or so…


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Nov '16

Trip Report: Santa Fe

Part one of my trip is getting to (and staying for a couple of days) Santa Fe.

I booked long enough in advance that I used an Alaska Gold MVP Guest Upgrade for a few more dollars – turns out it was a good idea as there were 34 people on the upgrade list (guessing I wouldn’t have gotten one). My favorite seat (1C):

Sadly, someone showed up for 1A – it was a TOTALLY packed flight. But there was food and drink:

I was a little shocked to see luggage coming down the carousel even though I was first off the plane and only stopped to be on the way to baggage claim. Sadly, the rental car counter was much more disappointing. One person behind the counter, five people in line behind a woman who wanted all her options. I even had time to leave my back in line and go to the next counter over to inquire if they had cars available and would match the rate. $150 a day for the cheapest car – I’ll continue standing in line for my $25 a day let them choose anything for me over a compact – it’s always amusing to see what I’ll be driving – one time I ended up in a Fiat 500 from the same airport. This time, if there is the exact opposite of a Fiat, it would be this:

Yep, Dodge Ram Crew Cab 1500 4×4 with tow package and 23,000 miles on it.

Don’t think about the gas mileage, the display said it was averaging 16mpg. Makes me wish I had somebody who needed something moved!

Santa Fe is a little over an hour north of Albuquerque, where I flew into. Add a stop at Albertsons for supplies (read that as Evan Williams and Vernors) I was at the condo a little after six – and checked into my little retreat:

And the “compact or bigger” looks great in front of the unit:

Even got the table set up for The Colonels who showed up with Blake’s Lotaburger Green Chile Cheeseburgers – welcome to Santa Fe!

Yep, the place even comes with a gas fireplace.

Wonderful easy meal, wonderful chatting, too long since I’ve them. It was an early night for everyone, even for me, took a sleeping pill and got ten hours of sleep to make up for the night before the flight.

Lunch Tuesday was my sis (technically, my ex-sister-in-law, former wife of my dead brother). She’s family – think she said we met in 1986 which would make it 30 years of family ties.

GREAT restaurant – Artisco Café & Bar (sister restaurant to Tomasita’s which ALWAYS has a line to get in) – that can even pull off a Manhattan in the land of Margaritas. I ordered a Manhattan in honor of my departed mother.

Jen’s comment was – “I haven’t smelled that smell since Eileen passed,” Guess it was a meal of memories as I ordered the Chile Rellenos (which my mother used to make growing up and she did like the ones at Atriscos):

That led to an afternoon nap which was interrupted repeatedly by workers ripping the roof off my unit, playing Banda music (OK, that wasn’t bad), giggling, and dropping pipes by my window. I did get a bit of a nap as they clocked out at 3:30.

A bit of texting back and forth, but dinner with The Colonels, Jen, Kennan, me was at La Choza– yet another restaurant I hadn’t tried. I started with the Smoke and Fire Margarita — you have to have at least one Margarita while in New Mexico, and you should make sure they squeeze their own limes rather than using mix. The fire part was Jalapeno, a little juice in the glass, slice on the rim. THAT, I forgot to get a picture of, but I did get a picture of my crisp tacos with a picture of the Margarita in the background:

This time I actually got a picture of the guests!

Too bad I didn’t get a picture of our waiter. Smokin’ Hot. I understand now that The Donald is headed to the White House it’s OK to objectify men as well.

Speaking of that, I’ll close this post with the book that I liberated from the laundry room of the complex on the take one/leave one pile:

A 1996 New York Bestseller called Dixie Rising. It will be interesting to compare the vision of Dixie Rising twenty years ago to the 2016 version of dixie risen.

Maybe I’ll have some time on the next leg of my journey home – or maybe I’ll add it to the top of the pile and plow through it.



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Aug '16

City Report: Touring Amazon’s Headquarters

I really would have preferred to tour one of their fulfillment centers – but alas, nothing in the state and nothing with slots open (I would have FLOWN to get on a tour), so Seattle Headquarters it is.

Here is a map of the fulfillment centers that offer tours:

And I was serious about flying to do a tour! Just rechecked – Jeffersonville, Indiana has an October 4th opening…sigh. And now I have spots for two people. Where the hell IS Jeffersonville! Across the river from Louisville, Kentucky it turns out.

I’ve got friends in Kentucky – The Colonels, Babs…but it turns out The Colonels will be in NOLA (New Orleans) during that time – might have to reschedule.

But back to the HQ Tour! We start at “Day One North” – because in Amazon speak, “Every Day Is Day One”, in this case North, but we parked in Day One South – separated by a free Banana Stand for everyone (Amazon or not):

We were early so we wandered down to Lake Union, stopped at my Credit Union for cash, ogling all the “worker bees” before our tour.

And off on the tour we go, with two guides (and BADGES!):

Random shots of the “views” from various Amazon buildings (12 spread around South Lake Union and Belltown):

All the buildings are named after Amazon’s history – this building, Rufus, named after the first “office dog”. Currently there are about 2,000 dogs at work per day – doggie biscuits at all the reception desks. Rufus is also the name of one of our “shop dogs” – i.e., dogs what drag owners into Madrona Wine Merchants:

Lots of rooftop gardens!

And a candid shot of my tour buddy Mags:

Lots of walking – should have brought my hat from the car.

For me, the highlight was the Tote Robot (nicknamed Tottie) that delivered our “swag” – here is the video:

Please note that the robot is running at 20% of its normal speed – now you know why I want to get a tour of a fulfillment center!

Here is the SWAG and my “badge” from the tour – one of the stops was at the “reading room”, filled with advance copies of books which we could take one with us – I grabbed a “thriller” call “The Capitalist” – appropriate for an Amazon tour!

Selfie stick, badge, book, and not pictured, pen and stickies set – not sure where that’s gone to!

It was a fun day – we’d thought about doing the Gates Foundation Visitor Center, but we’d run out of energy. OK, I’d run out of energy!

Fun day in the city.


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Jan '16

Trip Report:

Pigletté In Vietnam – Fourth Leg: Saïgon to Cần Thơ

One of my biggest worries of this trip was that a delay in arriving into Saïgon would screw the trip to Cần Thơ the following morning as there was only twelve hours between landing and getting picked up for the tour. Alas, no worries, even with the delay at the Visa Desk.

In the morning Sean and I head out for an early breakfast – leaving Pigletté at home since it’s Pork and Rice for breakfast (and iced tea):

Here is the guy cooking our pork on the side of the street at 7:30am in the morning…

And the end product. I think I could get used to this. 34,000 Dồng (Vietnamese Monetary Unit) a person ($1.52 USD):

Our driver was right on time at 8am – and even came down the narrow street to pick us up in front of Sean’s apartment:

He had to back down the alley as there was no room to turn around. But off we go for the 4-hour drive to Cần ThÆ¡. After we got out of the city, there was a bit of tollway that quickly turned into two lanes in each direction separated by a “Jersey Barrier“, with scooters/motorcycles going both ways on the shoulder – all accompanied by various small businesses lining the road, with the occasional break for rice paddies, banana farms and other agricultural stuff.

Part way in we stopped at what I call a “tourist rest stop” that all the tour buses stop at (though we were in a chaffered car) – a “shopping opportunity” as The Colonels would say – and a chance for a freebie for the driver. Sean mentioned that he prefers to stop in “hammock cafes” where you have your tea (or whatever) while lounging in a hammock in the shade.

All said, Pigletté enjoys his Vietnamese Coffee (Robusta-bean brewed coffee with sweetened condensed milk):

And the surroundings are pretty – but it took us a bit to find our driver again…

Before you knew it – and Sean snoozing after his tea — we are approaching the new (as of 2010) bridge over the Mekong River to get to Cần ThÆ¡. The old method was a ferry that added HOURS to the journey. This and another bridge at the Cambodian border makes it possible to drive from Saigon to Phnom Penh, Cambodia in six hours.

First stop when we arrive in Cần Thơ is our lunch stop of the day with a set Vietnamese lunch:

And it was tasty:

Luckily this was all part of the “package” I got from Luxury Travel Co., Ltd. So far, the tour isn’t disappointing. With the lunch we had some Vietnamese Red Wine (Vang Dalat, served chilled and considering it was 90 degrees outside, a good thing) by the glass (50,000 Dồng each — $4.49 USD for both glasses, NOT included in tour price). There is a review of the Van Dalat STONG wine (16% being fortified with Mulberry Wine here), but I don’t think it’s right to compare a fortified wine to a regular table wine from the same producer, but it is an interesting interview.

After lunch (and an ATM stop for Sean – he’s my “bank” this trip so far, not having changed any money at the airport on the way in), we are off to check into the Victoria Cần ThÆ¡ – a Colonial-era hotel (think French occupation of Vietnam). You have to love a check-in process where they say, “take a seat”, turn over your passports, and while they do all the paperwork, you get a shoulder massage:

Again, part of the “package” apparently – and there is a spa on premises if we want a “couples massage”. We have the afternoon free, so we settle into the room to craft a plan…

Even the bathroom is nice…they even put a condom in a little envelope on the top of the toilet…

They even sent up a fruit basket!

We had to call down for ice for the flash of whiskey I brought (flask was included with the liter of Jameson that I bought at Dubai Duty Free):

Internet and nap time rule for the afternoon – at least until happy hour in the bar downstairs…

And a little reading time (unless you want to play billiards):

We could have played Backgammon as well….

Happy hour wasn’t THAT good a deal – 2-for-1 Gin & Tonics at 4-star hotel prices, but we did need the nuts and a little snack before taking the water taxi to Cần ThÆ¡‘s city center…

Our objective was to find some supplies – whiskey and diet for me at retail rather than hotel prices…and explore some of the city center. The water taxi is run by the hotel and they just need 10-15 minutes’ notice on the hotel end, as the boat is moored in the city. Turns out we stumbled into one of the few shops early in our stroll that sold both – but hoping for a better deal, we explored further. Note the Microsoft Storefront in the background…

And a picture from Sean’s collection. GREAT picture of me.

Fresh shrimp anyone?

Or may some Tết (Vietnamese New Year) stuff – we bought some!

But soon it was time to head back to the hotel with our Scotch (Johnny Walker Red – not my first choice, but the best of the lot) and some Coke Light (Diet Coke for those in the US). We have a 6:30pm dinner reservation (also included in the tour price), so time is of the essence…

I thought I’d show you some shots of where we were staying – stunning grounds and facilities. Headed to the resort from the dock…

The river side of the place…

The view from the lobby to the pool…

The lobby (open-air – rooms have AC).

Time for dinner! Listed in the brochure as “candlelight dinner” it was true to description – complete with a custom printed menu for us:

Guess that makes Sean “and party”… love the attention to detail:

And the food was a stunning as the napkin. The “starter” – Eggplant Tartin with Mozzarella and fresh garden salad (please notice the “balled” butter):

Green pea soup (soup de legumes verts)….

Chicken leg stuffed with mushrooms, and mushroom sauce, Duchess Potatoes, and a faggot (bundle of sticks) of green beans….fagot de haricots verts as they say in France.

And dessert…. chocolate cake served with coconut ice cream…

All washed down with a little rosé from Provence (that’s in France you know – and Vietnam was a French Colony for a couple of year). It’s a Saint Roch Les Vignes which is sustainably-farmed 50% Cinsault, 50% Grenache from 225 acres from select domains in the villages of Cuers, Puget-Ville and Pierrefeu with the average age of vines at about 30-years-old.

Love a good rosé in a hot environment! Even if it did cost almost a million Dồng. Fun fact – the Dồng has the second lowest redemption value right behind the Iranian Dinar.

That said, the USD total was $44.45 – like I said – 4-star resort prices. At least I know what the mark-up at the restaurant is – that bottle would be $15 on the shelf at my shop. Considering how little we have been paying for other things on this trip, it was nice to have a nice rosé in hot weather.

The restaurant also has an enclosed, sit-in wine cellar/bar:

We got back to the room to find more attention to detail – a bedtime story scroll, and a couple of star fruit jelly roll snacks….but no new bucket of ice…that will make the third call today, or is it fourth:

Also, please note that the bottled water has a cloth “cozies” around it. Condoms in the bathroom, cloth sleeves on the water bottles – they are serious about “protection”, or is that “glove before you love”.

Off to bed – driver comes at 11:30am for us, and breakfast is served until 10am.

[? ? ?]

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Pigletté In Vietnam – Fourth Leg: Saïgon to Cần Thơ

Jan '16

Deal Report:

Alaska Airlines Europe Roundtrip For 40,000 Frequent Flier Miles

A customer at the shop today was paying with an Alaska Airlines branded credit card and I ask, “Where are you planning on travelling on your miles?” He mentioned a destination, but he also mentioned that there was an award sale going on that I didn’t know about (and I thought I knew EVERY sale)….40,000 frequent flier miles for a round-trip to France. Just FYI – that’s a 20K discount off what it normally is – though it turns out that this is the standard award chart which discounts early fall trips on American.

My response – the end of the day at the shop was busy, so I had to wait until I got home (and had dinner) before logging in and seeing what I could find. I found:

My problem is that I need to go out on a Monday (though I just realized that there are some Sunday red-eyes that would have worked) and fly back on Monday, so Paris 10-31 (Halloween!) to November 4th was the answer – booked it for 40,000 Alaska frequent flier miles (in Main Cabin Extra since I’m MVP Gold on Alaska) and $119 in taxes/fees. If you are travelling on other days, like over a weekend, then there are MANY more dates available for all three cities.

THEN, having booked that, made myself a congratulatory drink and realized that I’d only checked Europe – what about SOUTH AMERICA. Here is what I found:

  • Same date range
  • Cities: Buenos Aires, same as Europe (40K)
  • Citites: Lima, Quito (even cheaper: lowest was 30K frequent flier miles roundtrip)
  • Same airline combinations

I might have made the wrong choice – BUT, I can redeposit those miles I used for Paris and rebook to Lima (or Quito) which I haven’t been to. Must talk to Courtney at dinner tomorrow night and see if she’d kill me if I went to Lima before she did.

And then you keep searching…

Tokyo for 50,000 miles – seems what the REAL thing is redeeming your miles in the early fall when less people travel. Which also means that if you are paying real money for those flights, they should be cheaper. Downside is that Business or First Class awards are the same throughout the year.

Stay tuned for the update on where I go in November before my trip to Santa Fe to hang with The Colonels in their new time share.


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Alaska Airlines Europe Roundtrip For 40,000 Frequent Flier Miles

Oct '15

Trip Report: Birthday Ramble Part Four –

New Orleans

One of my traditions on the first night arriving in New Orleans is to wander down the street and go to Houstons. Yes, it’s a chain, albeit a small one, but I know there will be live jazz and that I can grab a spot in the bar and just eat good food and listen to good jazz. Isn’t that what New Orleans is about? Even better when you don’t have to fight the crowds in the French Quarter. Oddly enough, I pulled the dinner menu for the Kansas City branch (since I’ll be there in November) and I wasn’t as impressed – the New Orleans menu is much better.

This visit I took Dan along on my tradition. No Colonels as they were a bit under the weather.

That would be the band over our shoulders and Manhattans in front of our shoulders. And the food!



Clockwise from upper-left-hand: Hand-cut Fries, Oysters St. Charles, Skillet Cornbread, Gulf Coast Style Fish Sandwich. Not a dog in the lot. Yep, wees in nawlins.

If this blog post doesn’t make you hungry I pray for your soul.

Sightseeing for the first full day both The Colonels and I have the same idea, The Southern Food & Beverage Museum which was closed for relocation the last time I was in NOLA. But first, a visit to their on-site restaurant, Purloo (which is a traditional dish made with whatever meat happened to be leftover). The food did not disappoint (nor the atmosphere):

The bar (and the cute hipster bar tender) above, and The Colonels below:

And even though it’s only noon, I had to try their Old Fashioned which warrants a full-size photo AND the recipe: Bourbon or Rye with Demerara Syrup, El Guapo Chicory Pecan Bitters and Citrus Peel. I went for the Rye (and I remember a little mint in there as well).

And the food – not sure where the last photo is! Pretty sure Mr. Colonel had with Fried Chicken with Tasso Mac & Cheese and pickled Okra. Mrs. Colonel had the marinated flank steak over Thai noodles:

Dan had the fried catfish with stone ground grits and collard greens with a smoked tomato gravy…

And I went for a fairly light dish, the Crab Beignets:

Starting to worry about getting on the scales when I return home!

Well nourished, it was time for the Southern Food and Beverage Museum ($10 regular, $8 if you ate at Purloo, $5 Military) which also includes the The Museum of the American Cocktail and the La Galerie d’Absinthe. What’s NOT to love about this place!

And the cocktail section:

With the world’s largest cocktail shaker – 4 at a time!

And for my friend Joe (of Lisa), a collection of Tiki items (he has a Tiki bar in the basement in Indianapolis):

And we close with the pig:

As The Colonels age they are less and less up for going out to dinner, preferring some light appetizers inside, which is what we had before Dan and I headed out to dinner. The thought was The Blind Pelican half a dozen blocks away – but as it turns out it was “Friday Night Fight Night” (Military with ID get in free).

Yep, the blocked off the street and put up a covered fence. Second choice was VooDoo BBQ, which wasn’t as good as I remembered it, and with no bartender (on a Friday night no less), no Manhattan – I had to settle for an alcoholic slushy of some sort (which at least they refilled on the way out). We spilt one of the larger dinners:

And the funky interior hallway…

Saturday we made our way to La Place, Louisiana, home to some of the finest andouille sausage makers in the world, but first, lunch at The Cajun Invasion, this odd mix of Cajun and Vietnamese (which considering the number of Vietnamese shrimpers in Louisiana isn’t all that surprising):

Clockwise from upper left: Mrs. Colonel’s crawfish fried rice, Dan’s fried oyster po’boy, and my jambalaya and meat pie (was supposed to be crawfish, oh well). All surprisingly good for a strip mall restaurant in the middle of nowhere.

But the main reason for the trip was andouille sausage – The Colonels favor Jacobs (and they have it shipped), but reviews differ between first and second place for Baileys – and they are almost on top of each other. For me it was a contest of who had the surliest counter people.

Dan ended up with 1 pound of chicken, 1 pound of pork andouille from Baileys, and the same from Jacobs who smokes theirs for 20 minutes longer (according to local lore). Mrs. Colonel just got stuff from Jacobs.

Tonight we finally got to try the Blind Pelican, and boy did we try it!

Got a table outside with a view of the shrimp boiler:

But we weren’t here for the shrimp, we were her for the oysters! 5 dozen to be exact – three dozen raw, and two dozen charbroiled and topped off with a rack of ribs and coleslaw. During happy hour (4-8pm) oysters on the half shell are $3 a dozen (I kid you not) and $7.50 a dozen for the charbroiled – but you have to buy an “adult” beverage for every dozen you order. With Dan and I this wasn’t a problem.

It takes 4 line guys to shuck that many oysters for a full house:

And my aren’t they pretty:

They are VERY strict in their rules around happy hour oysters:

Sunday was a rainy inside day so we stuck close to home – we’d been making breakfast in the room with eggs, bacon, leftovers, and for lunch we went next door to Igor’s Bar, Grill, Laundromat, Library & Pool Hall. It was so weird to be in there with no one smoking, though 50 years of nicotine was still on the walls. Dan got the burger, I got the sausage sandwich:

Dinner tonight was at Basin on Magazine – a little too far to walk, so it was Uber time again! More oysters on the half shell:

Followed by the corn and crab bisque and seafood gumbo:

And the crispy pulled pork creation (half way through) that wasn’t that crispy:

Birthday breakfast at The Trolley Stop Café – a whopping $3.50!

Packed up the bags, stored them at the desk, and hung around the hotel reading and sitting in the sun – killing time until lunch, and then killing time until the airport.

Lunch was at Pho Orchid, also on the same block as the WorldMark New Orleans. Bun (meat over noodles with broth) for Dan, Korean Beef “tacos” for me.

And then it was time to Uber off to the airport – makes like our 5th
Uber trip in NOLA. Alas, we are in different terminals (Dan going out Southwest, me going out Alaska), and even the airport lounge I have access i to is in yet a third terminal. We say goodbye at the curb.

[? ? ?]

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New Orleans

Oct '15

Trip Report: Birthday Ramble Part Three –

The City of New Orleans

After dinner with Dan’s work buddy, back to the Metropolitan Lounge we go – to pillage some of their snacks to bring along on the train – like we aren’t getting enough food. They have us show up for boarding at 7:10, and we do, in fact, board shortly after. Seems they board sleeping car passengers before the 8pm dinner cut-off so we can all have a real dinner.

Dinner on the train – steak. Not worth the $22 that it is on the menu, but since it was included – damn fine. At least for breakfast they had all the options, though Dan compared the “Railroad French Toast” to Denny’s right down to the Maple Flavored Syrup.

Lunch I went healthy – after yesterday’s no greens – NEEDED GREENS – and not the kind cooked in ham hocks, although those are mighty fine as well:

Dan went for the Turkey Meatballs with pasta – the meatballs were good (he let me have half a one) but it’s in a tomato sauce that would give me heartburn.

We get out at Jackson, Mississippi where a buddy of mine lives – but they don’t let non-ticketed folks onto the platform like many other cites – so I have yet to meet Ed in person. Ed is an old LRYer that grew up with many of the same people I did – and we share some interests – letterpress for one. He has a working linotype that he uses set the smaller lead type that my eyes are too old for. He also has a dozen jukeboxes that he services with vintage and new 45’s. Did I mention that he also has a (well, several) 35mm projector that he hauls out in the summer for movie nights to show his collection of “B” movies in their original format. Someday I’ll have to book a ticket where I can stop and sit a spell (as they say in the south).

As we leave Jackson, Mississippi, I shot this odd little scene from the front sleeper car hooked up in its normal configuration – closest to the engine after the baggage car (and transition sleeper for those two-night trains).

Not sure why I took this shot – other than it shows the beautiful clouds and trees of the south:

We while away the hours (the train, is, of course, running late) hanging out in the cabin making cocktails….

And eating jerky since my salad has long passed through my system:

And just watching the scenery roll by:

Before you know it, New Orleans is upon us – the view from the lot of the Amtrak station:

Not a bad view from our one-bedroom unit at the WorldMark Avenue Plaza…

Had a brief visit with The Colonels – they had to cancel picking us up at the train station due to some digestive problems on the part of Mrs. Colonel. They are staying at the Avenue Plaza but in one of the Wyndham units. Luckily Uber started up in New Orleans four months ago. Click on the Uber link and get a free ride (up to $20) and I get one too!

New Orleans here we are!


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The City of New Orleans

Jul '15

Trip Report: Santa Fe For The Last Time In A Long While

I’ve been putting off this trip report – still feeling a little raw since the nature of my visit changed from visiting to a memorial.

Had to move my plane ticket up by two days (dinged $360 additional) to be able to make the hastily arranged memorial service – the advance of being MVP Gold is that it was also an automatic upgrade to first.

In first, you get lunch – in this case a southwest salad with focaccia and a cookie.

This trip I’m staying all over the place:

Basically this means I’ve been living out of the trunk of my rental car which I got a great last minute rate of $10 a day plus crap fees.

The summer sunsets in Santa Fe are truly amazing…

And breakfast at the house isn’t bad either!

I shouldn’t have had the third half – had to take a nap after our late breakfast.

Lunch with The Colonel (the other Colonel was in booking class), who were also in town. We had planned this trip last December, with them coming out for the International Folk Art Market. Lunch at Tia Sofia just off the plaza. I had the chili relleno/enchilada combo which was quite good. But way too much food (again).

The service was Monday afternoon at the retirement community that Mom lived at – presided over by the local Unitarian minister who conducted the service with a chalice that my brother-in-law is working on for the church:

The final product will have more bling around the top.

Good attendance – my dead brother’s first wife even drove in from Gallup. Dinner for 13 from The Whole Hog in Santa Fe – with wine by yours truly:

Including a 3-liter bottle of rosé…

And those would be The Colonels…

Tuesday, headed up to Taos with a stop at the Bumble Bee Baja Grill for a green chili cheeseburger:

Damn fine burger from a Mexican place. And I love their drive-through sign:

The plan for dinner was with The Colonels, but they were pooped after the drive, and the altitude was affecting them a bit as well. Luckily I had a friend in town from Los Angeles cheering up a friend of his who just received a diagnosis of Parkinsons – a diagnosis none of us wants to get. At least he is in good spirits at The Alley Cantina:

We all enjoy the inexpensive house margaritas (after my shot of Commeritivo) while waiting for food tom come. I had the Carne Adavado with a side Caesar (in honor of The Colonel who learned to make them in cooking class) and the boys had the fish tacos:

Breakfast the next day with The Colonels at Michael’s Kitchen, where we ate lunch a trip or two ago when they were in town. This is the Poor Man’s Benedict:

Luckily the male Colonel helped me finish my hash browns – after he polished off the Biscuits and Gravy with Sausage Links:

Meanwhile, Kate had the Heavos Rancheros

None of us left hungry.

The Colonels are staying another night, but I headed back to Santa Fe to crash at sis/bro-in-laws, but with no need to rush, I hung out by the Rio Grande Gorge and watched rafters pull into shore:

Great dinner with the dwindling masses – brother Jon and wife returned to Coos Bay, Emily to San Francisco leaving just sis-in-law’s sister and me as extras. After all the heavy large meals it was nice to just have a nice salad:

And the next day it was back to Seattle with a nice last minute upgrade to first – guessing someone cancelled since I’d already checked in and gotten my boarding pass.

And not a bad meal on the way back either – too bad I forgot my noise cancelling headphones this trip.

Feels weird to realize that I won’t be going down there every other month. RIP Mom.


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May '15

Trip Report: Spring Break Trip Number Three

The third of three Spring Break trips for friends of mine who are students or teachers…this one is with Bliss, who is a teacher, and can afford a plane ticket – so off to Waikiki we go!

Bliss and I are flying out of Bellingham, Washington which is about two hours north of Seattle. Why drive 2 hours when I’m ten minutes from the airport in Seattle? Round-trip for under $300 and $12 a day parking 50 years from the check-in desk, and a decent Manhattan (their bar pour is Evan Williams) at Scotty Browns.

In addition to a couple of Manhattans, we split half-order of Nachos, which was still a ton of food. And now onto the plane…

Luckily, the weather in Waikiki is slated to be 80 degrees and sunny, rather than 40 degrees and drizzly.

Bliss in the window (1A) and me on the aisle (1C). And up in the air we go for our six hour flight filled with food, fun, and laughter…

And Uncle Markie is getting into the spirt – or is that Uncle Markie is getting into the spirits….

Damn I look comfortable.

Landed, grabbed our bags, found our shuttle driver and headed to the condo – tried a new shuttle service this trip (Go808Express). $50 ($55 for us since we arrive after 9PM) for up to four people directly from the airport to your hotel – handy when you get in at 9:30 at night and don’t want to spend an hour+ on the shared shuttle stopping at every hotel in Waikiki. Even with two people, with tip, it’s a wash on the cost.

We are staying at the Wyndham Royal Garden courtesy of The Colonels who swapped some WorldMark points for their Wyndham Points – on my next trip I’m using my WorldMark points and paying the $99 “Club Pass” fee. I’ve stayed here before in a studio (swanky) and this time we are in a one-bedroom Presidential (even more swanky).

I ran across the street for some mixers to go with the bourbon and gin that I packed but before you knew it bedtime was upon us – with us sharing the king-size bed even though we are “little f” friends. Beats flipping over the fold-out couch.

Morning finds up late, and off to the IHOP for breakfast:

A milestone for Bliss – his first Senior Citizen (55 and over) IHOP Breakfast!

Next stop? Catch the free Hilo Hatties shuttle for my usual walk-through grabbing a free juice and looking at the sale rack, then headed a couple of blocks away for Tuesday Senior Citizen 25% off day (also 55 and over) at the Salvation Army. Found a new (to me) Hawaiian shirt and a couple of other oddities – a Suzy Wong dress for Jared, and some Thai Boxing shorts for me:

Not the most flattering photo of either Bliss or myself. Almost forgot to mention the Martini glasses that I picked up as well…

A quick run through the Kmart across the street from the Sally Ann for socks and aspirin, both of which I’m out of at home, and I’ll have room on the way back with the three bottles of wine and two half-bottles of booze are gone. Did I mention that one of the flight attendants gave us a full-size bottle of wine? I think they liked us! Means I’ll be packing one of the whites back home with us.

Shopping done, it’s time for some sun:

Uncle Markie in his natural environment. And before I forget – this is the view looking towards Diamond Head:

And towards the ocean:

We are on the 22nd Floor (out of 25).

After pool time it’s dinner time. I brought (frozen in a thermal bag):

  • Two pork tenderloins
  • One pound of bacon
  • Package of chicken thighs
  • Two ribeye steaks
  • Two sticks of butter

That will save us a TON of money on going out to dinner. The first night’s meal is bacon wrapped tenderloins on the grill. There is no stove in the unit for some odd reason, but at least there are two grills.

Life is rough in the islands!

Wednesday is a Wyndham Sales Pitch at 12:30pm for a $125 AMEX Gift Card. This presentation brings my year-to-date AMEX Gift Card total to $425 and a nice hard-bound “wish” book of all their properties. It’s almost like a part-time job. No need for Kevin to tag along as there is no additional card for him – off to the beach for him:

Our breakfast this morning was to turn the leftover pork into Hawaiian Roll Pork Sliders with a little extra butter. DAMN they were good. As for dinner, tonight are curried chicken thighs (with salad and MORE Hawaiian Rolls):

Note the butter plate in the background – I had a little accident where one of the booze bottles tipped over and nailed the plate. Oops.

Thursday is our last day here in lovely Waikiki. It being Spring Break, the only reservation I could get included Thursday night even though our flight is at midnight – but I have to say, it was convenient to be able to hang out in the room for the final day, along with being able to cook our last dinner of ribeyes:

Shuttle came back for us at 8PM so we have time to hang out in the United Club (even though we are flying Alaska) courtesy of Bliss:

But the cocktails and wine at the condo, and another cocktail in the United Club seem to have taken a toll on Bliss:

Luckily he is in a window seat (3F) and is planning on taking an Ambien. Me, I’ll drink a little and sleep a little on the plane and make him drive south.

And that finishes my third Spring Break – home for a couple of weeks, and then…back to Waikiki because I got a $278.20 round-trip.


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Mar '15

Trip Report: Santa Fe To Visit Mom

At 88 (or is it 89) it’s time to be visiting Mom on a more frequent basis. And when I can get it at a good price ($237.20 and upgraded in both directions), why not. I’m also going out again in July when The Colonels will also be out for the International Market.

It’s a beautiful day to fly….not a cloud in the sky:

And lunch on the way down wasn’t bad either – a Wedge Salad with Texas Toast. Make me think of Swanda and his passion for the Wedge…

And the usual Jack and Diet.

As for Albuquerque (direct flight on Alaska Airlines [or Southwest]), some clouds in the sky:

Rented with Thrifty/Dollar this time ($83.20 + $12.25 in gas for the three days). After I said no red cars, they were going to give me Kia Soul (shown to the right), but then I spied this beauty (well, everything but the baby poop tan color) on the lot:

That would be the Fiat500L – complete with backup camera, Bluetooth that linked to my phone, and a killer sound system for the Classical Radio station I found, and soon I was on the road…

About halfway to Santa Fe I stopped at this monument that I’d passed for the last 30 years…

It is a monument to the Morman Battalion, which I had to look up. Thanks to WikiPedia for this summary:

The Mormon Battalion, the only religiously based unit in United States
military history,[1] served from July 1846 to July 1847 during the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848. The battalion was a volunteer unit of between 534[2][3] and 559[4]
Latter-day Saints men led by Mormon company officers, commanded by regular US army officers. During its service, the battalion made a grueling march of nearly 2,000 miles from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to San Diego.

The battalion’s march and service proved instrumental in helping the US secure much of the American Southwest, including new lands in several Western states, especially the Gadsden Purchase of 1853 of much of southern Arizona. The march also opened a southern wagon route to California. Veterans of the battalion played significant roles in America’s westward expansion in California, Utah, Arizona and other parts of the West.

I find it telling that the plaque on the stone tower has a word defaced out of the bronze – though not enough to obscure that the excised word was “savages”. It was a long quote about the march, and the Indians that they encountered.

Got to Mom’s about half an hour later, fixed myself (and her) a drink, and set about working through the “honey do” list. It makes me feel useful to be able to help.

Got a couple of things done before it was time to rustle up dinner. I usually end up going out and picking up food since it’s a chance for Mom to eat something different (and preferably deep-fried) other than what the dining room at the complex will deliver. Tonight it was the Santa Fe Bite (formerly the Bobcat Bite which was on the way to Eldorado).

Mom’s usual: bacon cheeseburger with house-made potato chips:

And my rather unusual patty melt. I say unusual since they didn’t try and reform the burger portion to match the really nice rye bread that it was served on. The tastes were good, presentation odd (and open-faced):

Wednesday was the big errand day – Albertsons (liquor), Walgreens (Ensure Plus), Home Depot (6-outlet wall-mounted surge protectors). But not before the most important errand of the day which is getting Mom to the Orthopedic consult.

Here is my pile from Albertsons:

And because it isn’t a blog post without some “selfies” – which the baby poop brown Fiat:

On the way back from the errands I had to stop and get photos of some of the motel signs from a different era along Cerrillos Road. Not as many as in downtown Reno, but still some nice ones:

Of course, the funniest sign I saw was this “sale” sign:

Tonight’s meal was from The Whole Hog – and I finally figured out the right portion size for the two of us. Half rack of ribs, side of baked beans (Mom) and cucumber salad (me). Sorry, it was devoured before I could get a picture. I didn’t realize they were a chain (but small).

More “honey do” work on my final full day, though this wasn’t on the list – a required another errand run.

I should have done the before/after shots – reupholstered the dining room chairs in something a little more cleanable than stained off-white cloth.

Next up was a consult with my lawyer (and sister-in-law) to go over my will now that my executor has died before me (Swanda) – and it was nice enough to do it outside!

That’s in the courtyard of the West Building of El Castillo – and picture of said courtyard:

And speaking of El Castillo (Mom’s Retirement Home), we went to look at the Assisted Living Units. NICE – when Mom saw the Whirlpool residents have access to she almost decided to move on the spot – here are a couple of shots of one of the new units staged:

It was good for her to get answers to some of her concerns so she knows what is coming down the pike as she ages…the one-bedroom units would be an “upcharge” from her currently monthly payments – they have studio units, but those look more like dorm rooms, I say, spend the money.

BUSY day today – my last full day in Santa Fe. Next up is my nieces International Baccalaureate Art Show (funny that next week I’m seeing my ex’s daughters show in Tokyo).

And the take-out feast from Whole Foods which included two dozen oysters on the half shell….

After the family left, it was back to the “honey do” list – to figure why the refrigerator occasionally leaks – seems there is A LOT of built up half-melted ice in the bottom which I managed to get out in one piece with the help of an icing knife:

Went to bed late as usual – luckily my flight isn’t until 3:35 in the afternoon, leaving me time to set up my office in the observation lounge at the Albuquerque Sunport:

Flight running on-time, not in my favorite seat, but close – at least with this seat I get to take pictures of clouds…

And yet get to enjoy another Wedge Salad along with a little TV…

And our final selfie of the day…in Seat 1F.

Home until Tuesday, then it’s off to Tokyo via Dubai.


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Feb '15

Trip Report: San Antonio

Well, it really isn’t about San Antonio, more East and North – think New Braunfels.

We Alaska Airlines moves into a city, it’s usually with a nice mid-day flight. Often the planes start in Anchorage with a red-eye, then move east with the same plane coming back from whence it landed.

No exception today with an 11AM flight to San Antonio, with the plane returning to Seattle the same day, though I won’t be on that flight until Thursday.

Board Room for food and drink — they really lose out with me as a member with how often I visit – one year I should record how much food and booze I go through just for shits and giggles.

Got bumped to First which is always nice because it comes with food, drinks, and a Digi-Player.

That would be the warm Turkey and Provolone Sandwich with slaw that I then add to the sandwich. Tasty.

Grabbed my bag (contained a bottle of wine for dinners) and then it was off to pick up the rental car, which to my surprise was a VW Beetle:

Always nice to get to drive a car you haven’t.

It was dark by the time I got to the WorldMark New Bruenfels which is actually closer to Gruene which is listed on the Historical Register. The stops I made along the way were for whiskey (cheaper than in Seattle) and groceries for my two-night stay. I was a little concerned when I saw the receipt – Polloks Wed(ding) Garl(i)c Saus(age) Ri(ng) – kinda racist even for Texas. Turns out Polloks is the name of the company that makes the sausage:

The WorldMark is a nice place – maybe not my style, and at 2-bedrooms, 2½-baths, WAY too much room for me (sleeps 6). But it was the smallest unit they have and at $60 a night, who’s complaining.

I put the pork spare ribs on the grill (unfortunately by the pool rather than the unit):

Made a little salad, opened the wine….

Off to bed late, and slept in… making it leftover pork and eggs or breakfast.

Today’s mostly about wondering around the area including historic Gruene which is on the banks of the Guadalupe River which is famous for river rafting in warmer wedding. I did get one shot of Gruene mostly for my friend DancingBear:

But since the weather is warm, I couldn’t help myself with a little “me” time poolside:

Life is HARD!

Thursday found me in the unit until the noon check-out time before heading to the Natural Bridge Caverns for a little “cave time”.

I’m sort of amazed at the pictures considering my new phone (Nokia 635) doesn’t have a flash (or a forward facing camera).

A nice little stop on the way to the airport. Privately-owned so it wasn’t cheap at $20 for the standard tour. I think the Colonels would have liked the caverns, but not all the walking and steps.

To the airport way too early, which when your airline only has one flight a day, forget checking in more than two hours early… and forget that upgrade – I was number ten on the list. Wonder why? Here is a list of all the MVP Golds and 75K fliers on my flight. WOW!

And there are only 12 First Class seats on the 737-700 that they use on this route. And so much or the empty seat next to me…I found it (and the window seat) filled with what Wonderful called PPPs. Pasty, Pudgy, PlainsPeople.

Oh well, it’s only a 3½ hour flight, and I brought extra mini’s to add to the free one they provide for MVP Gold flier.

In those 3½ hour flight I learned more than I wanted to know (after hours of research on the ground) about this couple married almost 38 years….

Here is a report that I sent to several friends after soliciting their opinions:

So, I’m sitting next to this couple – a little annoyed because as of yesterday the seat was vacant, and now it’s filled with a PPP as Wonderful would say… a Pasty, Pudgy, PlainsPeople in a Seahawks shirt sitting in the middle seat with his wife of almost 38 years next to him. Both sort of frumpy, definitely not flashy – but you could also tell that they were still in love with each other from the way they were kidding around.

I didn’t get the impression that either of them was too bright, let alone charismatic.

So, I’m watching what’s coming up on his laptop — things like the Drudge Report, making advertisements and PowerPoint presentations with the Blood Moons book in it (see below)…

And we are occasionally chatting – wife likes wine so who knows, they might become customers, which would be weird. That came up after he said he was in the ministry which I followed up that I was in the “Blood of Christ” business, which he chuckled at.

So we are chatting about travel – he (and the wife) are hosting a bible cruise through the Mediterranean, a trip to South Africa, and he’s asking about visa and stuff which brought us to vaccinations, of which I inquired about his thoughts on the measles outbreak — he supports the right not to, but on the questions of the yellow fever/malaria vaccinations for South Africa (which usually includes a booster for MMRV [measles-mumps-rubella-varicella]) he said, of course they are going to get them.

He wasn’t trying to see me his vision or anything which was nice – but it did make me curious about him, hence the email. He mentioned a board of directors, and that they pay for all his travels for him to preach – his main congregation is in Tacoma where he does a Shabbat Service Saturday mornings (10-12:30) using the Church of All Nations semi-mega church. I noted he isn’t on their calendar so they are probably just renting space.

Weird thing is that there seem to be LOTS of El Shaddai (God Almighty) foundations out there supporting churches in Haiti, children’s cancer – most based out of Florida and looking a little shady from some of the Board of Directors pictures I’ve seen…

And anytime I see something like this on a website: We do not want to convert Jews to Christianity or Christians to Judaism… it raises red flags, as does when ones resumé is done in Comic Sans (http://www.elshaddaiministries.us/MiscPDF/MarkBiltzbio.pdf)

And some interesting reading about the second coming and this guys involvement…


So – that is the reason for the question that took me down the rabbit hole of spending a morning stalking him online to see what he is really about.

So, that was San Antonio, a little mid-week adventure. $158.60 round-trip with one first class upgrade.


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