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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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Apr '19

Trip Report: Chicago – Presidential Reserve Style

Bless The Colonels for their bounty. It will take years for me to pay them back for the wonderful places they are providing this year. Latest example is a One-Bedroom Presidential Reserve unit in the Wyndham Grand Chicago Riverfront.

Got a flight into town during the day – a nice change, AND an upgrade to First, rare on mid-day long-haul flights. I hit the ground running with my transit card in hand from previous visits…

Sadly, my balance was -$2.50, which I’m surprised they didn’t make me recharge on the last trip! Reloaded with $20 so I’m good for another trip or two. I have cards for Seattle, Japan, Santiago, all with Magic Marker telling me which city. I really wish cities would adopt a unified system like Japan does. Maybe next year.

Fifteen-minute walk from the “El” stop. And the room is ready. The place is massive – a hair larger than my HOUSE::

And the place is heavy on esthetics, light on the practicality:

Yes, I DID turn on the water flow that comes from the ceiling (and splashes). The bath is in addition to the shower (which holds four people, at least):

The shower has a “rainforest” head, the three body side scrubbers, and a wand. It felt like I was in a car wash.

And the view wasn’t bad:

At least I wasn’t at the front of the resort, and looking at THIS:

In the materials, they’d said, “kitchenette”, which in this case means a full-size refrigerator, a full-size dishwasher, a full-size microwave, and no burners (or oven). Fortunately, there is a restaurant on the first floor, and menus for takeout in every room. Hoyt’s is the name. I got the Marble-Rye Rueben and fries.

Notice the picture of ice – I have a full-size fancy-ass three-door refrigerator, with an icemaker that doesn’t work. After numerous calls over two days, I have a guy in my apartment past eleven working on it…

To find that he has the wrong replacement part. At least he showed up with two big pitchers of ice. It never did get fixed during my 4-day visit.

I spent my days wandering the neighborhood in search of nothing other than appetizer stuff for Cynthia on Tuesday night, more on that later:

Yes, that is an Amazon Go storefront.

Tuesday lunch was along the walk, at Sweetwater, in the base of some big-ass office building. Oddly, don’t seem to have an exterior shot:

Tuesday night, my sort-of-sister, Cynthia, came to check out the place.

I put on a bit of a spread, there was plenty of wine, Uber time:

Cynthia thoughtfully brought flowers (used the blender top as a vase), chocolate, and an M&M guy to go with the wine (juice container).

A nice way to catch up – we have plans in place for Friday during the day as well.

Tried to hit Buddy Guy’s Legend on Wednesday for lunch – only to find them closed for a special event. Went with my Chicago “must-do” restaurant – Berghoffs. Been there forever:

It was a light meal compared to the dinner I had the next night at Buddy Guy’s Legends for the acoustic dinner set:

Catfish Fingers and Fries –said five fingers, got seven. Not bad for a happy hour price of $8 – as cheap as the drinks.

I paid for that dinner with an unconfutable sleep. Good, but that’s a lot of fried food.

My final day in Chicago, with a ridiculous checkout time of 10am, and a flight not until early evening. Cynthia (bless her heart) drove into town and picked me up for a Frank Lloyd Wright tour of Oak Park, followed by lunch. There are just a FEW FLW houses in the burbs of Chicago:

And we did see a few!

Last stop was the gift shop at the FLW Foundation where I spotted this beauty for a Lego buddy:

Before going to Hemmingway’s Bistro which is a French-style restaurant on Oak Park Avenue. Ernest Hemmingway used to live in the neighborhood. We passed his house.

GREAT choice of places to eat at:

We each got an appetizer and a salad – consensus was, “delicious, but too much food”. Gnocchi with a salmon cream sauce, goat cheese salad for Cynthia, the creamed carrot bisque and Frisée Lyonnaise for me.

Nice way to wrap up a tour.

Swung by Cynthia and Lawrence’s temporary digs on the first floor of their son’s house – Lawrence arrived back in town the night before at 3am reeling of a massive cold. I did not do the honor of photographing him at his worst.

Got dropped off at the Metra station for the short hop back to the airport. A wish choice since it was a Friday afternoon and the freeways were clogged.

Headed to the lounge, and though not particularly hungry (and got upgraded so there will be food on the way home), still had to have a little fresh-made guacamole:

Another trip under the belt. Going home to work the weekend.

[? ? ?]

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Jan '19

Trip Report: Yellowstone In Winter

So, last week I was in the low 80’s, this week I’m lucky if it gets UP to 20. One morning it was 14 below! Fortunately, I don’t live here, but have to fly in.

That’s a lot of stuff for three nights – but it includes New Year’s presents.

Might as well start off the day with a Caesar – that’s a Bloody Mary made with Clamato, a Canadian Favourite.

It’s a Q-400 from Seattle to Bozeman where Steve will be picking me up. He will be my chauffeur for the next four days. We’ll be staying at the WorldMark West Yellowstone, right next to The Colonels!

Yep, that’s a whole lot of snow – which they don’t completely scrap off so that the snow machines rubber tracks don’t get ground off – the whole town of West Yellowstone has groomed snow on the streets.

Nice little unit (2-bedroom). I was seeing if the fisheye lens I brought would work on the new phone…

And the view from the deck:

We did a grocery and liquor run, where the liquor store (turns out to not be the cheap one) is part of a casino…

Spent the evening with The Colonels killing off the Bourbon I brought…good thing Tuesday is a planned “relax from the journey” day with an UncleMarkie Sunday Roast over a bed of potatoes and onions.

Wednesday is the BIG day of the trip – when The Colonels and I do a snow coach tour of the Yellowstone Valley.

The snow coaches come in many varieties…

Lots of winter visitors to Yellowstone, even with it closed down – the concessioners are splitting the cost of grooming the roads. Ours was a bit of a tight fit.

Lots of photo ops:

Yes, that is a coyote in the upper picture. Seen today: Bison, Coyote, Swans, Ducks, and Wolves feasting on a Bison carcass that was too far off to get a phone camera picture.

Left at a little after 8am, got back to the condo about 4:30pm – a LONG DAY in an airport shuttle (which our snow coach was the size of).

Headed home Thursday (after a pizza dinner hosted by The Colonels) – and the snow was coming down:

Left the condo right at the noon checkout, but my flight wasn’t until 7pm so I went to the airport really early. This was at the check-in counter:

Since I was there hours early, I set up my office to do some work on the wine shop taxes…

Not a bad view – there are mountains out there when there aren’t clouds.

Got home around 11PM.

Guess I’d better start repacking for the next trip!

[? ? ?]

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Dec '18

Trip Report: Santa Fe The Long Way

It used to be easy to get to Santa Fe…flight left in the morning, got into ABQ in the afternoon, plenty of time to drive/train to Santa Fe. Not anymore. A couple of months before my trip Alaska sent me a note saying that my flight that was supposed to get in at 1PM would, instead, be getting in at 10PM, and leaving on the return, butt early, in the morning.

Doesn’t work when you are an hour and a half from your final destination by the time you pick up your luggage.

Hello Portland along the way…

Started the trip with the usual trip to the Alaska Lounge

With a stop at Florette to hug Shua. It’s rare that his work schedule and my flight schedules align.

Bulkhead aisle to PDX…

Upgraded to First on the E175 flight from PDX to ABQ, which is 2-1 seating, with me in the 1:

So, aisle and window and the same time – and LOOK at the view!

This is why I call the Pacific Northwest home. And then, lunch was served.

On time into Albuquerque, off to the Rental Car Center, into the rental car, and headed north to Santa Fe, and checked into the WorldMark Santa Fe…Studio Handicapped Unit:

Because of getting in at 4PM, and not to Santa Fe until after 6PM, no hanging with the relatives, just grabbing food from across the street (Chopstix):

Popular, cheap, OK quality… perfect for taking back to the room, and she threw in a couple of wontons since I wasn’t willing to wait 20 minutes for the Bulgogi.

Lunch the next day (who is up for breakfast!) was at one of my favorites, a block away from the condo. Bumble Bee’s for Lamb Tacos. Love their drive through sign:

Dinner with my sis-in-law (might as well be sister at this point), and her husband, Uncle to Jameson and Julian, at Atrisco for their Chile Relleno.

Yes, this trip is about food – it is Santa Fe, after all!

Lunch at LottaBurger…a tradition with both The Colonels and I should mention that I was supposed to see The Colonels on this trip, but management messed up their 3-week reservation at their condo and turned it into a 2-week stay, so they headed back to Kentucky. I also missed them in New Orleans due to weather…I’ll see them in January in West Yellowstone.

Dinner with the family out in Eldorado (about 20 minutes from the condo):

The following afternoon Jen and I met up for lunch at Taco Fundacion – where Bert’s Burgers was for 30 years, but brought it back to the condo since it was only a block away, and they don’t really have warm seating:

I ordered the Roasted Pig, the Lamb, and the Goat (and then went back for dinner and ordered the Fried Oyster, Bison, and a side of chips). Damn good – worth a second trip.

My afternoon was spent on the computer, watching George H.W. Bush’s train ride home…

My final meal in Santa Fe was breakfast at another one of my favorites…The New York Deli:

The Eggs Benedict were $9.95 – a freakin’ bargain.

Got upgraded to my favorite seat on the E175, which is 1A – the combination aisle/window. And since it’s First Class, it comes with dinner:

And more mountain views….

Guess I’ve taken to photographing the wing tip for perspective. It works.

That’s my last flight trip for the year. Got a driving trip to Vancouver and Blaine coming up.


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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:


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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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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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